Congrats… Look What You Just inherited

business-team-in-meetingA mess.

Or worse, a complete clusterf*ck.

When you join a new company as a leader – or you’re promoted/moved within your current organization – you inherit a team.

It could be three people. Could be 3,000.

You need to proceed as though you’ve just hired these folks from scratch. No matter their reputation internally (“She’s a Rockstar. He’s a waste of space.”), proceed with caution.

I’ve seen this derail so many promising careers.

Don’t believe what you’ve heard. Instead, form your own conclusions about their contributions and potential.

For starters, you have no idea what their prior manager’s standards were.

Maybe he was an amazing team-builder. Maybe she was a first-time manager and had no idea what she was doing. Maybe he was a tyrant who had beaten down otherwise-promising stars. Assume nothing.

Presumably, you’ve been brought in as leader for a reason: Perhaps to turnaround the team, or division, to launch a new product, maybe to shake things up, or to clean house, Sometimes to stay the course. The situation has changed.

Assume nothing.

You’ll need to invest the effort and energy to assess every one of them, for yourself. Specifically:

  • What are their career aspirations?
  • Do they have runway beyond their current role?
  • Are they in the right seat on the bus?
  • Does their DNA match the company’s (particularly if it’s evolved)
  • Do they have the will to execute their role?
  • Do they have the skill to execute their role?
  • Can they sign-up to your new expectations (which of course you make clear)?


  • Ask them about each other. Don’t pick at the scab. But ask who they think are the top-performers/MVPs on the team.
  • Review their resumes (HR can provide them) so you know their background and skills
  • Sit down with each of them for 30 minutes, no matter how long it takes. Ask questions and take notes.
  • Ask each person the key metrics they use to assess their own performance. No matter what role or level, this is super-enlightening (and scary).

Assume nothing.

Inheriting a team can be one of the most dangerous – or accelerating– steps in your career.

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

No Replies to "Congrats... Look What You Just inherited"