This is what a handover should look like

So I was recently thrust back into my team leader’s (TL) position again – albeit for a much shorter time for this stint, only three weeks. My previous stint was for just over 6 weeks last year…can tell you now, I much prefer the shorter stints! 

One of the biggest issues I have with being put in these kinds of roles is handover…and the lack thereof. There is so much information that it’s expected people will just instinctively “know”…and that is very much *not* the case. There’s also the issue that some people have different management styles – what I consider organised might be someone else’s micro-management.

That’s not to say I wasn’t provided any handover at all – I was. It just wasn’t the handover that would have given.

Even still, I feel there are things that any basic handover should have – whether it’s face-to-face or electronic. Technical TL’s, managers, supervisors – take note.  Because if you thrust one of your staff into your role, this is the kind of stuff you need to be passing onto them so they can do your job effectively:

The Basics

  • Set an out of office that informs people who to contact when you’re away – don’t just use a generic “I’m away and will be back on <blah>”. If people are trying to get in contact with you, point them in the right direction of who they should speak to!
  • Forward your phone – don’t just leave your desk phone ringing and ringing. Forward it to the person who’s going to be doing your job while you’re away. Even if they’re not completely going to be in your role, it at least means that someone’s going to answer and be able to respond rather than it going to a message bank that may not be listened to for weeks or months.
  • Let other people know who will be acting in your role – this is important for any work that needs to be carried over while you’re away, particularly project based work. This also includes management, as well as other teams who may be working closely with you.
  • Keep the handover orderly – a collection of emails and files isn’t of any use to anyone. Make sure there’s some context to them, give the person who’s acting in your role some idea of priorities and what’s expected of them. This is where it’s good to sit with them, show them you’re filing structure, make sure they understand where to go to find information.


  • If possible, give the person access to your email – this means that if something arises while you’re away that you were unprepared for, they may have the ability to search for relating emails regarding it. In technical positions, often we can get this ourselves – but we much prefer to be delegated the right rather than breaking in, even if we’ve been given the go ahead from upper management.
  • Change any permissions to give them access to the right stuff – often as a TL or manager, you’ll have security privileges that give you access to file shares that your team may not have. Be sure to give whoever is stepping into your shoes access to these files, good chance they’ll need it.
  • Add them to mailing lists – if your workplace has mailing lists for management information, make sure you get them added prior to the commencement of their time acting, so they can be brought up to speed on anything that’s likely to come their way.

HR stuff

  • A current overview of staff levels – this includes any projected leave, any current issues regarding attendance, any outstanding issues that will need to be followed up while they are away
  • An overview of work hours for most team members – sure, as a member of the team, you might pay attention. But you might not. This is handy, especially for those who either start before you or finish after you so you’re not blindsided.
  • Make sure leave has been sorted before you go away – you don’t want the poor person who’s in your shoes to have to approve leave, not knowing if it’s okay or not. Make sure they know what the rules are (though they already should if they’re part of your team!) but also make them aware of how to use whatever leave/time sheet system you’re using.


  • When delegating meetings, give some kind of context to it – it’s all well and good to say “You need to attend this meeting” but if they don’t know why they’re there, what input is required, what they’re supposed to take away from it…it’s going to be a massive waste of their time and yours, because there’s a good chance that you’ll just get summoned to another meeting once you get back.
  • Keep notes on previous meetings if there is an ongoing series –  this is so that they know where things are up to for future meetings – this is really important for things like scheduled service meetings or team meetings. If possible, bring them along to previous meetings, so they know what’s expected!

Everything else

  • Don’t dump stuff onto their plate that you just don’t want to deal with – that isn’t cool. Staffing issues, HR problems…an acting TL/manager shouldn’t have to deal with that while you’re away unless it’s for a fairly extended period of time.
  • Make sure you tie up loose ends – this is particularly important if you have any purchases or contracts that are in the pipelines. If you don’t know where these are current sitting, make sure you find out so you can provide detailed information to your stand-in.
  • Allow for delegation – if this person is acting in your role for a significant period of time, be sure to allow them to delegate/offload some of their work prior to this. Assist in doing this – they can’t do your job effectively if they’re doing both yours *and* theirs.

So those were just a few of the things I learnt from acting in my TL role sporadically over the last 10 or so years.

I’ve now come to the realization that spending all my days in meetings isn’t an effective use of my time – I much prefer to be doing the actual work than to be coordinating it. I also now know why so many managers have laptops – meetings are when you can get some of your work done!

If you have other suggestions for things that should be listed here, please let me know – happy to amend this list!

1 thought on “This is what a handover should look like

  1. Tania Hinton

    Great Advice thanks Jess. I’ll stash this away for the next time I have to hold the fort for the boss or when I go on leave and handover to my 2IC. I have been guilty of dump and run which can’t have been fun for the other guy. 😛


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