When New Managers Inherit Old Problems and Management Promises – Part Two

As a manager who inherited an existing team, you’ve taken the time to set proper expectations to build new, trusted relationships with your team, using the template I shared in Part One. Sometimes, managers just get lucky and inherit a solid, accountable, top-performing team. But what happens when there are people on your newly inherited team who expect you to honor the unkept promises made by your predecessor? Avoid getting on the defensive. Instead, just look at this as another coaching opportunity. 

Part One

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Be Careful What You Ask For

After five years of an incredible track record in sales, Sofia achieved her next career goal; becoming a manager. 

Like many new managers, rather than building a team from scratch, Sofia inherited an existing team.

As we discussed in Part One, new managers have the ability to build a strong, trusting foundation with their new team, even if the experience with their prior manager was less than desirable. However, it doesn’t mean everyone will be aligned with, or even trust you or your positive intent. 

This was apparent with one of the salespeople on Sofia’s team. Out of the 14 people on her team, the transition with 13 of the salespeople has been going smoothly. Unfortunately, there’s one salesperson, Victoria, who, regardless of how many conversations they have, continues to display a negative attitude, and a lack of trust and resistance to having Sofia as her new manager.

In practically every conversation Sofia has with Victoria, she continually reminds Sofia about the promotion that her prior manager promised her.  

So, what happens when you inherit a team, along with the unfulfilled promises made by their prior manager that your new employees expect you to honor?

But YOU Promised!

“What? I promised? I wasn’t even their manager until yesterday!” That may be true. Unfortunately, this is what your new team is thinking. That is, the transfer of power, as well as the commitments made by their prior manager will be honored.  

Consider this. Through the eyes of your new team, all managers look the same. In essence, they’re taking the face and the promises made by their prior manager and placing them on you! 

It doesn’t matter the promise.

  • A change in territory
  • New assigned accounts to work on
  • A promotion
  • A salary increase or bonus
  • A change in their role

Regardless of the intentions of their prior manager, they’ve left a trail of collateral damage for you to clean up in the wake of these unfulfilled promises. Promises that you’re supposedly now responsible for.

Rather than Sofia finding herself in the same redundant conversation that continually puts her on the defensive to come up with all the reasons as to why Victoria can’t get this promotion, she transformed the conversation in a way that reset her relationship with Victoria. Now she can pour a new foundation to build a trusting relationship from the start. 

Reset the Relationship Before You Reset the Commitment 

First, position the conversation so they’re open to having it with you. Here’s how to set positive intent. 

“Are you open to having a conversation about your concerns around your promotion that was promised to you so that we can come up with a new plan and strategy that will enable you to achieve this goal?”


“I was reflecting on our conversations over the past few months, and every time we have the converation around your career path, we both walk away upset. I don’t want that for you or our relationship.

Now that our regional VP was laid off, and everyone is working virtually, our staffing needs and business expectations have changed. Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could, I do not know when nor can I control when manager promotions will occur, especially as a new manager who’s still learning and adapting to the company culture and how things work.

Here’s what I’m proposing. Rather than focus on the things we can’t control, let’s focus on what we can control that will move you closer to your goal. How about we create a strategy and a path you can follow to start developing as a sales leader. This way, when the opportunity for a promotion presents itself, you will have the skills, acumen, attitude and knowledge needed to thrive in your new management position and avoid the steep, reactive learning curve that will sabotage your time, efforts and results. How does that sound?”

“That sounds good.”

“Of course, the goal here is for you to get this promotion. However, if you feel this process isn’t working for you or you come to the realization that you won’t be able to achieve your career goals here, that’s okay, too. Let’s discuss this so it doesn’t fester. And please know, if you decide this isn’t a fit for you anymore, I support your decision 100% and will help you find another job.”

“I appreciate that. Thanks.”

9 Questions That Demonstrate Support, Realign Trust and Make Disgruntled Employees Happy

These questions not only build trust but uncover many coaching moments! Here are just a few starter coaching questions to get the conversation flowing and productive. 

  1. Let’s start from the beginning to ensure we’re aligned around your concerns, frustrations and expectations. Can you walk me through the conversations you’ve had with your prior manager regarding the promises made? (Career promotion, change in compensation, role, territory, time off, vacation, etc.)
  2. How have your prior manager and the company handled this to date, prior to me filling this role?
  3. What is the current status/where did you leave it with your prior manager regarding this promotion?
  4. What did the last conversation sound like? 
  5. What expectations do you have of me around honoring these promises made by your prior manager?
  6. What assumptions have you made about (me, the company, this situation, your prior manager)?
  7. If we switched roles and you were in my position, how would you handle this? 
  8. How would you describe your ideal manager so I know how you want to be managed, motivated, held accountable and supported?
  9. Here’s an idea. We can either focus on what we can control, or we can focus on what we can’t. How about you and I focus on what we can control and create a plan for you to achieve your promotion around a realistic timeline that I can stand behind and support, okay?

The Plan Ahead

Building off the last question above, schedule on to one meetings to create this career path of progress that identifies all of the KPI’s, skills, knowledge, behaviors, expectations and responsibilities they need to understand, learn and develop that will prepare them for a leadership position, once one opens up.

Now, the relationship can be built on transparency, trust, accountability and collaboration, since you now have a defined path to achieve their goals in a realistic, measurable way. 

The best part is, you’ve now become their greatest advocate, coach, and the manager they always wished they had. 



Register for my ONLINE SALES LEADERSHIP COACH TRAINING COURSE. Become the leader you know you can be and coach your remote sales team into sales champions. 

If you are still struggling with coaching and building a top performing, accountable remote team who’s achieving their sales goals, email me personally at KeithR@KeithRosen.com to set up a time to chat about having me deliver my remote leadership coach training program for your management team.