5 Steps to Make Leadership Transitions Smoother

It is always difficult to replace a successful team leader.  In many cases, prior leadership has left a legacy of sorts and the team wanting for their lost leader. Someone just as effective, inspirational, empathetic, intelligent, motivational and so on—to continue their success as a team.  Here are some tips for you to consider when joining an already successful team and how to best acclimate yourself.

1) Get to know your team.  Spend time introducing yourself to each team member.  It’s time to begin building relationships.  Schedule an hour meeting with each member of the team to allow time to acquaint yourselves.  Consider making this a meeting over coffee, lunch, or a walk to create a more informal setting.  Make it a comfortable gathering rather than a business meeting.  Jot down a list of questions to ask each team member.  Consider the following questions to get you going.

  • What brought you here? How long have you been here?
  • Tell me a little about yourself. (e.g. your family, upbringing, academic experience, other professional experiences, etc.)
  • What do you love about your role? What would you want to change?

2) Establish relationships with your peers.  Schedule time with your new colleagues to better understand how your team interacts with the rest of the organization.  Ask their opinion about the team’s current success and how you might mirror that performance while adding your own personal touch.

3) Explore the team’s success together.   Accept and celebrate the team’s success. Within the first few weeks of your arrival, schedule a team meeting to understand what has made the team successful to date, discover team member strengths, and opportunities for team growth.

4) Establish communication ground rules.  It is important to establish how the team will communicate their concerns regarding potential changes to the norm.  As a group, set some ground rules to ensure accountability and two-way communication.


    • Create an opportunity for team members to voice concerns when a change makes them stressed or anxious (e.g. weekly “Worry Meeting”, one-on-one discussions with team members, utilize an online suggestion box using Suggestion Ox or Vetter, etc.).
    • Encourage feedback often and early.
    • Seek understanding and confirm agreement with the team on what should not be changed.

5) Share your vision.  While it is important for you to respect the team’s current success and their way of doing things, they also need to accept new leadership and potential changes.  It’s your job to provide them with a vision and then work together to create a road map to achieve it.   This is the time to strike the balance between the old and new and establish yourself as the leader of the team.


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