Leadership is a challenging task. Especially if you are taking over a team that has had a bad leader, it is surely not going to be a cakewalk. The team must have gone through a rough patch and probably is traumatized from the entire experience.
So how do you go about taking over a team that is facing the repercussions of poor leadership?
When Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder, was forced to resign due to his unethical behavior, Dara Khosrowshahi replaced him and was assigned to improve the company’s culture.
Whether or not you’re an experienced leader, you must prepare yourself with a clear action plan while taking over from a bad leader.
Here are six things to keep in mind to help you get started.
Test the Waters
Before diving headfast into troubled waters, you should have a fair assessment of the situation at hand.
If you are someone from the same department or team, you will have a fair idea about the whole situation. If not, it’s a good idea to get some background information about your team and the person you’re going to replace.
By doing a background check, you will get adequate information about the wrongdoings of the previous person and what the team expects from you. This exercise will help you map out your strategy to adjust your leadership style to match the team’s current needs.
The great Indian philosopher, Chanakya, once said, “It is wise to learn from your mistakes, but it is wiser to learn from the mistakes of others.”
Your job is not to rectify somebody’s mistakes but to learn from those mistakes and avoid repeating them.
Your aim is to help the team get past the ordeals and do everything in your power to help your people reach their full potential.
Get to Know Your Team
The next thing that you must do is to get acquainted with your team. It is best to have a one-on-one conversation with each of the team members. Let them express themselves freely, with no inhibitions.
The other crucial thing is taking feedback. Ask the team how they want to be managed and what are their expectations from you. Ask them what motivates them and what brings them down.
With the aid of constructive feedback, 1:1’s, and active listening, understand the general sentiment of the team toward you. While some may be pleased to be working under a new leader, others may be bitter.
Clear communication can foster trust and transparency, both of which the team has lacked before. It will help you enhance employee motivation and productivity.
Define Your Goals and Objectives
Once you are familiar with your team and their situation, it is now time to decide where you want your team to be headed. Fulfill the necessary objectives and list them down. Re-define your goals if needed.
Plan the strategies, resources, and individuals who will be in charge of achieving these objectives.
A team working under a bad leader can have a distorted view of their goals and objectives. You have to re-ignite their drive to perform better. Try to boost their lost morale and assign roles based on individual needs and skillsets.
Set goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Communicate the same to your team to clarify their doubts and how you intend them to attain their goals.
Remember to take their input on what they think about your plan of action and if they have anything to contribute.
Re-adjust Your Approach
Different people have different ways of leading a team. If you have led a team before, keep an open mind and remember, what worked in the past may not work in the future.
Therefore, it is better to keep your leadership style flexible and re-adjust according to the team dynamics.
Bad leadership can mean not recognizing the team’s effort, taking the team’s credit, micromanaging, poor performance evaluation, and so much more.
A report says that 70% of employees in the US are unhappy in their jobs due to negative management.
Let us not forget that engaged employees are happy employees. Employee recognition can result in higher employee engagement and hence result in satisfied employees.
As their new leader, you must make sure that the performance evaluation is fair, and you recognize and appreciate even their smallest efforts.
Leave the Door Open
Wait, I don’t mean the Bruno Mars song. I am referring to an open-door policy in workplace communication. The practice of open-door communication encourages transparency, trust, and openness by allowing people to express themselves freely.
According to this HBR study, 58% of the employees said they trust strangers more than their bosses. This reveals the lack of mutual trust between the employers and employees.
Working under a bad leader can make the employees closed off and hesitant to express their thoughts. They can think, “What’s the point? It’s useless”.
So, cultivating a culture where people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas should be the first step.
Getting them to speak up is not the end of your job. Communication is always a two-way process. You must acquire active listening skills and show genuine interest in employees’ opinions. Otherwise, it will again make them feel like nothing has changed and as if they are speaking to a wall.
Bond with the Team
Everything cannot be about work. It is equally important to develop an informal bond with your team. Organize a team-building activity that will help you bond with your team and get to know each other better.
It does not have to be fancy and need not take up an entire day. It can be as simple as a team lunch or breakfast. This will give them a breather from their past toxic work situation and boost team morale as well.
It is also possible that your team might bring up negative aspects of the management. Negativity can be contagious. Be mindful of having an open mind and not engaging in any negative talk. Remember that if you too start seeing things negatively, there is no way you can uplift your team to perform better.
People leave their convenient, well-paying jobs just because of poor leaders. It shows how our mental and emotional well-being takes precedence over anything. Leaders fail when they cannot see beyond their professional targets. Great leaders are not only the ambitious ones but also the ones who are understanding and empathetic towards their team.