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  • Writer's pictureAAL

Taking Over After a Bad Leader Has Left

Craig’s boss left the company suddenly due to an ethics issue. Now Craig was leading the team. The team had been on a down hill slide for a while. But now, both performance and attitudes were in a nosedive.

“How can I turn it around, Dave? People are angry, hurt, and wondering about their futures. I feel the same way, but now I’m in charge! I’ve got good people, but they are beaten down. Customers are heading to the competition ever since they heard about the ethical issues of the last guy.”

Some of us get opportunities to take over high performing teams. Some of us take over low performing teams. In Craig’s case he had a low performing team that had been beaten up and burned by their previous leader.

We came up with a three part plan to lift Craig’s team from it’s funk and get it back on track.

1. Listen to The Influencers

The first step was for Craig to pull in his influence leaders. John Maxwell calls these people the E.F. Huttons of the group. They are the people everyone listens to. It has nothing to do with their titles and everything to do with their influence.

Craig’s goals for that meeting was to listen and then get buy in. He needed to listen to the concerns of the influencers because the influencers always speak for more than themselves.

Once he heard their concerns, the goal was for Craig to get the influencers to help him get the team moving forward again. Craig needed them to be his eyes and ears on the front lines.

Craig needed to help the influencers pull out of their nosedive because the influencers were the key to team pulling out of the nosedive. Once they vented, then Craig needed ask each influencer to buy into moving the team forward.

2. Create Some Quick Wins

As with any failing team, Craig’s team had not felt successful for quite awhile. In this case, losing had become the norm, and the previous boss left behind a team that felt belittled and inadequate.

Craig and the influencers need to set up some short-term goals that were easily measured and quickly attainable. They may have been preliminary steps towards a bigger goal, but each goal signified progress. The team that had not felt successful and appreciated, began to see that their efforts were actually making a difference.

One goal they set was to gain back two customers a week. It was a modest goal, but it was one that could be measured and attained in the short term. Two returning customers a week, would signify a 50% increase in the customer base over the next two quarters. That’s progress! That’s success!

3. Celebrate Some Quick Wins

The team needed a reason to feel good about themselves. Every week, the team reacquired two customers from the competition, Craig or one of the influencers would bring in ice cream sundaes, milk shakes, or smoothies for everyone in the office.

The team, from the sales people to the administrative assistants began to look forward to Friday. Everyone wanted to celebrate a quick win, so everyone worked towards making those wins happen.

The people who did not work in the office, got a phone call telling them of the week’s progress and were allowed to write off one ice cream sundae, milk shake or smoothie on their expense report.

The Results

Craig’s team is still pulling out of its nosedive. But, customers are returning and attitudes are improving. The people in the office are engaged in the hard work of rebuilding the team. But, they are doing it together. The focus is no longer on what happened in the past, but the needs of the future.

To read more about the challenges of taking over new teams, click on the following title:

The Bottom Line:

A bad leader can truly damage a good team. It takes an intentional leader to address the current needs of the team and move them into a forward-focused mentality.

Craig’s plan is something I used with a failing team I had the privilege to work with. My failing team became a winning team 24 months later. I give credit to my group of influencers who helped me see the need for some quick wins and some quick celebrations.

There is nothing better than winning.

Ask anyone who hasn’t done it for a while!


What other steps can a new leader take after a bad leader has left?



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