How to Integrate a New Member Onto Your Team

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Do you remember your first day on the job? Was it all that you’d dreamed of? Or more of a disappointment? You can help your team make a great first impression with your new teammates.

Most teams do a lousy job of introducing new team members and that makes life difficult for everyone involved. The ambitious new person wants to add value, but they don’t know how. They either sit twiddling their thumbs or step on toes trying to get involved where they shouldn’t.

For the existing team, doing a poor job of integrating the new guy means he’s constantly interrupting you, asking questions and trying to get his bearings. It feels a little like having a needy younger sibling hanging off you.

You can avoid this awkwardness if you invest a little time up front to give your new team member what he needs to get off to a good start. There are three types of information you need to convey.

Share 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 find out!

Explain 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…

Describe 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 me and I ask that others share the same kind of information about themselves. You can find a downloadable version of my owner’s manual here.

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!

Written by

NYT Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Ph.D. Organizational Psychology, Conflict Doctor

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