The 5 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself If You Are Leading a New or Different Team

Written by on August 26, 2016

If you’ve been at the same company for a long time and are leading a new team…..OR….if you are brand new to leadership, these are the questions you need to identify, understand, and leverage during your transition.

1. Where is my upside?
-Undeveloped talent
-Offices, departments, or divisions trending poorly
-Market opportunities
-People who may be in the wrong role
-Coaches who know how to train
-Small segments of the business that are trending positively
These are your most obvious areas for growth. This is your low-hanging fruit.

2. What previous traditions or expectations should you eliminate? These are things that run on their own inertia. This is the “way we have always done it around here” stuff. It could be reports, meetings, rankings, or social expectations. Some of these things worked at one point, but have pooped out. Some of these things never worked. Eliminating a few unnecessary meetings can save you time, money, and make you a hero to some.

3. Where are you going to get your growth or improvement? This is the hardest part of the planning. There’s the hidden upside in your new area of responsibility. Your predecessor could not see it, but it’s there. The team members know where the growth opportunities are, so interviewing them will give you some instant clarity. Giving them a platform and asking their opinions will also help you earn “buy in” from your new team. After that, you will need to dig into the numbers and see what they tell you. Inevitably, your growth opportunities will surface.

4. Where will you be firm and where will you be flexible? This is a way of asking what’s important to you. Every leader expects to have to show her teeth occasionally, but you have to pick your moments carefully. There will be a few no-compromise areas, but it cannot be every area or you will lose leverage and credibility.

5. Who are the five to ten people who will determine whether this transition succeeds? And what’s in it for them if the transition fails or succeeds? Ignore titles, tenure, and previous performance. There will be a small group of individuals who will be the reason your new team succeeds or fails. It may not be immediately obvious to you who they are. You absolutely need to figure it out before you start making any big plans.

Lastly, and probably most important……Go where the response is. This five-word recommendation can save you years of work if you really understand it. Leaders succeed and fail based on their ability to direct people’s energy and attention. Team members will not always agree on that direction. When they don’t, the leader will not get the energy and attention he needs to succeed in the project, the initiative, or the business. So go where the response is: Pay attention to who is engaged and “on board” with what you’re saying and doing. Trying to change people’s minds can be a losing proposition; it puts too much attention on the areas that are not working. Instead, focus your energy on the people who “get it.” Make sure they’re getting the attention, recognition, and resources to succeed. The others will catch on or they won’t, but they will not be the deciding factor in the enterprise.

Being a leader in a takeover role can exciting and scary. Connect with your new team as quickly as you can. Make sure they understand that you are there to be of service and have their best interest in mind, along with the company’s. In all of the seriousness of the transition, remember that people respond well to what’s happening “for them” and not “to them”. So….have some fun in your new role!

Check out our best-selling book: “What Exceptional Leaders Know” and be sure to take a few minutes to register with the Exceptional Leaders Lab so you can (1) Get your free report on ‘The 6 Mistakes Exceptional Leaders Avoid”, and (2) access our innovative leadership course “The Exceptional Leaders Playbook”. The Exceptional Leaders Lab is an international community of progressive leaders focused on improving their leadership skills and their impact on their teams, peers and organizations.