If you've spent any length of time in a leadership position, you'll likely have had the opportunity to take over a pre-existing team rather than building it as you go. Promotions, job switches, organizational shifts, and mergers or acquisitions all lend themselves to a leader inheriting an existing team and needing to get up to speed pretty quickly.
The challenge lies when the team you take over has lost its sense of empowerment or enthusiasm and the individuals are generally demotivated. It can be difficult to navigate those challenges as an outsider coming in. Your appointment may be seen as remedial or just another person brought in to 'fix' things, and therefore the existing group may view you with skepticism or even downright mistrust.
Here's how you can tackle the demotivation head-on, get your team re-engaged, and pointed in the right direction:
The worst thing you can do is barge in, guns blazing with your preconceived ideas of what needs to change in order to shake things up. Without clarity on what caused the demotivation in the first place, you could end up at best solving the wrong problem or at worst, even further demotivating everyone.
Instead, spend your first month listening to your new team before making any dramatic or sweeping changes. Find out what the culture of the team was like before you got there, what their relationship was like with your predecessor and if there are any organizational obstacles hindering their progress. The goal of this listening exercise is to determine precisely where the root cause of their malaise stems. It also serves as an indicator to the team that you're generally invested in helping them move past it.
2. Devise a plan of action.
Once you have clarity on the reason for your team's discontent, devise an action plan to work through it. If it was a lack of inspiration, plan to work on a team vision. If it was silo-zation and information hoarding, build better communication and decision-making flows. If it's an individual on the team who is making everyone miserable, then get clear on what you want their role to become.
Gather your team together, share the outcomes of your listening tour along with your plan to re-invigorate the group. Push for additional steps you could take that you haven't already thought of and then ask for their buy-in.
3. Have the team hold you accountable.
The final step is to ensure your team holds you ruthlessly accountable to deliver on the plan you brought to them. Make it a running agenda item on your team meetings and get ongoing feedback from them on your progress. This acts to multiply your progress as your team sees the real difference that you are making.
Do a formal temperature check at 30, 60, and 90 days to check if you are trending toward a sense of re-engagement from the team. Then finally get a verbal confirmation from everyone when you believe you solved the underlying cause.