When we begin a new job, very often we concern ourselves most with the immediate logistics.
What am I supposed to do? What is expected of me? Where’s the best food for lunch? (Okay, maybe that last one’s just me.)
And that’s not even talking about dealing with IT to get your account set up.
But here’s the thing. We can change jobs, change companies, or change industries. It doesn’t matter how big or how small our jump might be, our “transition period” can take agonizingly long if we’re passive and on the sidelines.
So how to integrate into a new team and start your new successes from Day One?
Be proactive and take these four super-easy steps.
1. Ask Lots of Questions
Don’t act like you’re supposed to know everything. In fact, I would say the opposite.
Embrace the fact that you know nothing.
Because you don’t – not there, anyways. You may have an extremely in-depth knowledge of the industry, best practices, and general paths to success.
But you don’t know the day-to-day of how that team runs their operations.
You’re not trying to avoid saying something dumb by asking questions: instead, you’re getting at the heart of why their operations run the way they do.
So you’re not just asking: “What next? Where’s the button?”
You’re asking: “Why is that option better than the other? How did this solution come about?”
Ask open questions about even the most rudimentary ideas. You can do this because you should…
2. Embrace the Role of the “New Guy”
It’s your one chance to ask all the dumb questions under the sun. You can ask these questions over and over again for several weeks, without anyone getting annoyed (mostly).
Ask any question like you like – especially the ones that everyone wants to ask, but feels they can’t.
Just preface your questions with something like, “Can I ask a stupid question?” Then follow your question with, “Sorry if that’s really dumb, I’m just asking because I don’t know. I’m not questioning the decision at all.”
With this soft packaging, you can question any decision you want. And you know what?
You should question any decision you want. Because the “new guy” isn’t just the person who should be learning everything.
He should also be the guy bringing his vast experience from other successes into the fold.
3. Try To Get To Know Team Members On A Personal Level
You might not even have to tiptoe around thorny issues if it’s a truly open team. Maybe they all openly question each other, without ego and without agendas.
Unlikely, but they might. ☺
There are two great ways to learn team dynamics: in team meetings, and in one-on-ones. In the first, you won’t have a choice but to sit and watch.
But one-on-ones require initiative, and they will be the only way to understand why the dynamics in the team meetings are the way they are.
Look, you’re going to get to know most of them eventually, anyways. But some people might resent your arrival because they wanted your job, some people might see you as the savior and have expectations you couldn’t meet.
Who knows what they’re thinking?
You should, that’s who. Start chatting.
4. Take It All In Before Committing
I’ve seen people make this mistake, and I’ve made it myself – even when I said I wouldn’t.
You see something that needs to be improved, and you just fix it. If you’re not quite the manager, you might try to build consensus. If you’re on top, you just get ‘er done.
And then you watch it all fall apart.
The biggest mistake you can make is fixing problems when you don’t understand how they came about.
They might be absolutely terrible reasons that no one would make again – but they could have arisen because people were trying to avoid other problems that you could walk right into. You can’t understand the logic until you understand the context, and that takes time – and getting to know people.
Not only could you benefit from hearing other people’s perspectives by learning – but you could also prevent making a few enemies.
Those “problems” very well could have been created by people still on the team. But by deciding that they were “mistakes,” you’ll be openly criticizing something that people might have worked really hard on.
Sure, you might not see them as criticisms. You might be completely open to people saying the same things about your ideas. Go team!
But they don’t know that. You’re a stranger and an outsider.
Until they get to know you.
And until you get to know them.
Take your time.
Just come from the right place
To be clear, none of the above should be considered “playing a game” or “ingratiating” yourself to anyone on a superficial level.
It’s just trying to figure out your new surroundings, and making things easier for yourself.
Easier for everyone.
I’m not a player, and I never have been. I do everything written above based on an honest desire to do my job well, to be a good person, and enjoy the benefits of working on a great team.
Being proactive and conscious about establishing relationships is not self-serving or cold. If you’re a good person (and I know you are!), you’re going to figure all of this out over time.
But why wait?
Learn the people, learn the culture.
Everyone will be the better for it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had in joining a new team? Tell us in the comments below!