3 mistakes to avoid when you inherit a team

Stepping into a new leadership role is a time of excitement and opportunity, but new leaders and their teams must make certain adjustments to ensure a smooth transition — and this is not always easy.

Members of a pre-existing team have shaped their processes and habits in response to their former leader's preferences, and adjusting those habits to accommodate a new leader is challenging. However, there are certain pitfalls new leaders can avoid to make the transition easier for everyone, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Despite their best intentions, new leaders risk making the following three common mistakes.

1. Trying to be a friend instead of a leader. Although it is important for new leaders to be aware of and empathetic to the challenges their teams will face as they adjust to their new bosses, it is a mistake to allow that empathy to turn into weak leadership, according to HBR. Spending too must energy trying to be your team's friend will confuse the power dynamic and can lead to backlash when you start to exert control. Instead, demonstrate clear, confident leadership. According to HBR, new leaders should be friendly and understanding but clearly communicate their vision and standards early on.

2. Showing frustration with the quality of the team. The team you inherit is the product of your predecessor — team members' habits and strengths reflect the previous leader's expectations of them. If your expectations are different, it is important to offer constructive, encouraging advice to guide change. Revealing frustration or anger with the team will only generate opposition and lower their motivation to change. Furthermore, bringing in your own hires and treating seasoned team members as "damaged goods" will turn that demotivation into despair, according to HBR.

3. Attempting to force trust and candor too soon. While many new leaders want to create a transparent and trusting culture from the beginning, exposing the team to contentious issues too soon can be destabilizing, according to HBR. Teams need time to build confidence working and handling uncomfortable topics with a new leader. When you expose issues too soon, you are also inadvertently exposing the people associated with them. Some may become defensive, while others will keep their grievances concealed. Instead, let trust build over time by increasingly discussing sensitive topics and showing your team you will address them constructively.

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