Magazine article Work & Family Life

Getting a New Work Team off the Ground

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Getting a New Work Team off the Ground

Article excerpt

f you are a new leader, no matter how much experience you bring to the table, you're likely to be challenged by the situation you find yourself in now.

You may be transitioning from being a peer to being a leader. You may be coming from the outside to take over an existing team. You may be bringing together a new team, or you may be welcoming a new member to an existing team.

Organizing a new team

Let's say, for instance, that a brand new team is being formed at your workplace. The team members don't know each other. You did not choose them. And you may not be sure how long the team will exist. This could happen in a start-up company, department, work group or a new project.

Your new team has a lot of work that needs to be done very well and very fast. You may have standard operating procedures to guide you but, for the most part, your team has not yet established habits or norms of interaction.

Everyone on your team will be wondering who you are. "What are your plans?" "How will you manage?" And "What will it all mean for me?"

What do you do? Where do you start? With a new team you have no baggage. You have a rare chance to get things going very well from the onset.

Some pitfalls to avoid

"Hit the ground running" sounds great. But without coordination, people tend to run off in their own directions. Another strategy is to focus on what team members have in common outside of work. While this emphasis is laudable, it fails to explore how well individuals are likely to work together and confront issues on the job.

Similarly, valuable team building exercises can be a distraction in this situation. Everyone needs to get to know each other in terms of who each person is on the job.

So your goal, as manager, is to help each person know where he or she fits into the larger picture with everyone on the same page, ready to move forward as a team.

The first team meeting

Introduce yourself. Then facilitate an introductory process that focuses on "Who I am at work."

Ask team members to introduce themselves and describe their portfolio of experiences and skills. For example: "This is what I can do. This is how I operate. These are my work habits. And this is the commitment I am willing to make to this team."

These introductions will work better if people have a chance to prepare their own brief self-assessment in advance.

Many organizations use selfassessment tools. …

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