Team Builder Questions

Purposeful Onboarding and Culture Building

When bringing a new person onto an existing team, there should be a focus of what is expected of the new team member along with how they will fit into the existing team.  We have all experienced the disruption which can occur when a new person is brought in.  The success or failure of the onboarding process is directly related to the culture that we set as managers.  The daily practices of your managing style shapes the ongoing team culture.  A new team member may cause conflict if their work ethic conflicts with the team’s culture.  This can lead to decreased productivity, team member dissatisfaction, and ultimately the loss of good talent.

There are a series of questions which can be asked of new team members.  However, these questions should also be part of your ongoing conversations that you should be having daily.  The questions are an opportunity to shape the culture while clearly communicating your expectations.  The questions are small but effective team culture builders.  Use them often.

What is our Mission?  Every new team member must know the mission.  This question determines the direction of your team.  But more importantly, if you as the manager can’t state the mission, then your team members are rudderless in moving forward.  We do get lucky and the team may self-direct, but it is our responsibility to set the path of the team.

What skill sets do I bring to the team?   As managers, we need to know what skill sets the new team member possesses and how they will contribute to team efforts.  We also need to know the skill sets of our current members.  Has the team updated their skills and are we aware of them?  Determine how the new skill sets can be used successfully.

What is my role?  Managers must understand how the new member will fit into the current team culture.  We must know if they will improve it, challenge it, or status quo it.  Equally important, current team members may not know what their role is either.  Team members not knowing their role or contribution leads to a number of problems:  ambivalence, bitterness, cynicism, and in particular, burnout.  Our people must know what their

contributions are and the value placed on them.  New members must be exposed to this concept early on.  Knowing your role and the expectations placed on all team members is a good practice to maintain a successful team culture.

Who can I count on for help or guidance?  Reliance on others in a team setting is key.  Your team must have a culture of trust where they can ask questions about problem solving or developing strategies to improve performance.  You can model this culture by asking your team for guidance and input for problems which need to be solved.  By requesting input from your team, you develop trust which works in both directions.  If you can trust their input, they in turn will develop trust in you.  This can be a mutual exchange even though you are ultimately responsible for the final decision.

What opportunities does the team offer?  All team members need to know how their contributions to the team will benefit them in the future.  The benefits can be skill sets learned to move onto another opportunity or they can be ones of personal fulfillment.  Ultimately, your people should know how the team will help them.  You will get the best contributions from your team if they see a connection between their work product and future opportunities.

Make it a practice to use these questions when onboarding new members.  But also use the questions for your existing team.

I challenge you to begin using them with your next new team member.  But the bigger challenge is to work these questions into your daily team conversations.  Use the questions as often as you can.  Modify them and make them your own.  You will build a solid foundation with them.

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Al Cobos is the owner and lead consultant for Dychelon which improves team performance and promotes successful team building.  Al has successfully built teams over the past two decades.  He has over thirty years of public sector experience in addition to teaching for several universities.  His focus is to improve people in their personal and professional lives.