Working on a team is challenging, even if all the members are seasoned professionals. This year our team consists of several new interns and staff that have never spent time in our location before. Here’s what we are planning to do — things any team can do — to promote clarity, build camaraderie, and develop trust as we step out into another year of work.

Trust

Trust is perhaps the most basic building block for success in any team environment. It’s like air — when we have lots of it, so many things are possible; when we don’t have it, even the simplest things are hard. Here are a couple of things I think build trust in the early going, when you haven’t yet had time to get to know each other well.

Talk about things you value.

Everyone has things that they think are important, and talking about those things will help everyone to get to know one another. At the very least, it will get everyone talking — and talking about something more significant than the weather or the Braves game.

Open your home.

Whether you are a leader or just a team member, I believe inviting colleagues over can be a great first step toward success. It can be for a meal or just a cup of coffee, but putting yourself in a position where you can host others for a couple hours really helps break the ice and get people comfortable with each other.

Camaraderie

It would be a great group activity to see who can spell the word “camaraderie”, for some kind of cash reward. Camaraderie is easier to define, though, and it is something every team needs in order to be successful. When you achieve camaraderie, a group becomes a team, coworkers become friends, and everything becomes possible. Here are a couple ideas:

Attend a social event together.

The day after our team arrives, thousands of people will descend on Mostar for the fourth annual Mostar Cliff Diving competition, in which world-class divers come to jump from Mostar’s old bridge. It’s a magical time, the streets are full, and it’s the perfect opportunity to take everyone out to share a great day together in the city.

Go on a team retreat.

After bringing everyone up to speed in their new job and new surroundings, it might be feasible to take everyone on a team retreat. Retreats are excellent opportunities to go deeper and explore just what makes a great team.

Clarity

If Trust is like concrete, clarity is like the cement in the concrete. Without clarity, it’s hard to make good decisions, people become dissatisfied, and trust erodes. But with it, trust solidifies and teams become super productive.

At first, have lots of meetings.

This may be counter intuitive, because meetings are often said to be a huge waste of time. And they are! But when you’ve got a brand new team that you’re trying to bring together, I believe you need to see each other a lot. You need to learn each other’s strengths, preferences, habits, before you can really start to click.

Maybe those meetings could be just 15-minute standup meetings where everyone just shares the status of their projects and ask questions. Or, you could think of team-building exercises that will help the team think deeply about how they work together. However you do it, in the first few weeks it is important to see each other often.

Write everything down.

This takes a lot of work for the leaders, but I think it can be helpful to write down a lot of the planned events, policies, or customs of your workplace so that new hires have the information to refer back to in the future. Here are a few examples of things you could write down and email or hand out to everyone:

  • A list of all the planned holidays, store closings, or other special events that will happen over the next six to twelve months.
  • The different ways in which your team communicates for work (phone, email, Slack, messenger, etc.), and what situations they are used for.
  • A list of things your team members need for work that might cost money, and suggestions on where to buy them (uniforms, certain shoes, technology, certain books, etc.).

Obviously, you won’t have time to write everything down, but it will make things easier when team members come to you with questions. Even if you need to make an exception, you make the exception with a better knowledge of why the policy was made in the first place.

I hope this has been helpful. What are some things you have learned while working on teams? Leave thoughts in the comments.

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