Taking the Lead of an existing Team

Taking the lead of an existing team can be challenging. It’s a time of uncertainty for everyone. Your manager will be hoping they selected the right person for the job, your team will be hoping you act in their best interest, and you will be hoping you can perform your new job successfully.

To help you take the lead quickly, efficiently, and with buy-in from the team, I recommend you apply the following 3-month New Team Leader Plan. Adapt this plan where necessary, and communicate it to your new manager and team. It’s important that everyone knows the plan, so they know your immediate intentions, and how they play a part in the plan.

Month 1 – Learning and Documenting

The 1st month is all about learning about your new working environment, and documenting what you have learnt. This is not the time to make plans or make any changes; that will come in the following months. This month your focus is on learning about the business, your department, your team, and the people. It is also for learning about the priorities of systems, processes, projects, services, customers, and stakeholders.

This month you are a sponge for knowledge, and that knowledge should be documented. During every meeting and every discussion, make notes and gather key information. This will help with your analysis and planning in the 2nd month.

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To help you get started, I have provided a New Team Leader Plan Template for you to adapt – 
the-start-up-manager-blog-new-team-leader-plan

Month 2 – Analysing and Planning

The 2nd month is all about analysing your environment, and planning improvement opportunities. This is not the month to make any changes; that will come in month 3. This month your focus is on doing a SWOT analysis of your team, the services your team provides, the projects your team is involved in, and on any other relevant areas. A SWOT analysis will help you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It will tell you what is working well, what needs improving, what opportunities are available, and what obstacles you may face. Make sure you are focusing on key areas only. You don’t have the time to analyse everything right now:

This month is also for identifying improvement opportunities, aligning them with your organisation’s values and your team’s objectives, estimating requirements, assigning priorities, and applying impact analysis, before coming up with an Implementation Plan and Communication Strategy. This is a month about 70% analysis and 30% planning.

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Month 3 – Communicating and Change Management

The 3rd month is all about communication and change management. This month your focus is on communicating your Improvement Opportunities Implementation Plan, coordinating planned changes, communicating those changes, and implementing those changes. This month is just the first of many months of change. You want to be careful not to implement too many changes at once. Slow and steady is the best course of action here. You need to give people time to adjust.

This month is also for evaluating the change and change process, and promoting the success of the change. It’s important to take note of issues identified during the change process so it can be improved for future changes. The promotion of the change is important for advising its success, for reminding everyone of the benefits, and for thanking everyone involved in the change.

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So, there you have it, a 3-month plan for a new Team Leader that you can adapt and extend however you like. Just remember, learning, documenting, analysing, planning, communicating and change management all take time. Don’t rush it!

The Importance of Team Meetings

Meetings with the entire team are important as long as they are focused, relevant, and collaborative.

For a high demand team, I would suggest a team meeting every month, otherwise quarterly would be fine. These meetings should be backed up with on-going individual team member meetings.

The focus of these meetings is to bring the team together to share information, contribute to discussions, and provide feedback. This is especially important if your team is stretched across multiple locations or departments.

Planning and Preparing for Team Meetings

The agenda for these meetings should be focused on the team’s objectives, management priorities, customer demands, team member suggestions, and OHS.

These meetings are best set up in a meeting room that contains a computer, data projector or smart screen, that enables you to share your desktop and all its software. This is important for team members in other locations.

Depending on the agenda, these meetings may take 1 – 2 hours to complete. I would suggest setting up the meeting for 1.5 hours initially so that overruns are accommodated. To make sure everyone attends, let the team know these meetings are a priority, and send meeting invites out for the entire year. This will block out the times in their calendars, lock in the meeting rooms, and provide a reminder for meeting preparations.

Every team meeting should have an agenda that is structured, consistent, and flexible. I would suggest you create an Agenda Template with agenda Items that will occur in every meeting. Each of these agenda items should be set with specific times depending on the content that will be presented and/or discussed. This is where the flexibility comes in.

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To help you get started, I have provided a simple Agenda Template for you to adapt –
the-start-up-manager-blog-team-meeting-agenda-template

Suggested Agenda items may include safety, team leader updates, support, projects, presentations, and any other business (AOB). Safety is important for all businesses and all employees. It’s important to ensure the team keeps safety in mind at all times. This could be achieved by providing updates on OHS regulations, highlighting OHS risks, and having team members take turns giving a short OHS related presentation.

At the end of each meeting, I always ask if any new agenda items should be added. This enables the team to contribute to the structure of the meetings going forward. One of the new items requested by my last team was the reflection on what was ‘good’ that happened in the past month. It is so easy to focus on achieving priorities and overcoming problems that we forget to celebrate and congratulate on our achievements. This item was added and everyone in the team had a moment to share what they saw as good for themselves or others in the team. This had the added benefit of lifting spirits and having some fun.

Pre-meeting Preparations

Once the Team Meeting Agenda template has been created, take a copy and prepare it for each meeting as it comes up. This pre-meeting preparation should involve confirming presenters, collating information for the team leader update, reviewing reports on work areas, and preparing for any other business to be discussed.

To save time, I would suggest you create a pre-meeting checklist. This is a document that would include information on each of the agenda items, sources of information, usual presenters within the team, links to stored references, and how the information is expected to be presented at the meeting.

During the meeting

As the facilitator of the meeting, your role is to ensure the agenda remains on time, everyone gets an opportunity to speak, notes are taken on post-meeting actions, and the next meeting’s presenters are confirmed.

Post-meeting actions

Once the meeting is over, post-meeting actions should be documented and emailed to the team for follow-up, and any new agenda items added to the Agenda Template ready for the next meeting.

The Start-Up Manager Responsibilities

Managers and Team Leaders have many responsibilities:

Team Management

Team Identity – creating a team identity will have you focusing on the team objectives, the creation of team and operational processes and procedures, and the promotion of the team to key stakeholders.

Team Building – building an effective team involves identify roles, responsibilities and skill sets, arranging recruitment and on-boarding of new team members, assigning responsibilities and priorities, fostering teamwork, and providing an open door policy.

Team Member Training – training team members will include on-the-job training and cross-skilling, creation of up-to-date operational and organisational processes and procedures, and the promotion of knowledge sharing.

Team Member Performance – monitoring, evaluating and developing team members will involve regular performance reviews, to identify areas for improvement, and to provide professional development opportunities.

Operations Management

Daily Operations – managing day-to-day operations requires you to be aware of the running status of systems and processes, and the impact of any new operational demands.

Resource Management – requires allocation of team resources to projects and significant activities based on suitability and availability, identifying team resource availability and constraints, and providing key stakeholders with a resource report for planning and renegotiating of resources and timelines.

Change Management – reviewing and approving change management requests requires you understand the ITIL processes, to assist the team with planning changes, and to ensure the change follows approved practices and key stakeholders are informed.

Management Reporting – keeping management up to date on the team activities and constraints requires you to maintain a list of current and future planned projects, provide a weekly report for the team, and attend fortnightly Leadership meetings.

Productivity and Efficiency

Monitor Deliverables – to monitor deliverables involves you identify all team activities and projects, determine their timeframes and priorities, deal with any conflicts, confirm and approve change management, and provide the team (and anyone else who is interested) with a very visible list of immediate priorities.

Dealing with Issues – to effectively deal with issues you must understand your role as an escalation contact for service delivery, an investigator of system and process failures, and implementer of action plans.

Continuous Improvement – to improve productivity and efficiency you should always looking for ways to standardise and clarify systems and processes used by your team and stakeholders.

Relationship Building

Identify Key Stakeholders – to identify stakeholders you will need to find people who have an interest or concern about your team and/or service. Stakeholders are identified from within your Leadership Team, associated Team Leaders, Key Customers, and External Vendors and Organisations.

Interact with Key Stakeholders – the best approach I have found for building relationships with key stakeholders is to allow them to dictate the agenda, the frequency, and the means for contact; and then for you to make those contacts a priority. Regularly catch-up with stakeholders to discuss the priorities, expectations, latest developments, and any areas of concern.

Collaborate with Key Stakeholders – collaborating with key stakeholders involves identifying stakeholders with similar needs and/or constraints, and bringing them together to collaborate and/or resolve an issue.

Customer Service

Customer Engagement – to understand our customers requires a lot of engagement and feedback. Regular catch-ups to discuss requests, issues and potential areas of interest are given priority.

Services and Support – to build trust in your services requires an understanding from the customer’s perspective, a desire to continually improve services, and a focus on improving the customer support experience.

Customer Satisfaction – to ensure you retain customer satisfaction requires availability to discuss concerns, analysis of customer feedback, and the creation of support improvement plans.