Hit the Ground Running with Your New Team

By Tom Davidson

In addition to being responsible for your own work group, new managers are likely to be on four to five additional committees, task forces or teams at any one time. Over the course of a year, you’ll be starting up, tuning up or turning around teams on a continuous basis. 

In addition, you’ll attend 62 meetings a month, and half of them will be a waste of time because of poor planning, leadership or time management. To be successful in this environment, here are the principles that will help you hit the ground running with all your team assignments.

  1. Purpose – Why are you in existence? This is the single most important factor to address with every team. Do not proceed unless you and your team members can answer this central question with essentially the same five to seven words (e.g., We are hear to plan project x).
  2. Goals – Have you ever loaded up the car and started on a trip without knowing where you were going? Teams are the same way. Start with the end in mind or you will surely waste time, frustrate the team and miss the target.  Your goals may be quantitative, qualitative, and time bounded. Be specific (e.g., Our goal is to recommend action steps, timelines and responsible parties and deliver that in writing to the end of the month).
  3. Process – Without a road map, your meeting is likely to take many unexpected turns, leading you to dead ends and driving you in circles. Most meetings have three to five parts (e.g., process statement, process clarification, updates, problem solving and next steps).
  4. Roles – Who’s driving the bus? Many contemporary teams are leaderless in nature because they are made up of colleagues at roughly the same level of authority (e.g., facilitator, timekeeper, note taker).
  5. Ground Rules – Ground rules come from baseball. Every baseball stadium in the world has rules that govern how the two teams will compete in that venue. Each of your teams is a unique venue with unique players; so outlining a few ground rules about how the conversation will take place will keep the “players” operating with efficiency (e.g., we strive for consensus decisions, we make sure everyone is heard from equally, we stay on topic unless we agree to change the process).

Attend to these five principles, and you’ll keep your teams on track and out of the ditches, even when you’re not the formal or appointed leader.

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