What advice would you give me when I take over a new department with a weak team?

Hi, I'm taking over a new department and as per what my boss told me, the team I will be managing is weak beside one or two employees, I plan not to make any quick changes as I need to maintain stability, what suggestions you can give me to make a change within the team members and to run evaluation on everyone? As well as keeping the team together through the change and make everything smooth? Thanks


For the first 90 days, listen and plan - but don't do anything. You need to understand why they are under performing and 9/10 it's because the previous Manager was just not a good Manager, could not recognize people's strength's, had them in the wrong roles, tried to do their jobs etc etc

Read "First break all the Rules" - get to know your team, get to understand their strengths, get people in the right roles (plan a change if reqd) and then your focus after that is break down the barriers that stop your team being successful and get out of their way. “Now, discover your strengths!” that Swier suggests is also a marvellous book\resource to help you in this task.

You are in a very fortunate position - there is nothing more rewarding than turning this situation around and there is only one way to go.... up... and that will get you noticed. It is much harder to take over a high performing team and either keep that going or further improve on it, as it's very unlikely you'll get the chance to really meet the previous Manager and understand why they had success and that team's loyalty will be with the previous Manager - this team will be looking for someone to lead, guide them and help them be successful as no-one goes to work wanting to under perform. Show and help them to achieve that and they will do and achieve remarkable things and you will be so proud of them as you watch them develop, achieve, grow in confidence and keep going. So, give thanks for having landed such a great career opportunity and go enjoy it.

Answered 10 years ago

You are correct to not make any drastic changes at first. Meet with each team member to get to know them. Try to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses. Find out where they are at in comparison to the mission and vision of the company & unit. Consider using an assessment tool such as EverythingDiSC to provide a basis for how they can best work and communicate within the team. Look for any potential cancerous members - someone who might have a bad attitude to the point they will be a detriment to your leadership and the mission. If they can't be reprogrammed, replace them.

I always look for employee's strengths and desires and try to move them into positions that align with both. Attitude, aptitude and loyalty are more important than current skills in many cases. Skills can be trained.

Devise a plan after all your meetings and evaluations. Assuming you need to make changes, do so methodically and on a timeline that meets company objectives but is not abrupt - if possible. Sometimes a drastic shift is needed to shock teams into new paradigms. But, that would be the exception if you are a people leader. Lead people, manage systems.

If you would like to chat further, I provide free 30 minute consultations to first time callers. Use the link below.

Best regards,

Kevin McCarthy

Answered 10 years ago


One thing that I would do, if possible, is to try and get some time with everyone on the team individually. Work out what sort of challenges they are facing, what they like, what the dislike, etc. Also, take the time to hear them as 'people'. Furthermore, spend time communicating what your values are, why they are important to you and what your 'philosophy' of managing/leading is. In my experience this makes the transition much easier for everyone.

I really hope it goes well! All the best.

Jonny McCormick

Answered 10 years ago

This is a courageous and smart move to put your question forward.
If you want to get a success out of this team, make sure that you agree with them on company core values, core objective, and derived team core values and team core objective. Further agree with them on what your team’s added value would be for the company. Then discuss with them who will be doing what in creating that added value, and agree with them (the group) on how to reach your goals or objectives. This way, it will be a shared responsibility, where they will support each other to reach best results.

Use the “Now, discover your strengths!” test from the Gallup Organization to find out what each individuals’ talents are, and decide with them on who will be doing what, based on their talents (or themes as Gallup calls them). This will allow them to see that you are genuinely trying to make the best of the situation, and have their well being and successfulness as a prerogative for the teams’ success. Look at them and coach them to perform as well as they can in their individual roles. Leave ample room for personal creativeness, but watch out for them “not breaking the bank."

Use the leverage you will “demand” from your superior to build this team (based on his assumption that this is a weak team) to create a period of build up to enhance the quality of this team. Demand a period for a year to build this up. After all, he is putting the problem in your lap! (Why didn’t he solve it himself?) Measure consistently on performance improvement, and use that to sustain leverage.

You might be astonished as to what the team might come up with!

Kind regards,
Swier Miedema.

Answered 10 years ago

This is a common issue...and I may have a different opinion here with my startup and scaling organizations experience.

In fact, I want to cherry pick from another answer "I would suggest that you take more ownership of the decision to accept this position in the first place."

My feeling on this is that if you think the team is weak already, you are setting yourself up to fail. People have greatness in them. With that said, the counter is that sometimes people are unwilling to change or take action. Finding out which type of people you have here is important. Also, everyone thinks differently -- you may come in with your checklist, but they may not be checklist type thinkers. You may come in with your ideas and they may revolt! Sometimes you will be the oddball out and they will think you are weak.

If you can terminate these employees they will never be completely honest with you if they are fearful of their job. So surveying them about "what they think"...not so sure about that. Also, giving them even a hint of aggressiveness may cause a lot of trauma.

Going back to the previous comment - do your homework on this one. Find out how open your supervisors are to personnel change.

And now for my best recommendation --- there is a book called 'The First 90 Days' that I think may be a tremendous resource for you. It covers the "transition" from your perspective and your employees perspective which very few managers ever think about.

Cheers - you'll do fine and they will love you.


Answered 10 years ago

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