With the pace of change in organizations today, your team is likely to be integrating a new member sooner than later.  Most teams do a lousy job of introducing new team members and that makes life difficult for the new member and the old ones.  Pay attention to a proper integration of new team members and everyone will benefit.

The Facts:

There are lots of things that your new team member needs to know to start adding value on the team.  Make sure that you provide context, including the team’s mandate, your strategy, the goals and objectives, and any other formal documents that will help the person understand what you’re trying to achieve.  You’d be surprised how few people get this kind of information when they start.

Answer the following:

The mandate of our team from the organization is…

The unique value we’re focused on adding is…

Our goals and initiatives for this year are…

Note: If you can’t answer these questions, thank your new team member for giving you an excuse to back track!

The Norms:

Knowing the formal business of the team is important, but it won’t suffice.  The unwritten rules and expectations of the team are more likely to trip up the newbie than the official stuff.  Your team leader can probably be counted on to share the formal rules of the road, but it’s probably going to fall on you and other team members to talk about the real way things get done.  Don’t enter the realm of gossip or dirt-dishing. Also, don’t gloss over issues or concerns. Just try to give a neutral and factual description of what works and what doesn’t.

Answer the following:

The three things our team values most are…

The one no-no you should know is…

The hardest thing for people to figure out about the team is…

The Characters:

Teams are collections of individuals. The only way to accelerate the formation and strengthening of relationships is to spend some time with your new teammate getting to know each other. Do the small-talk, “where’d ya’ go to school, how many kids do you have” stuff, but don’t stop there.  I like to have what I call the “owner’s manual” conversation with new folks.  Just like you get with a new appliance, I provide a guide to how to work with Liane and I ask that others share the same kind of information with me.

Answer the following:

My strengths and the things I’m good at…

My foibles, character flaws, and blind spots are…

Three guidelines for getting the best out of me are…

Teams are a lot like families.  They have their own norms, rituals, and inside jokes.  For anyone who has joined a family, you know that there are moments when you feel you’re never going to fit in.  But if a kind soul explains a few quirks and if you stick around long enough to be part of the new inside jokes, suddenly, you’re one of the gang.

The same is true on teams.  Go easy on the new guy.  Offer to be a buddy and to invest a little time to help him be successful. Explain the things that can be explained and then let time and shared experience work their magic.

Further Reading

When You Add a New Team Member 

One Simple Tool to Integrate a New Team Member

Help! I’m Trying to Fit In on a New Team!


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