With the great resignation showing no signs of abating, turnover and disruption on teams are at all-time highs. Nearly everyone is being asked to do more with less to pick up the slack from colleagues who departed for a new role, and it’s easy to neglect tasks that aren’t urgent.
One activity that can fall by the wayside for busy leaders is integrating new team members well. However, neglecting to carve out a couple of hours to meld the new person into your team can spell trouble down the line.
Take my client Victoria, who was part of a commercial team at a biotech company. When an experienced new hire joined the team, initial excitement (“another body!”) quickly led to frustration and disengagement. Jos dominated team discussions and made unilateral decisions without consulting the group—and misalignment and interpersonal strain ensued. Had the leader properly integrated Jos into the team when she started, these unfortunate outcomes could have been avoided.
Whenever a new person joins your team, it’s time for a quick team reboot. Simply follow the five-part agenda below to coalesce and galvanize your newly expanded team. This reboot meeting can be accomplished in two hours or less and will save you mountains of time down the road fixing problems that you might have avoided.
Foster personal connection
Start your team meeting with one or more questions that encourage team members to share more about themselves. For example, you might ask, “what inspires you at work and in your personal life?” Or, “what do you do to recharge?”
Sharing more personal information forges closer bonds on your team and is time well spent. Recent research showed that high-performing teams spent significantly more time (25%) discussing non-work topics and meeting socially with colleagues for coffee or a drink.
In other words, the highest performing teams aren’t more effective because they work all the time. Instead, they take time to create genuine connections with one another, and these bonds yield better teamwork and higher performance. So, how about those Mets?
Next, reground the team in its raison d’etre. In other words, why was your team created, and whom does it exist to serve? What are the key objectives that comprise its direction? How does this team’s purpose support the broader strategic goals of the organization?
These are essential questions as a clear and compelling purpose is a team’s North Star. It aligns, energizes, and provides meaning for your team’s collaborative work together. Without a shared purpose, team members can unintentionally work at cross-purposes and personal agendas can predominate over team goals squandering essential time and energy.
Revisiting your team’s purpose over time helps keep everyone rowing in the same direction together and creates essential clarity for your new hire.
For your team to capitalize on its full suite of talents, it must first be aware of the complete range of capabilities within the team. And onboarding a new team member is the perfect time to reshine a spotlight on the strengths and abilities of each team member.
One way to do this is to split your team into pairs to interview one another to draw out their partner’s strengths, knowledge, and skills, and relevant experiences. Following the interviews, ask each pair to report what they learned about their colleague to the rest of the team. Capture team member capabilities in a simple table that the team can use to recognize and draw on its wealth of internal resources.
This activity builds relatedness and enables your team to apply one another’s strengths in new or different ways that benefit the team as a whole. It may also highlight abilities and aptitudes that are missing from the team that you need to hire for or fill from other sources.
Set explicit norms
Every team has unwritten rules and unspoken norms that guide team member behavior. However, making these codes of conduct explicit helps members better understand each other’s intentions, build trust, save time, and decrease politics.
Together, align on three or four agreements about how the group will work together. Helpful norms often relate to communications, meeting hygiene, and decision-making.
Be sure to translate abstract norms into specific behaviors. For example, if your team decides on a standard of “being fully present at meetings,” get clear on what that looks like in action. Does it mean being physically in the room, or cameras on, or all devices put away? It’s essential to define norms in terms of visible behaviors, or there will be room for varying interpretations. After specifying the shortlist of norms, agree on how you want to hold each other accountable.
If your team already has explicit norms, reconsider the list to see how they need to be updated. Norms often require you to revise them over time.
Finally, conclude with a round of “asks and offers.” In a round-robin fashion, ask each team member to share what help they need right now from their teammates and what support they can offer. This provides your new team member an easy opening to ask for the help they need to get up to speed quickly.
Furthermore, this activity fosters collaboration and a culture of helping on your team. A willingness to help promotes psychological safety, an essential underpinning to your team’s effectiveness and success.
While your plate of responsibilities may be spilling over, don’t succumb to “too busy syndrome” and neglect to properly integrate a new person into your team. Instead, hold this efficient reboot meeting to foster connection, reground purpose, highlight internal capabilities, set norms, and encourage a culture of helping and interdependence. While holding a reboot meeting might not put out today’s fire, it will prevent many fires down the road.
Dina Smith is the owner of Cognitas, a leadership development firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.