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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

Providing good leadership for others is an integral part of being a manager. But while you may have developed a good range of skills when it comes to getting a project off the ground and completing it successfully with the help of your team, taking over a project from someone else when it is in mid flow can require a completely different set of skills altogether.

Firstly there is the question of the reason why you are taking over. This could be for a number of reasons and it’s important not to judge or let the reason why overshadow the project itself.

It’s especially important to tread carefully if the person who was in charge of the project wasn’t achieving the best results and you have subsequently been brought in to improve things. Be sure that you take the time to listen to what they have to say and you allow them to bring you up to speed on what has been achieved so far.

If the person hasn’t achieved much at all you would be forgiven for feeling frustrated that you are being brought in to clear up someone else’s mess, but remember that you will be able to make a much better start if you are positive about your dealings with this person and learn from what they have done.

It could be that there has been a problem with the project as a whole and that particular person hasn’t been experienced enough to deal with it. If that is the case then you should make sure that you are aware of all the problems before the person in charge leaves everything to you – otherwise you could find yourself coming up against the same issues and your job will be made much harder as a result.

It’s also important to respect everyone else who is involved with the project. It’s difficult for members of the project team to have a change of leadership halfway through a project, especially if your way of working happens to be very different from the manager who was there previously.

Spend some time observing what’s going on and looking at how people are working towards their individual goals before rushing in and assuming that everything needs to be changed. This will give you an opportunity to approach your responsibilities with much more confidence and accuracy, and it will also lead to a better working relationship with your new project members. In addition, taking the time to share your expectations on how your project team will work together will be time well spent. It will help create an enhanced sense of security in the project team as they will better understand how to deliver on those expectations, which may differ from those of the previous project leader.

Taking over a project in progress is arguably one of the most difficult things any manager can do. This is even more pronounced if the employees involved in the project got on well with the previous manager; they can even resent you for being there.

Treading very carefully in the early stages and respecting the boundaries which have already been formed is the most important thing you can do to get things off to a good start. Just because you are the manager, it doesn’t mean you will get better results by sweeping in and changing everything you can. By working with your new team you can ensure the successful conclusion of the project.

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