It’s rare for team members to remain the same over long periods. People come and go for a range of reasons. It’s unrealistic to expect otherwise. It’s also unrealistic to think that a new person can simply replace the leaver with little or no impact on the group’s interactions.
When you change team composition, even by one member, you find yourself in a new team. The balance of capabilities, personalities and styles inevitably changes the way the group interacts. When such change occurs at leadership levels, it can fundamentally impact the way a company operates.
You might be part of an established team recruiting as a result of a resignation. Or perhaps you’re creating ‘first-time’ roles in your scale-up to lead your next phase of growth. In either case, I encourage you to think beyond the ‘fit’ questions that you typically ask during recruitment.
Rather than integrating the new person into your team, consider how you will establish the new team that forms with them in it.
To start, I recommend reframing the idea of induction. Induction in the team context isn’t for the new person. It’s for the entire team. Rather than thinking of it as sharing “how we do things around here”, consider it the opportunity to co-create a new baseline expectation for how the group will operate.
It’s the opportunity to align on answers to specific questions about the team, including:
- What is our collective job? What will make us a team?
- When we are at our best, what does that look and feel like? How will our people know it’s happening?
- What is ‘good communication’? What is ‘good collaboration’?
- What decisions should we make together? What decisions can we make independently?
- What will be the most significant tests of us as a team? What will “ace-ing the test” look like?
- What are the rituals or habits that we need to build to support our success as a team?
- What are the mindsets and behaviours we want to expect of each other? What permission do we give each other if we see something different?
- How will we assess our progress as a team?
Co-designing your answers to these questions requires some effort in getting to know one another and building trust. It’s something more profound than ‘where are you from?’, ‘where have you worked before?’ and ‘what’s your coffee order?’
Try getting team members to share their answers to questions including:
- Do you assume trust is given or earned? Why?
- How do you process information? Do you ‘talk to think’ or ‘think to talk’?
- What is your preferred process for making decisions?
- What are the priorities and pressures for you outside of work that would be helpful for us to understand?
Of course, induction is only the first step in setting up for success — but without it, you risk the ‘old team ways’ isolating your new person. So consider using your new hire’s arrival as a way to redefine success for your new leadership team.