How to Adopt a Team That Already Exists

3 min read
Jan 21, 2017

adopting a team

When you start in a new leadership position, you might feel like the odd man out. Chances are the team members already know each other, and you’re the new kid on the block. So you’ll need to find a way to get off on the right foot.

Getting to Know All About Them

First, don’t worry about finding out what the previous leader was like or what they did. The people on your team are the ones you really need to become familiar with.

  • What do they do? Understand what their roles and responsibilities are beyond the specifics of their job description. How do they fit into the processes and goals of the team? Who relies on their work, and who do they rely on?
  • What do they like? Gauge their interest in their current roles. A change of leadership can be a good opening to change up outdated processes or inefficient distribution of work.
  • Where do they want to go? Learn how they want to grow professionally. Even if they’re perfectly happy in their job, see how they want to develop their skills or take on more responsibilities.

Setting Team Goals

Once you’ve gotten to know your new employees, it’s important to be proactive and give them goals to aim for — don’t just coast along with the routine that was set up by the boss before you. Without goals, you won’t have any guideposts when you run into challenges or have to choose between priorities.

  • Include the team in this process. Let everyone bring their experience and expertise to the table with group brainstorming. Giving them a say in the team’s goals will strengthen their investment.
  • Don’t forget to make the goals measurable and specific. Set your team up for success by making sure they won’t be hampered by vague expectations or unrealistic benchmarks.
  • Find out what resources these goals call for. As the team’s leader, it’s up to you to ensure that everyone has access to what they need, whether it’s technology and materials or communication channels and knowledge sources.
  • Get individual buy-in from each team member. Unified commitment to the group goals is the only way they’ll be achieved.

Getting Your Team to Gel

Don’t forget the fun! An essential part of making a team work is fostering a positive community. So take a look at some of these ideas for breaking the ice and getting everyone to work together outside of the usual environment.

  • The Marshmallow Challenge: What do you do with dry spaghetti, one yard of tape, and a marshmallow? Well, as TedX showed us, you build the tallest tower you can. It’s not only a good team-building exercise, but it’s also illustrative for decision-making processes.
  • Scavenger hunt: Split the team into smaller groups and pit them against each other for a scavenger hunt around your city. Sound complicated? Well, companies like Watson Adventures have done much of the hard work for you. Visit its site to find a number of themed, city-specific scavenger hunts.
  • Focus on a nonprofit: Rallying your employees around a cause is incredibly powerful. Give them an opportunity to come together over something good. Choose a local shelter and volunteer to make a meal every quarter. Collect Box Tops for Education. Plan a coat drive in the fall. The opportunities for serving your community are endless.
  • Outside networking sessions: Get better acquainted with your team, your industry, and your city by seeking out professional meet-ups. Here in Seattle, the Washington Technology Industry Association puts on the Seattle Tech Crawl, a fun way to go out as a team and meet folks at other great local organizations.



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