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Setting New Team Members up for Success

Whether you call it the "Great Resignation" or something else, most of us are seeing a lot of movement in our workplaces. The topic comes up at least a handful of times each week in my conversations with clients. Transitions can bring with them certain dynamics, some of which can be difficult to navigate.

If you are a leader, you may be onboarding new people into critical roles on your team. Or, you might find the seat next to you at the conference room table, once occupied by a familiar longtime co-worker, now holds a stranger. It's really quite remarkable, like an arranged marriage of sorts. There is no courtship. You meet one another and get right to work. ("This is Jeff. You'll now be spending more of your time with him than your own wife and children. We expect the two of you to get the department on the right track." or "Meet Emily. The two of you will be managing the multi-million dollar project budget for our new client. You start today.")

When new team members are brought on board without sufficient forethought and care, we can run into unmet performance expectations, messy interpersonal dynamics, or even repeat turnover. Below are a few things to consider as you aim to set new team members up for success and support team cohesion.

Take the time to build a relational foundation.

A few weeks ago, a friend was telling me about an experience where he had reacted to a situation without understanding the full picture. He had been visibly frustrated with a cashier for messing up his order. On his way out, he happened to catch a glimpse of her crying to a co-worker and he overheard their conversation about her husband's poor health. Learning more about her human experiences instantly allowed him to feel more empathy, care, and grace toward her. Most of us have had similar experiences. When we don't know anything about another person, it's easy to see them in a very narrow light. Just as the cashier became only "the person who can't seem to get orders right" to my friend, our co-workers can become "the guy who showed up late to our meeting" or "the woman who included an error in the data report." We don't fully see them. Workplace relationships can make or break the process of onboarding someone new. The goal is not to force team members to become best friends. That will either happen or it won't and it's not your job to play matchmaker and create the next office girl gang or bromance. The goal is to create a healthy and functional community where team members see one another as human beings with talents, struggles, quirks, and full lives outside of work. When forming a new team, or bringing new faces into an existing team, provide opportunities to get to know one another. Know your group and pick something that seems to fit. Maybe you open quarterly planning meetings by sharing fun family/pet/hobby photos or enjoy lunch together on occasion. Perhaps you celebrate birthdays, engagements, and kids' graduations. Do whatever you can to create a relational foundation. That foundation will make every challenge and mistake easier to navigate and it will make every success more fun to celebrate!

Ask for input and customize the onboarding experience.

Take the longview. Equip for resourcefulness and sustainability.

Provide clear expectations for their exact role.

Grant permission and openly share visions and curiosities.

Care for the full team.

Onboarding is a complex process. Because it's a human scenario, it won't look the same in every situation. While I've had the opportunity to see a lot, I'm continually reminded that we have never "seen it all" when it comes to leading people. Consider the above tips and don't hesitate to reach out if you'd like to discuss your team's situation more specifically. I'm in your corner!


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