Leaders, Play Your Hand Well
“True success isn’t the result of playing a good hand, it’s the result of playing a bad hand well.” Tom Martin
Leaders who have been recently promoted often discover they’ve inherited team members who they may not have chosen on their own. In fact, many leadership changes and promotions are designed to “clean-up” what other leaders have left behind. A leader’s future success depends on his or her ability to play the hand they’ve been dealt.
Too many leaders come in saying the right things and then make mistakes that limit their success. Before leaping into action, consider the following suggestions for what to do and what to avoid when inheriting a new team.
What to Do:
- Set the stage for how you will lead. Gain clarity yourself about your goals and priorities. Explain why you took the position and describe the culture you seek to create. While this isn’t the time to make drastic changes, it is the time to establish your ground rules and leadership preferences.
- Build relationships. Meet individually with team members and focus on them. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting, prepare key questions and ask the same questions of each team member. While you’re not interviewing them for a job, you are gathering data about unresolved issues/concerns, how your new team members think, how they add value and what is important to them. This information is invaluable if you need to make staffing and/or structural changes later.
- Gain insight about team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Identify top performers who are willing to learn and support others. Look for those who have potential to make contributions.
- Communicate changes clearly and make them quickly. After deliberation, demonstrate decisiveness and provide your rationale and supporting data.
- Ask for help. Seek out advisors, mentors and coaches to test your assumptions and gain clarity. Identify what you, yourself, need to learn to be most effective.
What to Avoid:
- Avoid being influenced by what others say before gathering data on your own. While well-intentioned, some old stories and perceptions about team members may no longer be accurate.
- Make changes to roles and structure after the first 30 days. Making changes too quickly may require adjustments later. Especially during times of disruptive change, provide some stability and reduce anxiety so that people can focus on the work of the business. Use the time to gain team member input, make an accurate assessment of individuals and build your plan.
While promotions and greater responsibility are rewarding, it is important to carefully consider how to onboard and build or rebuild the team you inherit. For more information, contact Kittie Watson.
Note: Tom Martin was a-Marine Vietnam war vet who was wounded in the Tet Offensive. He spent the next 28 years in a wheelchair, as a paraplegic.His life is testament to his quotation: “True success isn’t the result of playing a good hand, it’s the result of playing a bad hand well.”