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Teamwork – Why everyone has to be ‘included’

I have always been amazed when team managers don’t welcome new members to the team as effectively as they should do. I’ve seen managers take on new team members and have left HR and the Training Department to ensure that the new team member is inducted effectively into the company. Now this is fine to a degree, and in many ways quite proper, but I’ve asked new team members whilst on their initial training just how much contact they have had with their manager since joining the company, and on occasion, the odd new team member has replied that they hadn’t heard anything at all from their new manager since their interview. Personally, I find this unacceptable and this scenario should never happen.

New members to a team must be included from the start and they must be made to feel part of the team. Many managers do not take the necessary steps to fully induct people into teams and as such many new team members take more time to get functioning properly than they should. In many cases, if a manager does not pro-actively take steps to ensure inclusion, then the other team members may view the new team member with suspicion and distrust. How can anyone function in such an environment? So, how does the successful team manager manage to include new people to the team right from the start?

Firstly, the team manager should have a “one to one” with the individual concerned as soon as they join the company or team. They should outline the purpose, aims and objectives of the team, the processes (rules, team contract, boundaries) and behaviours by which the team operates and then a broad outline of the team members in terms of team roles and experience. Team managers should remain silent about their own personal opinions about other team members because if they do not, there is a high chance that the manager’s opinions (and perhaps prejudices) will “cloud” the new team member’s opinions on future teammates. This is not a healthy scenario! Once this ‘one to one’ happens then the team manager should introduce the new member to the team ensuring that before-hand they have spoken to each of the present team to inform them about the new member.

The team manager should also ensure that perhaps a “buddy” scheme is set up whereby one team member supports the new person to “find their feet”. The manager will also start to facilitate the new person’s induction in the team meeting setting by asking them for their input where appropriate. This will put the new person at ease and will make them feel that not only are they being included but also that they are starting to play a role within the team right from the onset. They will start to feel valued. I have seen too many examples over the years of where “inclusion” has not happened. As I mentioned at the start, I have seen managers recruit new team members and send them on initial training courses of up to six weeks duration and never once make contact with them. I have seen team managers start team meetings and not even introduce the new member and worst of all I have heard of situations where a new member was given the ‘low down’ on their new team colleagues in depth with the manager outlining who was good, who was bad, who they should mix with and who they should avoid! How comfortable did you think this new team member felt going to their first team meeting?

Whilst outlining and stressing the role of the team manager in team inclusion, the team manager should also be enabling and supporting the individual to be pro-active themselves. They should be encouraging the new team member to make early contact with the team and to make sure that they made themselves known to teammates at meetings by encouraging them to introduce themselves rather than wait for someone else to do it. Similarly, the existing team members should be encouraged to make contact with the new team member. This can all be achieved very quickly and ensures that the new team member not only feel included but also valued and ready to start to make their contribution to the team effort.

All of the above will be seen by many managers as standard practice and this is good, but you’d be amazed that for some managers this is not standard practice. Without ‘inclusion’ many new team members will not only fail to function effectively within the team, but they may also even leave the team and company! And this ‘inclusion’ applies to all team members – new and old!

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