Trying to fit in on a new team

April 15, 2015

You’re new. You’re keen. You’re full of good ideas. You’re irrelevant to your teammates.  D’Oh!

As a new person on a team, how do you get noticed? How do you get involved in interesting projects? Most importantly, how do you make an impact?

For most of us, running to keep up with our hectic lives, it’s hard to relate to the new folks on our teams feeling under-utilized and under-appreciated. But just for a moment, think back to this stage in your career when you felt like you were all revved up with no place to go.

Until you were able to create connections and contribute meaningfully, you didn’t really feel like part of the team. If you’re in this predicament, here are some things to try:

Make sure you are visible. Don’t be shy. Say hello and ask an open-ended question to engage a conversation. “Good morning. What’s on your plate today?” Over time, you can share what you’re working on as well. If you just sit at your desk pretending to be busy, everyone will just let you carry on.

Be heard. Find at least a small contribution to make to your team meetings. In the early days, ask great questions. Once you know a little more, share your perspective.

Share success stories. When you do contribute, share your story. Don’t brag, just share your genuine enthusiasm for what you did and what you learned (people will be able to tell the difference). The point is to help your teammates visualize how you might do something similar to assist them.

Seek advice. Most people are nice. They want to help you. But you have to make it easy for them. Always have a question ready for the cafeteria or the elevator, because that’s most likely where you’ll get a chance to ask…“I’m wondering, what’s the best place to learn about anti-money-laundering regulations?

Make it easy. They’re busy, you’re not. Go to them. Connect at the time and in the places that are convenient for them.

Add Value: If you’re under-utilized, you have the time to do the things that your teammates only dream of. Download a newspaper article about your industry. You can click on a couple of interesting posts on LinkedIn. Follow the trails that might be of interest to your teammates and then share your insights in easy to digest format. “I saw this article and thought you might be interested in graph on page 7 that shows how consumer buying behavior is shifting from web to mobile.”

Create a personal connection: You don’t need to share your complete life story but you do need to make a genuine connection to your teammates. The easy way to start is by having things on your desk that represent who you are. Pictures of kids are great if you have kids, but what else gives people an idea of what you’re passionate about. A bobble head from your favorite sports team? A picture of you doing a hobby? A souvenir from your favorite trip?
Engage your manager: Let your manager know how your workload is working for you. The default might be to ease you in, so provide clear feedback about what you can handle. Be sure to ask for their support and their ideas about where you can add the most value.

Soon enough, you’ll be part of the fabric of the team and wondering why you ever sought out more work. Until then, chip away at opportunities to be seen and heard and paint a picture of how you can contribute.

Special thanks to Corey Bainerman, one of the wonderful new folks on our team who demonstrated his value by proposing this idea and using his seat next to me on a 6-hour flight to help me write it.

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