Integrating Into a Team With a Strong Legacy (A.K.A. making change without alienating them)

Taking the reins as an incoming senior leader in an established organization with a deep legacy and a strong team can be a daunting experience. If you’ve ever worked at a place like Delta Airlines, AutoZone, Walmart, or Coca Cola, you know what I mean. As a leader who knows more and wants to demonstrate visible leadership while bringing your team along, you need to strike the right balance between asserting your authority and fostering a collaborative environment. In this blog post, we’ll explore how you can effectively integrate into your new role and lead with confidence…without alienating your team.

Understand the Company Culture and History

To successfully integrate into a strong team, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the company’s culture and history. Take the time to learn about its past successes, failures, and core values. This understanding will not only help you appreciate the company’s legacy but also enable you to make informed decisions that align with the organization’s principles. It will also equip you to speak their language, which will go a long way towards establishing credibility.

Listen and Learn from Your Team

As a new leader, it’s essential to show humility and acknowledge that you have much to learn from your team members. Ask questions, seek feedback, and actively listen to their concerns and ideas. By doing so, you’ll gain valuable insights and demonstrate that you value their expertise and opinions. This approach fosters a sense of trust and collaboration, which is crucial for team cohesion and productivity. If you haven’t already, take the time to meet with your people…all of them if possible…even if only for a few minutes. The goodwill you build will pay back in spades.

Communicate Your Vision Clearly

After you have demonstrated your own understanding and respect for the legacy and history, it’s important to communicate your vision and goals clearly to your team. Be transparent about your expectations and how you see the team’s role in achieving these objectives. By sharing your vision, you’ll help your team members understand the direction you want to take the organization and give them a sense of purpose and motivation.

Leverage the Team’s Strengths

Instead of trying to overhaul the existing team dynamics, focus on leveraging the strengths of your team members. Recognize their expertise and delegate tasks that play to their strengths. By doing so, you’ll foster a sense of empowerment and encourage your team to take ownership of their work, leading to better results. You’ll also gain their support by equipping them to work on the things they are good at and likely passionate about.

Be Visible and Accessible

To demonstrate visible leadership, it’s crucial to be present and accessible to your team. Engage in regular team meetings, be available for one-on-one conversations, and participate in team-building activities. This will help you establish a rapport with your team members and show them that you’re committed to their success.

Encourage Growth and Development

As a new leader, it’s essential to support your team’s professional growth and development. Provide opportunities for skill-building, training, and mentorship. This not only helps your team members improve their performance but also demonstrates your commitment to their success and personal growth.

Embrace Change While Honoring Tradition

Finally, striking the right balance between embracing change and honoring tradition is key to your success as an incoming senior leader. While it’s important to bring in fresh ideas and perspectives, be mindful of the existing practices and values that have contributed to the organization’s success. By respecting the past while forging a new path, you’ll be able to lead your team effectively and leave a lasting impact on the organization.

Integrating into a strong team with a deep legacy as a senior leader from the outside can be challenging, but by following these guidelines, you can lead with confidence and foster a collaborative and supportive environment. By understanding the company’s history, listening to your team, communicating your vision, leveraging their strengths, being visible and accessible, encouraging growth, and embracing change, you’ll be well on your way to achieving success in your new leadership role.