How do I manage a team that was manager-less?
October 26, 2010 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Does MeFi have any tips or tricks to help me start managing a team that has already 'formed' without a manager?

I am due to start a new job in the next month. I will be managing a production team who work on a wide variety of material including print, web, social media and video.

The whole department is new and my role is the last to be filled due to it going through the first round of interviews without them wanting to employ anyone. The team will have been together for about 3 months by the time I start.

My team (of 6) will be made up of people who already worked at this organisation - having been moved or promoted into these roles - and total newbies.

I have never taken over a team that has already formed and was wondering if MeFi had any top tips or tricks to help me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would do a couple of things in parallel. The first one is to make a list or a map of all the things I think me and my team are responsible for, or should have under control. Start from the general, high-level headings (like "strategy", "staff", "policies", "procedures", etc) and then expand on each of these until you get quite a long and detailed list.

The second thing is to just observe how the team does things now, and ask questions of them and of the people they deal with. You don't want to wade in and start changing stuff or telling them what to do right away. Find out what they do and why. Find out what problems your team thinks they have, and what problems other people think your team has.

What you're trying to do is bring the information from these two techniques together, until you have a list of everything you're supposed to be on top of as a manager, and what the current state of all of those things is. Then, once you have that picture of everything, you can look at what is not currently under control and start addressing the most important ones of those.

Even if you start and on the first day find there is a huge fire you have to fight, you can still do it this way. Just limit it to whatever the fire is about. Come up with your vision of how should this work, and then start asking questions of your team to find out how they handle this situation usually. If that's OK then let them get on with it, and if it's not then give them some direction to get things moving the right way.
posted by FishBike at 8:43 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you need to implement any "take-backs," limiting previously acceptable items, do it all at the very beginning. Make it part of the transition process, that has been imposed on you as well.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:01 AM on October 26, 2010

There is already a leader of that team. Spend your first few days identifying who it is. But be careful, because it might not be the loudest person or the one who talks the most, or even the one that everyone else thinks is the leader. Then figure out what you need to do to deal with that guy. It might be taking him under your wing as unofficial Deputy Team Manager (or official -- titles can be free and a huge morale boost). It might be letting it look like he's taking you under his wing. It might be taking him aside and saying, "Look, Stu, you need to step back and let me run things, m'kay?" It might even be (but make really, really sure of this one first, and give him the chance to not make you do this) visibly cutting him off at the knees.

Be very certain whom you report to. Make sure everyone else on your team knows that person as well.
posted by Etrigan at 9:11 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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