Joining a new team

Teams are everywhere in the world of work.

According to Queens University, nearly 3 in 4 people at work rate team work and collaboration as very important. Team working ability has been identified as one of the 3 most important soft skills that managers consider when recommending promotions.

Given all this, your skill at joining teams and moving to new teams is obviously pretty important.


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High Performance Headlines

A winning team work mindset:

  • It’s my job to make it easy for the team to get to know me and to know how I’m going to add value to the team.
  • I’m going to connect with my new teammates by letting them know my strengths and by asking them about their strengths.
  • I’m going to see how quickly I can get to the point where I no longer say “I’m new on this team”.
  • You don’t need perfect conditions to be engaged. Your response to those conditions is much more important.
  • A lack of engagement is likely to mean your performance suffers. You can’t put in your best performance if you don’t bring your full self to the game.

The Full Viewpoint

When it comes to joining new teams, we’re always going to be the common denominator and each team will be unique. It therefore stands to reason to focus on developing our confidence to join any team with great effect, even though it might feel easier to expect the team to do all the work to make us feel at home!

When we’re doing work with teams, we often run exercises on understanding the strengths of each individual, in detail. These conversations always add a lot of value, particularly if there’s new members of the team. It’s great the conversations add value, but we shouldn’t be in a position where we’re inviting teams to have conversations with each other that should have been had anyway.

Equally, when we’re doing team sessions, we’ll often hear people say things like “well, I’m new on the team”, or “I’ve not really been on the team very long”. These statements always sound like people excusing the fact they don’t know things they might be expected to and the individuals and their teammates are always both culpable in adopting a ‘wait and see’ mindset. They’re waiting and seeing how long it takes for the ‘new’ person to fit in.

You don’t get the luxury of waiting to fit in

Having seen athletes jump into a boat as an emergency substitute for an injured colleague and win world championship medals, it’s clear that if you have expertise and value as a team player, you don’t need to wait for a timetable of events to hold yourself accountable for delivering value.

As individuals joining new teams, we get to choose our attitude. We get to think about the simple actions and conversations that we can engage in that will help our new teammates get to know how to work with us as quickly as possible. We can also be ready to be curious so that we find out what we need to find out about our new teammates. We’re joining a team to do a job and make an impact with the performance qualities we possess, so proactivity is essential. You don’t need to wait to be given permission to start adding value.

Very specifically, letting our teammates know about the strengths we possess is essential. Quickly finding out their strengths that we’re going to be able to use to our collective advantage is also key. If we connect quickly from a position of strength, we’ll be in a position of shared confidence much more quickly, which means it won’t take long for us to drop the “I’m new” badge. It also means you’ll be making sure you’re getting ever better at building those new-teammate relationships with speed and impact.

Making the whole greater than the sum of the parts

Getting great at joining a team means that for most people, they’ll get to start feeling like they’re making a difference pretty quickly too. One of the biggest things that we see holding people back is that they don’t feel fully confident for a long time that they’re really contributing to the team. If you get on the front foot when you join a team, this delay to impact will be reduced and you’ll be playing your part in enhancing the overall sense of confidence within the team.

We know in teams that when each individual is fully confident in themselves, that’s a key building block. With each individual feeling strong in their own confidence, this sets the foundation for each person having a high level of confidence in every other individual on the team. And when there is mutual confidence throughout the team, every member of the team feels that the overall collective confidence binds everyone together into a confident unit. It’s up to each of us when we join a new team to ensure we disrupt the existing confidence as little as possible, and add to the confidence as quickly as possible through all of our new relationships.

You’ll be able to play your part in positively impacting confidence when you’ve taken the time to be fully clear in the purpose of the team and fully understood your role in helping that collective success happen. If you’re confused about your role and how it helps the team win, then un-confuse yourself as quickly as possible!

Remember, once you have role clarity, you can get role acceptance, which sets you up to focus on role performance. Joining a team is all about moving through the role stages as quickly as possible with the purpose of the team in the forefront of your mind.

We think if you get skilful at this, you’ll be having some conversations with your new team mates even before you’ve formally started on the team. This means that when your time on the team officially starts, you’ll be able to hit the ground running even quicker and you can expect yourself to lose the “new kid on the block” tag within 6-8 weeks.

Be open minded and hold yourself responsible

With the right approach, you can make joining a new team a great process of curiosity. You can be curious about which people you connect with easily and quickly and how to continue conversations with people where there isn’t such an instant bond. You can be curious about how similar some things are to previous teams you’ve been on and you can be curious about how quickly you can accept and enjoy things that are new and different. You can be curious about how you’re going to be able to strengthen your strengths and develop new ones through the collaboration with new teammates.

The mindset of curiosity supported by a strong level of personal confidence associated with understanding your value and wanting to be held accountable to using it will make sure you’re well on your way to building a reputation of someone who is a great teammate from their very first conversations on the team.

Remember, you’re the common denominator in all the new teams you join, so make it easy for them to get you delivering impact as quickly as possible.