Many enterprise IT pros are expected to join new teams, whether they're a temporary structure to support a project (such as a consultant) or a new group that you must work with. Here are suggestions that you can share with your team on how getting from "Hello, I'm your new teammate" to being productive as quickly as possible.
1: Do your research
Just as you'd do research on a new technology or business area you've been assigned to work on, spend a few minutes researching your new team and its background. If the team is from a different business unit, read up on their performance and some broad concerns facing that unit. If they're from another company, read up about that company.
In either case, you want to be able to share stories and terminology with your new colleagues, and your knowledge (however rudimentary) about their business, company, country, or culture will quickly put them at ease.
2: Use the right level of introductions
One of the first things most teams do when assembled is launch into introductions. For most of my consulting work where I'm working with colleagues from my business unit, this is 3-5 minutes of little more than name and what skills you're providing. This might be insufficient and off-putting for a multi-national group that's assembled to tackle a complex issue; however, most teams err on the side of overly formal introductions or ham-handed "team building" that does little to establish trust.
Rather than an icebreaker, I recommend setting a shared goal first and foremost.
3: Adopt a team vs. the world mentality
One of the best ways to quickly get a team humming is to immediately address the goals of the team. Why was this particular group assembled? What problem are you meant to tackle? When must the problem be addressed, and what authority does the team have? What are some short-term goals vs. longer objectives?
This immediate discussion about goals and reaching a consensus begins to gel the team, fostering talk of "us" and "our" while building momentum toward shared objectives.
4: Manage the leaders, thinkers, and doers
Most teams will have some combination of doers, thinkers, and leaders, and generally some element of all three traits will be present in each team member. The key is preventing one trait from dominating the team. Some teams that are overweighed with thinkers will spend days pontificating nuanced aspects of the problem, consuming valuable time while no real work gets done. A team heavily biased toward doers might jump to a conclusion and launch all manner of actions with little consideration or coherence. A team that's biased toward leaders may spend time commanding and dictating, but not actually producing anything of value.
Recognizing when one trait is dominating your team and correcting that problem through discussion, changing team members, or ruthlessly curtailing discussions and actions that take your team off-track are key to long-term success.
5: Disband after the mission is complete
An often overlooked aspect of high-performance teams is disbanding once the team has performed its mission. Generally, these teams lay the groundwork for longer-term action, and it can be frustrating to constantly be called to be part of the team but never see the results.
One team member should take the responsibility for communicating with the team after a few months and sharing the results of their actions. The team should also discuss any new or innovative methods or outputs that were created during their work together, and how those might be retained and shared with others in the organization.
What would you add?
While there are dozens more tips that could be shared about teams, I hope these five suggestions provide a new insight or two from an industry that's built on quickly assembled and presumably effective teams.
What recommendations would you add to this list? Please post them in the discussion.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.