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Teamwork Tips

Taking over an Existing Team

Here we outline some teamwork tips for taking over an existing team, or reforming a team. In many cases team leaders will not be starting up a new team as we discuss in team building techniques, they will be taking over an existing team. There are some similarities between starting a new team and taking over an existing team, but there are also important differences.

Continuing our series on stages of team development using out STAR team model, in this article we consider how to take over an existing team.

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.

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 building 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 the teams results
  • 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

Starting-up with an existing team often means that the team needs to re-establish its focus. This could be for a number of reasons:

  • It has reached it meaningful results and now needs to establish new ones
  • The team 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 and needs to continue to achieve its results.
  • It may be a team where there are problems and issues to be resolved.

The first step is to determine what kind of existing team you are taking over and secondly 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. What team development stage would you say the team is at? You can find out more about some of the negative phases associated with teams and some teamwork tips to address them here:

  • Lack of teamwork - forcing rather than forming a team
  • Poor teamwork -when teams become exhausting
  • When teamwork at work fails - when it’s too much team and not enough work.

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 are taking over. The advice given in our team building techniques article for starting a new team still stands: that putting a clear purpose and clarifying the results expected of the team will help in galvanizing the team to achieve and come together. However, there may be more to resolve around individuals strengths if performance has been an issue previously. In such a situation it will be important to recognize people’s strengths and establish how they might best contribute.

The important teamwork tips for taking over an existing team are that you need to take time to diagnose where the team is at the moment on the stages of team development and then re-establish a clear purpose for the team based on where it is at the moment.

If you do have the time to read more on this topic, why not go to our teamwork articles. 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 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.

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