I just spent a marathon 12-hour session working on a brand new business project with brand new team members. There is always some excitement about working with new people but there can also be trepidation. When starting a new team that you didn't hand pick, there is usually some sort of adjustment period. If they chose to be there, everyone is usually hopeful and optimistic. But it takes time before you figure out the challenges and eccentricities that each person brings to the party.

But if the objective deserves the effort, people will find a way to struggle through the unfamiliarity and work together to accomplish the goals. With a little effort, you can shortcut some of the challenges. Here are some ways to do just that.

1. Keep an open mind.

If you are accustomed to working with the same team for a long time, you probably have a comfort zone that will now be off limits. You will likely compare the new team behaviors to the old team patterns and get frustrated. Do an active reset on your brain. Accept the fact that you are about to participate in a new dynamic. Relax and enjoy the newness.

2. Spend a little time getting familiar.

You may be pressed for time with your project, but it will be worth the time and effort to have a little "Get to Know You" session. Take 30 minutes and share some information about everyone at the table. Talk about your likes and dislikes of teamwork and how you work best. Find some common ground as people first, and you'll be better as teammates later.

3. Prepare to be flexible.

Don't go into the first meeting in a defiant mode ready to defend the process you are used to. Be ready to try new methods and approaches. You never know, you might find out that your old team has been inefficient and unproductive in some areas. Be ready to bend and learn.

4. Give permission to speak freely.

Everyone on the team is probably unsure of other people's boundaries so they are all walking on eggshells afraid to offend. Let peple know early on that it's ok to give you direct feedback and that you don't mind healthy conflict. You'll gain immediate respect and learn very quickly where you stand.

5. Require that honesty be the priority.

It's good to give permission to teammates to speak their mind. But that doesn't mean they will do it. People still hold back in new environments because they are afraid to offend. Let people know that not only is honest feedback appreciated, it is required for a healthy team. Without open creative conflict, the team will never rise above mediocrity.

6. Have some fun!

Hey, who said this has to be a gloom and doom party. Whenever you are working with other people, no matter how serious the situation, you should enjoy what you do. Find ways to lighten the mood appropriately and often. A little smile or a laugh goes a long way in bonding with new people.

Published on: Dec 17, 2014
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