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3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts

Excited to be tapped to lead a new team, your supervisor dampens your enthusiasm by saying, “Good luck, you’ll need it. The previous manager tolerated poor performance, so you better buckle up and bear down, we need results.” This is one of the most challenging and dynamic situations managers will face when inheriting a poor performing team.

“Treat employees like they make a difference. And they will…”

-Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS Institute

3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts for Success

Do #1 – Have the right mindset.

Specifically – assume positive intent. The team’s poor performance, low trust and moral are the residue of the previous culture. Assume people want to be part of a winning team, led by a competent manager.

Don’t #1 – Make hasty personal decisions.

Your first 30 days should be used to observe, assess, and learn the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Besides, policies and politics may make quick changes onerous.

Do #2 – Build connections, relationships, and trust.

Conduct thoughtful one-on-one and team meetings. Ask questions that invite team members to share their aspirations, goals, and strengths. Servant leadership is built upon trusting relationships, not ego or power.

Don’t #2 – Make changes too quickly.

This is tricky as the clock is not on your side to meet performance goals. Trust the Navy SEAL’s mantra – slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

Do #3 – Quickly, establish new team norms.

Yes, this is contrary to the previous statement. While you’re going slow and smooth with relationship building and learning, the team needs to hear and understand your leadership point of view. Remember, poor management is the root cause of current performance. The antidote is strong, clear, and passionate leadership. Be bold!

Don’t #3 – Be a hero.

You’ve been selected to lead this turnaround because others believe you have the right stuff. However, avoid galloping in on your white horse. Your change leadership approach should be rooted and guided by team dialogue, collaboration, and buy-in.

“Don’t mistake kindness for weakness.”

-Brené Brown, Professor, University of Houston

Leading a poor performing team is daunting, even for the most experienced manager. This is doubly true when the team has developed a toxic culture. However, if you internalize a growth mindset then this tough assignment can elevate your leadership capabilities to new levels. Co-creating a high performing team with other committed professionals is a rare and precious accomplishment.

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring. –Steve