Articles From the Team
Being the new guy
Coming in to a successful team can at first seem daunting. The team you join has been tried and tested on the battlefield; they know and understand each others’ strengths, weaknesses and foibles. They have achieved group norms and roles which allow them to focus on individual and group goals, and often, this group will be achieving an unexpectedly high level of success (thank you Bruce Tuckman!). You are about to break that dynamic, disrupt efficiency and ask a lot of seemingly simple questions, most of which produce a discourse that you barely understand. Accept this situation.
Once you have accepted the situation it becomes a lot easier deal with. Looking at it from the teams’ perspective allows you to focus on what you need to do to aid them. You need their help in transitioning from extreme dependency into a fully fledged and performing member of the group and they need your help in reducing the overall impact on their performance. So the million pound question is how do you do this? Below is my best guess.
Step 1: Be the sponge. There is nothing worse than someone seemingly nodding along to what you are saying and then they go off to do things in completely the wrong way. Don’t be this person. Listen attentively to what you are being told, if you are not clear in what is being asked of you then keep your colleague talking until you do (lots of lovely open questions)! Away from when you are being given direct instructions you need to be an eavesdropper. Listen to as many conversations as you can follow, this will allow learning by osmosis without any requirement to fully understand a situation.
Step 2: Don’t ask every question. Hey everyone loves a contradiction. After telling you to keep people talking until you understand a situation I`m now saying don’t ask everything you can do. You need to not exhaust the goodwill of others when you can use the resources at your fingertips to find some of the answers you need. You are expected to be slow and inefficient (or at least should be) so utilise some of this time to explore for answers on your own, who knows what other amazing nuggets you may come across during your journey!
Step 3: Take the initiative (appropriately!). This is the hardest step because you are not sure where the boundaries are within the team. At the start, the work that you can take the initiative on will have to be blindingly obvious but that awareness of what is appropriate will increase over time. The best part about this step is the surprise and joy from your colleagues when they realise you have done something without being directly told in the minutest detail how to achieve it. This joy will offset all the times you fail to act on the other parts of the blindingly obvious.
The above should just about get you through the first few weeks and months without having too adverse an impact on your new team. It has certainly got me through my initial phase here with the in-house team at BCL Legal and I hope to continue to learn whilst adding value. So far so good for this new guy, but then there is always tomorrow…..