As a manager, meeting a new team for the first time can be nerve-racking. You want to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that you establish your leadership, but you need to do this without destroying the team’s culture or dynamic, or trampling on its achievements.
Being too heavy-handed can be disastrous, but not establishing the right degree of authority can be, too. However, when it’s handled well, an informal introductory meeting can be a great opportunity to learn about your team, to build trust with its members, and to establish a climate of mutual respect.
This article will help you to prepare for your first meeting with your team.
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Meeting a New Team For the First Time
The following five steps will go a long way to making your first meeting with your new team a success.
1. Find Out About Your New Team
If there’s a company intranet with employee profiles, read up on your team’s professional skills and accomplishments, and any other relevant information. If not, perhaps the organization’s website has an “About us” or “Meet the Team” page. If appropriate, connect with team members on LinkedIn, in advance. Otherwise, try and talk to HR and see if it can provide you with any details about the team.
Try to memorize people’s faces, names and hometowns. If you struggle to remember names, try using face association, in which you make a connection between a name and a unique characteristic. Make the effort to learn how to pronounce people’s names correctly, too.
If possible, before you take on your new role, schedule an informal talk with your boss and the team’s previous manager. You can gain the outgoing team manager’s insights into the team in general, and learn about any conflicts that you need to be aware of.
Keep in mind your organization’s wider corporate culture when preparing to meet your team, whether it’s formal – with clearly defined channels of communication and decision-making processes – or more informal. This will help you to act appropriately in your introductory meeting, and communicate effectively. Again, if possible, talk to the team’s previous manager about their take on the corporate culture, so you have an idea of the beliefs and behaviors that you’ll likely encounter.
2. Prepare the Meeting Space
If you are meeting in person, choose a neutral space, such as a meeting room. Consider seating, temperature and lighting to make the room as comfortable as possible. This will help to reduce stress and to promote communication.
If you’re meeting is virtual, get set up early so you’ve got plenty of time to check that everything is working, and ensure you’ve got the right link to the meeting and the correct software downloaded. Make sure that your internet connection is strong and that you’ve got everything you need, like a headset and charging point. Check your background in advance to make sure that it’s appropriate.
3. Keep It Short and Informal
Before the meeting starts, let your team know that it’s going to be a quick introductory gathering, so there won’t be an agenda.
Once in the room, explain a little about yourself. Consider using business storytelling to communicate your values and what you’re trying to achieve. At this stage, you needn’t go into great depth about your plans – that can come later, at a more formal meeting.
Now that you’ve introduced yourself, explain that you’ll be arranging one-on-one meetings with each member of the team, so that you can get to know them individually. Let people know that you’ll schedule a formal meeting for the whole team after these one-on-ones have taken place.
Also, make it clear that you’ll be spending the first 90 days learning all you can about the team and the way it works. Acknowledge that you may well want to make some changes, but you won’t be doing this until you know what is and isn’t working well.
It’s common advice for new managers to look for a “quick win” shortly after they step into a role. By all means, look for an opportunity to improve things, but try to do this without making sweeping changes to the systems or processes that are already in place – they might be there for a very good reason that’s not yet clear to you.
Spend the rest of the meeting learning about your new team. Give people the chance to ask questions about you, too. Answer these fully, but try to show humility by guiding the conversation back toward your shared goals, rather than dwelling on your own accomplishments.
Ideally, you want your team to take away the following three messages:
- I’m glad to be here, and I respect the work that you’ve done.
- Please be assured that I’m not here to cause you stress or to make your lives more difficult.
- I’m here to put you first and enable you to do your jobs well.
4. Model Best Behavior
What you do in your first meeting will establish the tone of your leadership, so be conscious of creating a pleasant working atmosphere in which respect and manners are valued.
Take care of the obvious things: make sure that you arrive on time, dress appropriately, and use professional language. You want to give your team your full, undivided attention, so switch your phone to silent or airplane mode.
5. Make Small Talk
Small talk is fundamentally about building relationships, so you shouldn’t try to eliminate it entirely in an attempt to keep meetings efficient.
People will remember how you made them feel, rather than the specifics of what you said. Therefore, asking your team members to talk about their best moments will create positive associations for them. It will also teach you a lot about your team’s values.
Practice active listening when someone else is talking. Make a conscious effort to understand the complete message by remaining focused on the speaker’s words, as well as their tone and body language. Avoid the temptation to think about your response while they are talking.
A common way to build trust is to share some information about yourself (nothing too personal!) This shows the other party that you’re willing to make yourself vulnerable by being the first to give something away. Encourage others to join in, but don’t force anyone to go outside their comfort zone. First impressions count, so be especially careful not to embarrass anyone.
The first meeting you have with your new team will set the tone for your relationship with it. A well-run first meeting can instill confidence in your leadership, help you to establish relationships, and have a positive effect on future interactions.
So, thorough preparation is paramount. Make sure that you know a bit about who you’re meeting and their culture beforehand.
Hold the meeting in a comfortable, neutral environment. If it’s a virtual meeting, iron out any technical issues before it starts, so that they don’t become serious problems.
Keep the first meeting informal, but schedule one-on-ones and a more formal team meeting in the coming days.
Practice active listening, model best behavior and use small talk to start building relationships with your new team members.