Healthy employee mobility in larger organizations is critical to creating shared ideas and best practices across disparate teams. However, mobility for leaders requires extra rigor to ensure existing best practices, product knowledge, and team culture at large are permeable to your own experience, expertise, and fresh new perspective.
Framed as an ordered list of to-dos, here’s some guidance around stepping into to lead new inheriting teams.
1) Keep things positive — Humans are mostly resistant to change. According to research, only 38% of people in professional roles like to leave their comfort zones. When presented with change, most of your team will not be excited at all. Instead, many will immediately feel fear and discomfort. By keeping the transition narrative positive and proactively addressing the implications of your coming into their work life, you can avoid having some of your people making poor assumptions like their career growth is stifled, or they’re no longer going to enjoy their work, or even question whether or not they’ll be let go.
2) Listen more than you speak — Depending on the size of your team and product landscape, consider taking the first one to three months to get to know your new direct reports and the areas they lead. Creating a consistent venue that allows you to rotate in your new leads to deliver the end-to-end story of their goals, stakeholders, WIP, etc., will ensure they are successful in getting you up to speed on areas that matter most from their lens.
3) Use polls to dig deeper — It’s not advisable to stop knowledge gathering with your leadership layer. Empower your broader employee community to weigh in on the good and bad. It’s useful to gather quant signals around product quality, design polish, and even x-team ways of working — even if it’s on a “rate this from 1 to 10” basis. Anonymous slack polls with open-ended questions are also a great way to empower folks to give it to you straight. That is until the day comes when you’ve built enough trust to start seeing real names attached to constructive feedback.
4) Don’t assume everyone is in their proper role — Setting up skip-level one-on-ones and intimate town hall sessions with smaller teams in your new org will allow you to collect useful signals about who’s passionate about specific areas of work and who might be looking to make their own mobility play. Individual alignments are a key aspect of developing a proper organizational structure. People who work in secondary roles may have been overlooked, lost political battles, or have not been given a chance to show their best work. A friend once said it best, “Mining for gold is the right mentality for adopting an organization.”