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The challenges of inheriting a team

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In a new regular series, David Roberts, HR Director at Worldpay will be sharing his insights across numerous topics. In his first article, he’ll be discussing the importance and the challenges that surround inheriting a team, a situation numerous HR professionals face.

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Nearly two years ago I took the role of HR Director for Worldpay and I’ve often inherited teams over the years. My views haven’t changed over the years and I would like to think I’ve always kept true to what I believe in. This is ‘getting to know the people you are working with’, ‘gleaning invaluable knowledge’ and ensuring you set an expectation of ‘high challenge’ for those who are willing to progress but also offer ‘high support’ for everyone. Looking back now, this has paid off and I will be leaving a high performing team that have developed over the years.

The word “team” can be defined in a number of ways and the way I’ll define it for the purpose of this piece is; direct reports or senior members of the virtual team. Being a HRD this is typically HR Business Partners, Specialist Partners and other HR support in the team.

Getting to know the people

We have all started somewhere and we have all had leaders we respect or take approaches from them, of which we feel makes a great leader. What I’ve always respected is leaders that really spend the time to get to know you personally and professionally. This is even more prevalent in this day and age where work and personal lines are blearing. When inheriting a team this is fundamental as, even though you would have had feedback, you must understand where peoples skills, experience and drivers can be utilised moving forward. There will always be an element of letting go of the past and what excites them about the future so you can use that to coach them but engage them at a fast pace. Ideally if you can arrange to meet them before you formally start a role then this allows you to start the engagement even earlier.

Gleaning invaluable knowledge

If you’re inheriting a team, you’re inheriting a pot of knowledge and this can help you navigate the organisation as well as help getting things done.

High challenge

Once you understand people’s drivers and appropriate challenges, it is important you set out direction. Some of the team may be comfortable and not want to stretch themselves but generally, I would always expect a challenge of some sort, whether that be through how we operate as a team, what knowledge we hold or the value we add. Otherwise, the team stands still. The direction and challenge need to be clear, relevant and accompanied by constant dialogue and support.

High Support

Once you truly get to know your team, you will quickly ascertain who needs support and those that are better or prefer working autonomously. However, it is about ensuring the support is there if needed and this can be professionally or personally.

Aside from these key areas, I would advise being open-minded, embrace diversity in the team and always focus on listening more than telling at the early stages.

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