The Red Sox are again wearing me down. I was at the game on Monday when they got the bases loaded in the ninth inning at home in a tie game with no outs. They did not score and they lost the game. They then lost the next two games in painful ways. I am beginning to wonder if they need to replace the manager, John Farrell.torey-lovullo-john-farrell

Torey Lovullo, the bench coach, is the logical choice. He filled-in for Farrell last year when Farrell had to step away for medical treatment. So I wondered if I was Lovullo, what would I do if I was offered the opportunity to lead the Red Sox team in mid-season?

As I pondered this question I happened to read an article titled Leading the Team You Inherit by Michael Watkins in Harvard Business Review, who explored this topic in depth. Watkins, an experienced business person, professor, and author uses a real example to take the reader through a helpful process for assuming the leadership of an established team. Watkins advises new leaders to follow three thoughtful steps – Assess the team, reshape the team, accelerate the team’s development.

Assess the Team. Before assessing individual team members I think you want to decide to what degree these team members need to work as a team. (Blog: What Type of Team are you Leading.) If they rely on each other during the day or week to get their work done, you want to assess the trust level of the group and how well they function (Blog: Five Dysfunctions of a Team.)

Watkins recommends that before you do your individual assessment of team members establish criteria for such an assessment. (See Exhibit) The qualities listed here are samples from Watkins, but you can choose your own.

Team QualitiesThe numbers next to each represent the importance or weight that you think each quality represents. You can change the weight mix for each team member based on their position and what the team requires. For example, if one team member is a programmer, you might decide to lower the percentage points for “People Skills” to 10 and raise Competence to 25 and Focus to 15. The total maximum points should always be 100.

To assess the person Watkins recommends speaking individually with the person and holding team meetings. Also, check with stakeholders including customers, suppliers, and colleagues. Ask everyone similar questions so you begin to get a whole profile of the person.

At the end of the assessment you should have a clear idea of what needs to be done to “shape your team.”

Reshape the Team. Watkins writes that the next step is to reshape your team and you do this by doing four things.

  1. Confirm team composition – This step includes coaching team members and sometimes adding and removing individuals from team. This can take time and should be done professionally.
  2. Align each person’s effort with the organizational and team missions – This usually involves team meetings when members agree on the answers to four questions:
    1. What do we want to accomplish? Mission, goals, objectives
    2. Why do we do it? Vision and personal motivations
    3. How will we do it? Strategies and actions.
    4. Who will do what? Our roles and responsibilities.
  3. Rethink the team’s operating model – The operating model is the system of how work actually gets done and includes the specific processes. When a new leader gets involved it is a perfect time to change processes that are inefficient and you can involve team members in this process because they likely know how to make improvements.
  4. Integrate or reinforce new team behaviors through actions. This includes clearly communicating how the team will function and begins with the leader behaving exactly the way s/he expects the team members to behave. Also, depending on how functional the team is, this integration phase may include extensive trust building and team building activities.

Accelerate the Team’s Development. At the heart of accelerating the team’s development is setting challenging goals that align with the team’s mission and focusing everyone on their achievement. This includes daily and weekly reporting and celebration.

I think Watkins’ process makes great sense and can be easily adapted to fit any team or organization. And, unfortunately for John Farrell, if the Red Sox keep losing, Torey Lovullo may get this text message from the Red Sox President, “Here, Torey, Lead this Established Team.”

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