It can be stressful to join a new team. What’s normal? How do I fit in? How do we win?

Have you recently started a role as part of a new team? What were the first few months like? Usually, there’s plenty of learning what you’re expected to do, what your team members are responsible for, and gathering all sorts of history and stories from people who have been with the organization for a long time.

From my experience, “teams,” as we know them, are nothing more than a group of people that report to the same leader. Maybe a bunch of smart people have been grouped to deliver a function or service, given some goals, and off they go. Plenty of time is spent on how functional work should get done, but little time is spent on the reason the team exists.

  • Who’s part of the team, and who’s not?

  • What is the work this team was purposely brought together to do, that no other team can do?

  • What are the shared goals this team has that we hold ourselves mutually accountable to?

When was the last time you were part of a team that asked these questions together?

It’s not realistic to think that all teams built will first start with a vision or dream and then a team will be designed and put together. Instead, we say things like, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” We hear this rallying quote all the time – we love to hear it. We get motivated to double down on doing more team-y things.

But what exactly is teamwork? How do we know when we’re doing good or bad teamwork? If we don’t ask these questions, how do we know we’re getting better?

Could we pause and ask, “What’s the dream in front of this team?”

Who’s strengths do we need to make the dream happen?

Find the strengths, design the team, and give them space and time to let the dream glue them together.

If you’ve recently joined a new team as a member or leader and want to talk through a challenge together, I still have time available; it’s open to anyone, as part of Global Volunteer Month. You can book time here, and it’s free.

Here are a few related resources that I’ve been sharing recently:

1 // “Where in your circles can you point to a single person who you are certain will not interrupt you when you speak? Who in your circles has ever made this promise to you? And kept it? And have you ever made that promise to anyone?” Nancy Kline writes, Let Me Finish: How to Stop Interrupting…and Change the World (10 min read)

2 // Why would teams need psychological safety? Amy Edmondson explains in this TED Talk. (11 min video)

3 // At SXSW this year, Amy Gallo talks about healthy conflict vs. drama within teams, using candor, creating psychological safety, and the best question: “what did we learn?” (59 min video)

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