In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to earn the trust of a team you’re taking over as a new manager.

Winning over members of a team you just took over is not an easy feat. There’s bound to be resistance from some team members and if you don’t manage the situation well, this can affect how successful you’re going to be as a manager.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what to do when you first take over a team, the importance of making a good first impression, what to do with team members you don’t want on your team and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

00:43 The importance of making a good first impression.

01:05 What to do when you first take over a team.

02:10 The quickest way to fail.

04:07 What to do with team members you don’t want on your team.

05:50 Problems that can arise when you make changes to a team.

06:17 Why it’s important to be upfront with team members.

06:42 How company culture can affect your decisions.

07:19 Why you should use the values the company has to your advantage. 

3 Key Points:

  • First impressions matter.
  • Talk to everyone on the team and just learn.
  • Have honest conversations with your team members


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about what to do or what to recommend this person does when somebody comes in and takes over a team.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: This is a great topic. I think this is one where you can do a terrible job coming in and taking over team and you can do a great job. And in some of these cases, I think one of the biggest pieces of advice I’d give somebody who’s in this situation, either advising someone on how to do that in their own company or the person coming in doing it is first impressions matter. And I think that’s a big deal. And also my prescriptive suggestion, regardless of how large the team is, is go talk to everyone on the team and just learn, take lots of notes and understand the lay of the land in terms of that team that you’re taking over. And give the context of I just want to learn. I just want to understand how you folks do things and what’s been going on, what you do here and kind of how you think about it and what are things that you’d like to improve. So really just have a one on one conversation with everybody. Doesn’t matter the size of the team. Obviously thousand person team much harder. So you’ve got that large of a team, congratulations. Well you’ve got this problem happening. Otherwise I would focus on talking to everybody on the team if I were coming into that role or suggesting to someone what they should do.


Steli Efti: I love that. I think that that’s definitely kind of step number one is when you join, you need to be, you’re the most junior person on the team no matter if you’re now their manager, you have to learn, right? Learn about the business, the team, the project, success, failures, culture, the individuals, the people, the team dynamics. There’s so much to learn and if you step in, you want to take over immediately, that is the quickest way to fail. And to also have that entire team once you do fail, right? And feel like you haven’t earned the trust for them to want to follow you. So by being humbled, by listening more than you speak, by learning more than you teach, people will start feeling comfortable. And then when you make a recommendation, when you start taking over, they will know that you’ve done your homework and that you have the proper context to make these decisions. So that makes a ton of sense. Now once you go through this, right? Eventually you’re going to have to probably… There’s a couple of things I have in mind, but let’s start with one of the trickiest things. I’m curious about that. So let’s say you’re a new manager. You talk with the entire team, you spent the time, you do the research, you learn, and there are a few people in that team that you are now managing that you wouldn’t have hired. It’s not the type of people that you would hire. Either they’re not the culture fit for the kind of culture you want to create on the team or their skill set isn’t right or their attitude or whatever else. There’s probably a range, right? There’s maybe some people that you’re like, yeah, this person is fine. I think they’re okay, I can work with them but I’m not super excited. But then there’s new people where you’re just like, I don’t want to work with this person or this is going to cause problems or this person is causing problems. What do you do there as the new manager right? You’ve been around whatever, a month, two months, whatever the period of time is and now you’ve identified that there’s some people that you are officially responsible for that you’re not that excited about. What do you do there? What do you recommend there?


Hiten Shah: Like somebody on the team?


Steli Efti: Yeah because you are now their manager but you didn’t hire them and you come to find out that you wouldn’t have hired them and you actually don’t want them on your team.


Hiten Shah: I see. I mean I think that’s normal. I think that happens quite a bit. And the best way to do that is not make it personal, even though the other person’s going to feel like it’s personal regardless. Because obviously there’s some people on the team that get to stay and others that don’t. So yeah, this is just about having honest conversations with people and sometimes you have to make that transition for them really smooth and a lot of times it has to do with the culture of the company as to what you do about this person. And typically there’s other people in the company that know this person obviously and have worked with them and so you can help them help you figure out how to treat this person and what to do about it, what to do with this person. So I feel like it’s a tough spot. It happens very commonly. And if you’ve gone and talked to everyone individually, I think that can be really helpful because you’ve already started building a rapport and a relationship with them. And then I would use your sort of counterparts in other areas of the business or anyone else that’s worked with this person who you either can trust or feel like has good context to help you navigate that. But this is common. Someone comes in and they start, basically they switch out people, they let go of people, they bring on their people so to speak, things like that. These are all common patterns that happen. The one problem is when this kind of change causes politics and cultural issues and that I see very often because it’s basically what I just said right now, which is like, oh, a new person comes in, they’re bringing in their people. Well what does that even mean? Well, it means that they have people they want in certain roles that they’ve worked with before that they trust for those roles. That’s where I think the sensitivities around human beings, existing business, what’s going on currently in the business and in that area that someone’s managing. That’s where all those things start coming up. Because usually if someone’s taking over an area, it’s not because that area is doing well. It’s usually because the area’s not doing well.


Steli Efti: Not doing well.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. And there’s change that needs to happen. So the more upfront people can be about it, the better the person coming in and just being human, just being like, look, and being real. That being said, all of this gets totally messed up if the culture of the company is not like that and the culture of the company is different in the values and things like that. So the one trick so to speak would be if you joined a company and you’re dealing with this or anything like that, I think my suggestion would be go use the values that the company has and use that to your advantage to help you understand kind of… Here’s what I mean. Whatever the company’s all about, that’s your best anchor for any of these conversations and any of this work. And that’s what I would use all the time inside of a company because at least on a high level, if not a very visceral low level, people in the company understand the culture and the values of the company. So you come in and start with those, you anchor on those. You talk about those, you talk about the changes with those in mind and that’s the best you can do. These are again, those tough decisions, those tough [inaudible 00:00:07:46]. Nobody wants to, I mean most people, majority of people don’t want to come in and let go people. That’s not what they want to do. They want to come in and do their job, right? They want to come in and if it’s marketing they’re taking over, they want to come in and make marketing awesome, right? Make the leads happen or what have you. They don’t want to go in and let go people. They don’t want to have to do that. That being said, if you spent time with all the people in the team, you’re already building that rapport. You’re building that at least familiarity, if nothing else, and then you go just start basically figuring out how to do it. Here’s the funny thing though. My opinion of this is kind of aggressive in the sense of if you’re going to let go of people, do it super fast. Do it as soon as you can because if you’re the person leading that team, I think keeping people who you don’t believe in for that role is detrimental to you and the business and even the organization or the part of the organization you’re trying to run.


Steli Efti: Yeah, and those people.


Hiten Shah: Oh, of course. The way I think about this is if there’s a better place for someone to be than where they are right now, even if where they are right now is in our company and what better place is another company, we got to speak up and make it happen. People should be happy at work and oftentimes you’ll find that people are just not happy and that needs to change, they should be happy, that’s my opinion. They should be happy, as happy as they can be obviously. And even when the days are tough and a lot of times not everyone’s a good fit for your company.


Steli Efti: Totally agree. All right, one last thing I’ll say about this because I think it’s an important point before we wrap up the episode for today is you’re absolutely right with saying when you start, you take over a team as a manager, you don’t want to instantly kind of dictate the agenda and bark orders and change everything and tell everybody how to do things differently now. You want to spend the time to really learn what happened and get the context and build the relationships that are needed to earn the trust as the foundation and to have a context as a foundation to then build on top of and to accomplish all the things that you want to accomplish. That’s absolutely crucial and right. One thing that I’ll say those that some people are too good or stay too long in the, I’m just a learner and I’m just an observer and I’m just building relationships part and they don’t transition into the, I am taking over more and more and more and I am making changes and I’m placing bets and I’m generating wins or new wins that now make the team think, oh, this person is not just trustworthy and a good shoe man and listened to me and cared about me and listen to our learnings and tried to understand what’s going on, this person is now taking over as a leader and is leading us to victories, is leading us to improvements, is helping us accomplish things we haven’t been able to accomplish before, is helping me level up my skill sets growing my career. That’s an important component as well because if you don’t have that, what are you doing there? Right? You’re wasting everybody’s time and money. Yeah, you’re building nice relationships and you’re learning things, but you’re not creating value as a return. And I have seen people be too aggressive with joining and instantly barking orders and thinking they know everything and they can change everything. That will not work. But I’ve also seen the opposite. I’ve seen people join in a management position taking over a new team. At the beginning everybody likes them because they’re super nice and ask a lot of questions and they’re like, I’m just here to learn at first. And then at some point the team starts hating them because they’re like, well, this person is three months in, this person’s still always looking at us for guidance and is like, well, I think we should do this. What is the team thinking? Well, I’ve not been here for many years, so maybe I’m wrong. Just checking with too many people, never making a decision, not creating their own vision, not making changes, not being decisive, not taking over and not generating wins that make the team think, wow, now we’re really a better team under this new leadership and that can be a really bad, kind of a bad way of taking over a team and failing as well. So do you need to kind of find the balance of starting with the humbleness to learn, but then more and more taking over and then leading truly and making changes when the time is right.


Hiten Shah: Yep, absolutely. That’s great.


Steli Efti: All right. This is it for us for this episode. As always, if you enjoyed it and if you’ve been listening to us for a while and haven’t done this yet, do us a favor, take the one minute and go to iTunes, give us five stars, give us a little bit of a review. It would mean a lot to us. We really appreciate it and as always, if you have questions, feedback, concerns, ideas, things you want to share with us, we always love to hear from you,, we always love to hear from our listeners. Until next time, we’ll see you very soon.