Say you’re an experienced executive joining a new company. When you start, you inherit a team of people.
The first thing you must realize is that over time, “the team” will silently transform into “your team.” Warts and all, you’re going to fully own that team at some point in time. In the beginning, you might boast about the stars you’ve inherited and gripe about the clowns. But at some point they’re not your predecessor’s clowns any more. They’re your clowns. You own them.
The second thing you must realize is how quickly that will occur. Typically, I’d say it takes about 90 days before the organization — e.g., your boss, your peers — perceives “the team” as “your team.”
That’s not a long time, so you need to use it well.
A key part of any new executive’s job is not just to assess the business situation, but also to assess his or her team. You may have inherited some great people and some weak ones. You might have great people who are in the wrong roles. You may have some great people who are beaten down and need to be uplifted. You may even have some people who really need to go pursue that career in real estate that they’ve always wanted.
So, what should you do about it?
- Invest a lot of your early time in understanding your team. Their strengths and their weaknesses. What their internal customers think of them. What you think of their work. What coworkers think. Understand their backgrounds, interview them, and go review their LinkedIn profiles or CVs.
- Remember that it’s not black and white. It’s not as simple as “good person” vs. “bad person.” Oftentimes, it’s about the role — is that person a great product manager who’s over his head in a director role? Is that person a great customer success person, but she’s currently struggling with a direct sales job?
- Remember that it’s about the climate. Maybe the team is a bunch of great people who are just feeling down. Or maybe they’re good people, on fire and already performing at 98% of their potential. The climate can turn stars into dogs, and vice versa, so you need to figure out who’s sailing into a headwind and who’s benefiting from a tailwind.
- Remember that it’s about direction. If the team executed a bad strategy really well and failed, that’s quite different from executing a great strategy poorly. To what extent was the team aimed well or aimed poorly in terms of direction?
- Remember that it’s about personal wants and needs. Where do your team members want to be in a few years? Do they see a way to get there from here at your company? Are they happy with short-term constraints or are they struggling to get out of meetings in time to hit childcare before those draconian fines kick in?
Once you’ve gathered that data, then sit down with your manager, deliver the assessment and make a proposal. Because after about 90 days it’s not the team any more. It’s your team. So you better focus on having the right people sitting the right chairs on day 91.