New Leaders Don’t Have To Clean House


It’s a common misconception that a newly appointed leader to a team or organization has to overhaul the team, or “clean house” so to speak.

It’s the practice that reveals the thinking that because there is a new leader, things must change radically, and that includes the team as well. And then goes the disruption of personnel and the time and costs to bring new employees into the fold. Morale tanks, productivity suffers, the leader’s rapport starts off strained, and talent is removed that may not be fully realized in the organization.

While it is true that in certain circumstances this course is necessary, it is rarely needed and executed way to often.

A great and effective leader will most of the time make an impact to their team without having to create seismic shifts in the personnel of the company. They take the time to properly assess their staff and their skill sets and make the needed adjustments to bring them along for the ride.

Leaders that come in to “clean house” many times come from the following thought camps:

  • They need to exert their authority of who’s in charge
  • They want to send a message that changes are coming
  • They misuse the “On the bus or off the bus” culture as depicted in Jim Collin’s book Good To Great
  • They state they are there to make changes, and those changes start with personnel
  • They don’t want the so-called baggage of past leadership’s staff, and want fresh minds

A study of leaders who on-boarded and successfully guided their teams with little to no turnover reveals these common approaches to coming into a new team:

  • Matching core values. The leaders observed were noted to bring forth the core values of the organization and find which of these values each individual had in comparison. They usually found that most everyone had most of the core values to some degree, and started to strengthen their passion of these values and re-build the culture around them.
  • Making them part of the way forward. Instead of seeing the future with the leader themselves at the center, these leaders saw their people as the change agents, especially when they matched up with the core values. They included their people’s input and decisions to the overall change and even put them in special teams to spurn new thinking and strategies.
  • Vested resources. New leaders view their people as resources that the organization has already invested in. As with any investment, they want to get a return on their people that the company has already put time and money into.
  • Useful skill sets. These leaders will see their team’s aggregate skill set and work hard to find ways to match and maximize their skills. By taking time to find out what they are talented in, they see the latent skills and work to put them into play and more effective roles. They will start to cross-utilize their people in the transition phase, and get them settled into the right roles that satisfy the job at hand.
  • Brand familiarity. The employees already in the organization had an advantage; they knew the brand and were able to understand and promote it more effectively than most people that could be brought from outside. This was especially true in start-ups and smaller growth companies, but relatively true all around. These leaders could quickly turn these folks into effective brand ambassadors with little effort or training.
  • Goals of their people to be realized. The best leaders got to know their teams and the person that each individual is. They made time to understand their dreams and goals, and worked to set them up to realize them. Whether having fulfilling work, be promoted, or learning new skills, their people were met with a plan to realize their goals, be committed to the work, and become more engaged overall.

There are times that a new leader needs to part ways with team members quickly. This is depicted in Mark Miller’s new book Chess Not Checkers, and in Jeffrey A. Fox’s book How To Be A Great BossThose times are rare, and more effective methods of change and leading people through change are available.

The best change leaders make it happen with the incumbent team. It’s more cost effective, easier, and build a mnore solid engagement to the mission of the organization.

How have you been able to retain your teams as a new leader? Share your stories below!

(image: morguefile/cgiraldez)

About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on April.19.2015, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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