Team Work – bringing in a new team leader.

A picture from 2006 before becoming president ...Team Work – bringing in a new team leader.

Sometimes when you have a project or a piece of work being carried out for you, you need to bring in a new team leader.

Perhaps your existing team leader left suddenly on promotion or for a better opportunity elsewhere. Perhaps things have not been going too well and, as sponsor, you decide you have done as much as you can to support the old team leader – it is time to make a change. Sometimes, sadly, the team leader has been taken ill or in an accident.

Whatever the reason, you have to bring in someone new to lead the project team.

Now, you need to explain what is happening to the team. You don’t want to paint the old leader in a negative light – you know there are loyalties. But you do want them to accept the change and the new leader. What can you do?

Here are some tips.

  1. Give the team a clear and honest explanation for the change. Where things have not been going well, you need to be quite careful about attributing any failure specifically to the old team leader. But you can be clear about why a new approach is needed and then emphasise the background and experience of the new team leader.
  2. Honour the past. If good progress has been made and the old team leader left on good terms, there is something to celebrate. This should be done as part of the change to the new team leader. Again, if the old team leader has been taken ill it is important to recognise the contribution that they and the team have made so far.
  3. Tell the team about the new team leader. Before the new team leader arrives, give the team as much information as you can about the new team leader and why they have been chosen. Show that that both the team and the new team leader have your confidence and make sure the team are clear about the role and your expectations.
  4. Make introductions. When the new team leader arrives introduce them to the team yourself. It is great if this can be over coffee or lunch so that there is an opportunity for some informal chat as well as formal introductions.
  5. Have an induction program. Make sure someone takes responsibility for showing the new team leader round. If you want to minimise any glitch in performance make sure that there is an induction program and that the new leader meets key people and knows who they are.
  6. Follow-up. Remember to check back. Don’t wait for the next formal board or project meeting to find out how the new leader is settling in. A short phone call from you asking how the new team leader is settling in will make them feel them feel appreciated and give you early warning if all is not going well. Touch base with the team themselves sometimes to show you haven’t abandoned them but be careful not to undermine the new team leader when you do it.

If you need support transitioning between team leaders, get in touch. Working with a coach can help a team make the change without disruption.

Wendy Mason is a Career Coach with Life Coaching skills and expertise in helping people have the confidence they need to be successful at work while maintaining a good work/life balance. You can email her at wendymason

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