Six keys to a new team member’s success

April 23, 2007

Work teams often face situations in which new team members join the team. Teams can smooth the transition by providing a thorough orientation for these new members. When they gain knowledge about such things as process, procedures, and available tools, new team members can quickly begin applying their talents and skills to the team’s purpose.

While taking steps to orient new team members seems like common sense, orientation often gets pushed to the back burner, overshadowed by what may seem to be higher priorities. However, because there are always new members, it is never to late to plan for your next new team member orientation!

Here are six keys to a thorough orientation designed to ensure a new team member’s success.

  1. Partnering with a ‘buddy’. Current team members who will work side-by-side with a new member can do a great job with orientation because they have the knowledge to function in the same environment as the new member. A buddy system also reinforces a culture of interdependence among team members.
  2. Understanding the culture. Teams often develop their own culture, which is a combination of the over-arching organizational culture and a more localized aspect based on the people and the purpose of the team. Culture includes: the core values acknowledged by the team; how members conduct the themselves in work-related and personal matters; and the language, vocabulary and communication styles used in the team’s environment.
  3. Navigating the organization. This is critical if the new team member is coming from outside the organization, but it is also good to review with members who may be transferring internally. You want to ensure they are comfortable with the names, faces, titles, roles, and reporting relationships that effect the team.
  4. Utilizing the procedures. To get things accomplished in any organization, teams deal with a number of procedures that have been adopted and adapted over time. New team members were likely pros at utilizing procedures on their last team, but they may become stalled at every turn without structured guidance. Procedures are designed to facilitate work, not hamper it. Don’t let them become traps for new team members.
  5. Accessing the tools. A new team member may be a whiz at the team’s primary software programs, but they have to know how to access the shared drive to be able to collaborate. Tools can include technology, supplies, administrative support, and other resources.
  6. Committing to the mission. The basis of any business team is that the members share a common purpose – to achieve the team’s mission. New team members can be at a disadvantage if they join a team that has a well defined purpose, yet their commitment is necessary to their success and that of the team. In addition to ensuring that they understand the mission, the team may need to reengage in discussion of its purpose so that new members can be heard and become fully committed.

Teams can probably draft the key contents of their new member orientation during a single meeting, then set about refining it as needed. The process of developing the orientation is often instructional itself because differences in understandings or opinion among current team members may arise, or nuances in individual approaches will be revealed.

A thorough orientation is not the only factor in determining the success of a new team member (but it is an important one). For example, I discussed before how the existing team structure influences how quickly new members can begin to significantly contribute to the team. All else equal, teams with an established structure and culture can more easily integrate new members than teams that are only loosely organized, especially when the new members are good fits for the previous structure.

How does your team integrate new members? Have you identified other key components of a thorough orientation?

Credit to Leader’s Edge and Dr. Seymour Adler for inspiration.

Related posts: A metaphor for teamworking
Using short-hand communication within teams

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Geewiz on using internal blogs for effective team communication

March 20, 2007

If you haven’t picked up the feed for Jochen Lillich’s home of geewiz (a.k.a. blog of geewiz,) then click over and subscribe. You’ll be glad you did!

Jochen provides one of the best accounts that I have read about how to use an internal blog for communicating within teams. He describes how each IT team member makes a “daily” post to communicate four key items:

  • Results
  • Decisions
  • Findings
  • Good news

Our “Daily Blog” has become an important communication tool. Managers and coworkers get up-to-date information about what a team is working on, what’s going well and what problems arose lately—without having time-consuming meetings. And via the comment section, people can respond with questions or additions, therefore starting dialogues.

And there’s another, hidden advantage: by writing about it, people deliberate about their work. So, there’s not only a communication aspect, but also a reflection aspect in our blogging. Both effects combined really make the time spent writing daily blog entries worthwhile.

I am constantly reading (and sometimes writing) about differences between people who do blog and those who do not blog. In teams, however, there is just one group – team member’s who do communicate. The only question becomes how that communication occurs; one-to-one, one-to-many, face-to-face, conference call, e-mail, blogs, and wikis (did I miss something?)

The simplicity of blogs makes them a viable alternative that many teams have adopted. Blogs are both compartmentalized (one post at a time) and comprehensive (all posts are contained in the blog). Blogs are more easily searched than e-mail and not reliant on who kept or deleted which message.

Finally, Jochen points out that the “continuous flow of information about [the team’s] current work fosters transparency and the exchange of ideas and helpful hints.” Read the entire post here.

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Is social networking of the generation or in the genes?

March 6, 2007

Flowing out of last week’s Social Media Club meeting, Sunni Thompson offers an insightful, revealing post, Mind The Generation Gap. Take a few minutes to review Sunni’s post.

First about Sunni

Sunni explains how she was raised to be familiar and comfortable with computers. She started using the Internet in the early days, continued through college and relies heavily on social media to maintain connections with family across the country. Her primary news sources are national, with little local news. Sunni explains the effect:

As a result of having spent the majority of my adult life firmly entrenched in learning, researching and collecting news and information on the Internet, I find that I am fairly disassociated from any sense of locality.

During the discussion last week, we considered whether there was a whole generation similarly lacking a sense of locality and, therefore, unlikely to be interested in local elections, such as the Dallas mayoral election. Again, from Sunni’s post:

I DO care, but because of my submersion in the world of Internet news, my understanding of politics and issues is heavily slanted toward a national scale. If it’s not covered by NPR, The Daily Show, or my favorite local blog, I won’t know about it.

Then about me

Understand that I am quite a bit older than Sunni; we are definitely not of the same generation. However, we share much of the same perspective about our “place” in the world. Although I still live within about 10 miles of my childhood home, I view myself as a citizen of the planet more than as associated with any particular place. Perhaps because I have settled where I was born, I view “place” as a matter of chance or circumstances more so than an indication of who I am as a person. I am from Dallas, but Dallas is not who I am.

The other commonality Sunni and I share is that much of our active, engaged, daily world is virtual – here with all of you. By definition, that implies that less attention goes to our place of residence. This is a relatively new phenomenon that was not available during my youth. Now that the opportunity is here, I have embraced it and it seems right.

Finally, the question

Is social networking of the generation or in the genes?

I have no doubt that many, many more young adults are wired and comfortable with social media than are so in my cohort. However, I also have no doubt that many baby boomers are technologically savvy, blogging daily and using social media like it was the best thing since, well, color television. From all generations there are also those that shun technology and could care less about connecting to anyone they cannot see, hear or touch.

This makes me think that having a propensity to engage in social networking on the Internet may be a very personal attribute – in our genes more than our generation.

The generational influence, then, would mostly be a factor of opportunity and comfort; older folks have to work harder to learn new skills that were not taught during their traditional school years. I know a bunch of older, life-long learners who have made this investment and would now be just as lost without social media as I would be (and apparently Sunni too.)

I sense that locality has less significance now than it did 20 years ago. Maybe it’s part of the whole flat world phenomenon.

I’m interested in hearing from you, no matter your generation, about the relationship between age and social media and sense of locality.

Are others like me, feeling as much or more connected virtually than to a particular geographic setting?

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Social Media Club Dallas discusses tools and votes

March 1, 2007

Fantastic discussions last night at the Dallas meeting of the Social Media Club. Tony Wright of Kinetic Results lead two main discussions – one about useful tools that attendees “simply cannot live without” and another about the role of social media in political campaigns.

Useful Tools

Lauren Vargas, founder of 12comm Public Relations and author of Communicators Anonymous, has already cataloged the various tools discussed. Here is the list and check out Lauren’s post for more details.

  • PSD2HTML: Fast, high-quality XHTML / CSS markup!
  • Jott: Free, telephone-to-email service that you need on your speed dial.
  • Spinvox: Voice message to text, and more
  • Picnik: Online photo editing
  • WatchetShot: Screenshot freeware
  • TinyURL Creator: Firefox add-on for quick Tiny URLs
  • Basecamp: Project collaboration
  • Accomplice: Free, project management suite, syncs with Outlook and PDA, Lauren’s “must have” recommendation, my next download!

Social Media in Politics

I was a bit surprised by the topic at first; I mean, is it safe for clubs to talk about politics or religion? However, excellent input from the likes of Jake McKee, Sunni Thompson and Blake Poutra insured a lively and insightful discussion.

A big question was whether candidates who embrace more openness, and who’s campaigns utilize social media, will benefit from doing so. Like I said, a BIG question leading into the 2008 national elections.

Much closer to home, we examined the website and MySpace page for Dallas mayoral candidate Zac Crain. Crain is very engaged in social media and has over 1500 people who have signed up as his friends on MySpace. Whether amassing virtual friends can result in polling booth turnout is well worth watching.

I want to write more about the discussion of social media and campaigns, but that will have to wait for another post. For now, check out the blogs of the smart, talented members of Social Media Club Dallas and consider whether making its next meeting (or a meeting in a city near you) should be on your agenda. Hint: It should!

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8 essential elements for trusting teams

February 25, 2007

When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” Patanjali

trust_fall.gifOne of the most telling predictors of a team’s success is the extent to which it builds trust among team members. Whether teams are large or small, virtual or under the same roof, trusting teams have inherent advantages not found in teams with a low level of trust.

What makes a trusting team? Following are 8 essential elements that set apart teams that possess a strong trust factor.

Social Exchanges

Social exchanges are critical in the early stages of team building, and continue to be important throughout the team’s existence. Discussions of family, weekend activities, and personal interests help team members understand the values and priorities of one another and build strong personal bonds. Team members who have worked together before make a point to included newer team mates in social exchanges to avoid the chance of creating cliques of socially-familiar members within the team. While bonding socially, trusting teams are careful to not allow social cohesion to be a substitute for progress on the team’s objectives.

Showing Enthusiasm

Trusting teams demonstrate enthusiasm about their projects and members make a point to overtly encourage team mates. Teams may refer to themselves as “family,” “posse,” or other nicknames used to signify the uniqueness and unity of the group. Language of enthusiasm might include phrases such as, “this is getting exciting!” or “I’m really pumped about our progress.” A favorite phrased I hear team members use is, “You rock!” By using somewhat informal vocabulary, team members reinforce that their enthusiasm for team mates includes a personal aspect as well as professions. Trusting teams “keep it real.” At the same time, trusting teams are keen to channel their enthusiasm toward accomplishing the team’s tasks.

Using Technology

Trusting teams use technology to enhance communication and solve problems, and do not allow technology to become an impediment to teamwork. Technology is a huge topic, so let’s touch on three of the more important aspects of using technology for teamwork: e-mail communication; scheduling; and file management. Read the rest of this entry »

Five things I learned in February 2007

February 22, 2007


February is a short month (and my birthday month), but it’s been chock full of learning for me. How about you?

Here are five things I learned this month:

SJO1. You can get free online access to SAGE journals until the end of the month! I have used SAGE products for years and the journal articles include a wide range of topics. Hurry; only 5 days left.

2. Everyone looks for a little something different in a book review. However, one universal truth is that you have to act fast if you want to be a featured reviewer during A JJL Love Affair with Books being offered throughout March.

3. Relationship Bloggers will soon have their own conference and networking event, SOBCon07. Chicago is the place – May 11-12 are the dates – for interactive presentations on publishing, design and branding, tools, analytics, social networking, marketing, coaching and all forms of relationship geekery.

4. offers a useful, free mind-mapping tool that can quickly become addictive. I have only used it for personal brainstorming so far, and I look forward to using it for collaboration. [Shout out to Steve for the tip.]

5. A single person, a small group, even an online learning community, can initiate actions that ripple through their environment. I’ve learned this before, but reminders of the big impact of small actions were everywhere this month. The gift of a single red rose; scraping ice from a stranger’s windshield; reaching out to a friend who was traveling during the year-end holidays; leaving a comment for the first time on a favorite blog.

Rosa Say started Rapid Fire Learning (RFL) in January 2007 at Joyful Jubilant Learning.

Please share your own RFL 5 things you learned this February – in comments below, over at JJL, or in a post on your blog (and remember to trackback!).

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Teamwork among few bright spots in workforce readiness

October 2, 2006

A majority of human resource officials surveyed reported that high school graduates were adequately prepared for future workplace needs in three areas: Teamwork; Diversity; and Information Technology.

In an otherwise negative report, Most Young People Entering the U.S. Workforce Lack Critical Skills Essential for Success, researchers attributed workforce readiness in these three areas to heightened attention in recent years.

“The adequacy of preparation in these areas is encouraging, as all three – diversity, teamwork and technology – are areas where business leaders, educators and communities have focused unified energy and resources in recent years,” says Klein. “These results suggest that when a particular skill is viewed uniformly as critical and is targeted, success and progress is possible.”

The most troubling areas for work readiness included written communications, professionalism/work ethic, and critical thinking/problem solving. Not very good news overall for the education industry or US employers generally, especially considering the upcoming changes expected because of the aging workforce.

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