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Teamwork Tips

Taking charge of an existing team

Teamwork Tips

Taking charge of an existing team

Here we outline some teamwork tips for anyone taking over an existing team or reforming one that is in transition.

In team building techniques we offered some advice on how to start a brand new team. However, many managers won’t have that luxury. In reality we are often tasked with taking over an existing team, or perhaps assuming leadership of a team which exists but is undergoing change. There are some similarities between starting new teams and taking over those that already exist. But there are also some important differences.

Whilst every team and context is different a few important teamwork tips can provide a basis on which to develop your approach to taking over an existing team. Especially if you read it alongside team building techniques for taking over a new team.

This article is part of our stages of team development series based on the STAR team model.

What is Teamwork?

Star Team Model

Whilst every team and context is different, these team building techniques will provide a basis on which to develop your approach to starting-up a team. The STAR team model suggests that effective teamwork in the workplace happens when four elements (Strengths, Teamwork, Alignment and Results) are in place:

  • Individuals flourish as they use and develop their Strengths.
  • People come together and build relationships that result in effective Teamwork.
  • The team leader Aligns the team through effective communication of purpose, so that individual strengths combine with teamwork to deliver on the team’s goals.
  • Together everyone achieves more as performance flows and Results that are meaningful and rewarding to the team are achieved.

A different emphasis and focus for each of the STAR model elements is needed at different stages of the team’s development. Taking responsibility for an existing team is complicated by the fact that the team could be at any of the team development stages, or possibly stuck in one of the problematic phases.

Taking charge of an existing team often means that the team needs to re-establish its focus. This could be for a number of reasons, such as:

  • The team has reached it meaningful results and now needs to establish new ones.
  • It is being given a different goal or there is a change in focus.
  • The team could be an existing team which is not performing well.
  • The team may be performing well but needs help to ensure it sustains it’s higher performance after reaching initial goals.
  • It may be a team where there are problems and issues to be resolved.

Teamwork tips: taking charge of an existing teamThe first step is to determine what kind of existing team you are taking over and then to establish what is expected of the team. Typically this will involve reviewing, revising or renewing:

  • Mission, purpose and the meaningful results required of the team
  • Task definition
  • Identity and purpose of the team

You will often need to make an assessment of the various elements of the STAR model for example:

  • What are the meaningful results required of the team?
  • What strengths are required?
  • What are the strengths of the team?
  • What is the approach to teamwork like and how strong are the relationships in the team?

It may be that the team is stuck in one of the negative positions of team development. Think about which team development stage is currently at. You can find out more about some of the negative phases associated with teams and some teamwork tips to address them in our articles:

There may also be conflict issues and individual agendas causing problems, so it is worth taking the time to find out as much as possible about the team you’re taking over. Although the advice offered in ‘team building techniques‘ is mainly about new teams, some is still relevant here. For example, stating a clear purpose and clarifying the results expected of either team will help to galvanize action and enhance team bonding. And a re-appraisal of individual strengths and how they compliment each other might be the answer to any existing performance problems.

There will be much to do if you are taking over an existing team. Perhaps the most important teamwork tips are to:

  • Take time to diagnose where the team currently sits in the stages of development model.
  • Think about how and why it is there. Has team development stalled or moved along too quickly? Has it begun to perform poorly, perhaps regressing to an earlier stage.
  • Reflect on why you have been appointed to lead the team from now on. What is expected of you?
  • Whatever you glean from these points, re-establish a clear purpose for the team and ensure team members commit to team goals.
  • Go back to team building techniques if you feel they are needed but don’t re-invent the wheel. Look ahead if the team is already functioning well and think about encouraging ways to sustain high performance.

To read more of about our teamwork concept – the STAR team model- see our articles teamwork theories, teamwork defined and teamwork in the workplace. For a more general introduction to team leadership, a good place to start might be to think through why is teamwork important, or you may want to think about how you define teamwork or reminding yourself of the benefits of teamwork.

More teamwork tips!

Teams e-guidesIf you want to put our teamwork concepts into action, you’ll find more information and a wealth of practical resources, in our colossal Team Building Bundle.

Containing 240 pages and 50 tools, these are the 8 key guides we recommend to help you do more than define teamwork, build it!

Why is Teamwork Important
Build a Better Team
The Problems with Teams
Team Health Check
Team Building Exercises
Leading with Style and Focus
What’s the Problem?
Making Better Decisions

These are fantastic little e-books, very thorough, easy to follow

We’ve used [the guides] as support tools for learners on our talent management programmes which has saved me a lot of time and a lot of money. I’d definitely recommend them.

Kieleigh - United Kingdom

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