how to transition into a

How to Transition Into a New Team With Confidence and Grace

Laura had a strong track record of success in her previous role and had earned the respect of her peers. But now, just a few weeks after her transition into a new team, she called us in exasperation.

“My manager said he selected me for the role because of my reputation for bringing tons of new ideas. So, I came in gung-ho sharing everything I know. But, every time I speak up, people roll their eyes. I feel like I might be wearing them out.

I wonder if I made a mistake coming over. I wonder if I should have just stayed in my previous role where people want to hear what I have to say and are eager for me to share my ideas.”

Kevin, also neck-deep a transition into a new team, faced a different, but equally frustrating, problem.

As an introvert, he’d built success in his last department over time. His peers came to know that his quiet observations meant that he was working carefully to connect the dots. His previous team knew that when he finally shared his point of view, they should stop and pay attention.

But this new team seemed to interpret his silence as weakness, and they seem to have written him off.

“I’m trying to go slow and really listen to what everyone has to say. I don’t want to come across like a know-it-all, and I’m trying to feel everyone out. So I don’t say much. But yesterday, when I finally did say something important, everyone just talked right over me. I think I’ve lost their respect and now it’s hard to recover.”

Kevin also confided that he worried he had made the wrong choice.

How to Transition Into a New Team with Confidence and Grace

Joining a new team is tricky. Show up overconfident and you turn people off — “Who do you think you are?” But if you’re overly humble, your new team may wonder what value you add and why you were chosen in the first place.

After a few missteps of our own over the years, the best approach we’ve found is to navigate the tricky balance of confident humility by showing up as an interested supporter and an interesting expert.

Be an interested supporter (humility.)

1. Get to know your peers one person at a time.

Yes, this is time-consuming, particularly as you are learning the ropes of a new gig, but the ROI in terms of support and collaboration is worth it. Schedule time to meet with each of your peers to learn about their work as well as what excites and frustrates them.  Learn a little bit about them personally, such as what they do for fun.

2. Ask great questions.

Ask questions about what’s working. “Wow, I’ve noticed the team is knocking this metric out of the park, why is that?” (People love to talk about what they’re doing well, and as a bonus, you’ll likely pick up a few best practices).

Also, ask strategic questions about the team’s most important priorities that show that you care deeply about the team and supporting everyone’s success.

You might also try questions like, “What does it (or would it) look like when the team is performing at its very best? What will it take to get there?”

Of course, the most important interested supporter question is “How can I help?

3. Be an ACTIVE listener

In team meetings, listen carefully to what people are saying. Ask clarifying questions and take notes to show you’re engaged.


Be an interesting expert (confidence.)

4. Share who you are.

In those one-on-one meetings you scheduled, don’t be afraid to share a bit about yourself, your background and how you’re looking to contribute to the team.

5. Look for small ways to add immediate value.

Look for ways to fix a frustration, share a best practice, or roll up your sleeves to get a peer out of a jam.

6. Offer input and ideas without pre-apology.

If you’ve managed the interested supporter approach well, you’ve laid fertile ground to share your ideas and make a contribution. Resist the urge to weaken your communication with false humility such as “This is probably a dumb idea,” or I’m not sure if this will work.” Just state your idea with confidence, “I have an idea,” or “What do you think would happen if we tried this?”

When you show up as an interested supporter AND an interesting expert, your peers will be more likely to extend a similar approach back to you as they welcome you to the team.

Your turn. What would you add? What advice do you have for someone working to transition into a new team with confidence and grace?

Related Content You May Find Helpful

How to Find More Courage and Innovation in Your New Employees (CEO Blog Nation)

One Surprising Secret to Being Recognized as the Expert

If you’re a manager taking over a new team see, How to Get Your New Team to Trust You 

how to capture best practices in new hire orientation

How to Capture Best Practices in New Hire Orientation

When it comes to new hire orientation, most companies focus on clarity.  “This is how we roll, welcome to the team,” with an emphasis on values, vision, and “how we do things around here” policies. And if they’re really on it, maybe they’ll even throw in a little compliance training, a turkey avocado wrap, and a company tee-shirt. Which is all good, but not sufficient.

If you’ve read our Courageous Cultures whitepaper, you know the importance of the clarity-curiosity dance when it comes to encouraging micro-innovation and best practice sharing. So what better time to tap into best practices then while they’re still fresh? What if you used your new hire orientation not just to be clear about where you’re headed, but also curious about where they’ve been and what they’ve learned?

You Lost Me at Hello

Because We Have Always Done It This Way

Karin recently had lunch with “Will,” one of her favorite direct reports from her time at Verizon, to talk about how his new job was going at a different company.

Will was visibly frustrated as he described the situation, “Well, basically my week of new hire orientation ended with my boss saying, ‘I didn’t hire you for your ideas. I hired you to implement mine.’ ”

Seeing the look of surprise on Karin’s face, Will continued, “But I’ve been thinking about it. I probably came on a bit too strong. I had so many ideas right out of the gate, I think I overwhelmed him and maybe even hurt his feelings. He thought I was being critical rather than trying to help. From now on, I’m keeping my mouth shut and working on my exit strategy.”

Which is tragic. Because Will’s not just an idea guy, he’s a loyal operations manager who will do anything to make your vision happen—including finding creative ways to accelerate results.

Surely they hired him for his track record of success, and yet somehow, they lost him at hello.

How to Tap Into Best Practices In Your New Hire Orientation

67% of our research participants said management operates according to the notion, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” If you want to buck that trend, dispel that myth from day one.

Start by making it perfectly clear that speaking up is what “people like us” do.

1. Be clear that best practice sharing and speaking up is an integral part of your culture.

“Around here, speaking up is the norm. We expect you to be on the constant lookout for how to make things better for our customers, easier, or more effective. The most successful employees are micro-innovators and problem solvers. This is what that looks like around here________.”

2. Share examples and tell some great stories.

Showcase some specific examples of employees at all levels who came up with great ideas that changed the game. If you want a two-for-one, as you’re building your courageous culture, you can use your new hire orientation as a time to have them share their own stories of micro-innovation and the results that followed.

3. Train your new hires on some fundamental critical thinking and problem-solving skills appropriate for their role.

And then, get curious.

4. Carve out dedicated time to ask about what they liked most about their last company and why. If your new hires have worked in the industry before, even better— dig deep to learn how other companies are approaching your biggest challenges.

5. Assign homework

Your new hires may not have enough context to know which best practices are needed right out of the gate. They might assume you will already be doing what they consider business as usual and be surprised to hear you’re not. Give them homework to identify at least three new ideas or best practices they would recommend during their first month on the job.

You can help structure this homework with a few conversation starters:

  • How did they approach (insert your biggest challenge here) at your previous company?
  • What does XYZ company do better than we do?
  • What tools or processes do you miss from your old company?
  • If you could teach everyone here one best practice from your previous job what would that be?

Then make a calendar appointment to follow-up with them to discuss their ideas one month later.

This final step is so important because you are both reinforcing the expectation for innovation and immediately tapping into their outsiders perspective.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment: What would you add? How do you tap into best practices during new hire orientation?

See Also

Make Your New Hire’s Day: 7 Ways to Improve New Hire Orientation

Uncovering the Best Kept Secrets: Get Your Team to Share Best Practices

how to build a best in class new hire orientation

Make Your New Hire’s Day: 7 Ways to Improve the New Hire Experience

Your new hire is driving home from her very first day. What’s she feeling? What’s she going to tell her kids about mommy’s new job? When she wakes up at 3 am anticipating Day 2, what’s on her mind?

The statistics are astounding. There’s no question that the first day, and the 89 days that follow, have a huge impact on retention, engagement, and productivity. You can’t undo that first impression. Here are seven ways to make your new-hire orientation more memorable and meaningful.

7 Easy and Innovative Ways to Make Your New Hire’s Day

I’m going to assume you’ve got the basics down–who needs to sign what, security and confidentiality, and the shortest way the bathroom. Consider weaving a few of these ideas into your new hire’s first day.

1- Make it a Celebration

It doesn’t take much to create a little ruckus. A few balloons, a cupcake or a little bling can go a long way. Even a big poster board on their cube with a “We’re so glad you’re here” signed by the team sets a tone of celebration. If all that feels too crazy for your culture, how about a sincere card with a few sentences about why you chose them?  The important part is to make it sincere and personal. The first day in a new job is a big deal to them. Show them that they are important to you, too.

2- Connect Through Stories

Tell some stories about what it’s really like to work here. Be strategic in your messaging to reinforce key values–you want to inspire, but even more importantly you want to connect.  Sharing “How I learned this the hard way” stories or “Whatever you do don’t make this crazy mistake” funny stories are a great way to make a human connection.

3-Create a Family Welcome Kit

Take them to lunch and find out a bit more about them and the other important people in their lives. Then before they leave at the end of the day, pull together a gift bag with some branded bling for their significant others, and a nice card from you: Logo lollipops for the kids, a branded coffee mug for their spouse, or even a branded Frisbee to play catch with their friends. Of course, this requires a bit of pre-planning to build your stash, but once you have it, it’s easy to pull together some personalized fun that shows you’re paying attention and care about the people in their lives beyond work.

4- Let Them Do Something Productive

So many companies spend the first day giving new hires a fire hose of information–it can be a lot to retain. Try mixing up the orientation with a bit of real work that lets them add value immediately and get a taste of the role. It will build confidence and help punctuate the learning with some doing.

5- Visualize the MIT (Most Important Thing)

Find fun ways to visualize and reinforce your MIT priorities. If their job is to expand in global markets, give them a dollar store globe squishy ball.  If recruiting and retaining talent is #1, give them a magnet. Visuals are a fun conversation starter about what’s most important and why.

6-Make it Really Easy to Ask Questions

When I would go talk to the new hire classes at Verizon, I learned if I just asked for questions, I got all the politically correct ones. But if I passed out index cards and encouraged people to ask me anything on their minds, that’s when the real conversation started. If you’re just hiring one person at a time, assign them one of the most approachable peers as a buddy and encourage them to ask anything they want. They may be embarrassed to ask you or HR. Do everything you can to shorten their learning curve and reduce anxiety.

7. Help Them Build a Plan

Make it easy for your new hire to make connections and learn the business. Identify a few key people (not just in your department) that can help accelerate their learning curve and make some introductions and set some follow-up appointments for the first few weeks.

You may also want to introduce them to the Let’s Grow Leader’s EOY Planning Letter (FREE TOOL) — and instructions. They won’t know enough the first day to complete it, but it’s a great assignment to tee-up on day one and getting them to visual an amazing year. Have them write this letter to you as if

Of course, a copy of Winning Well also makes a nice welcome gift for a new manager 😉

Your turn. Would love to hear your creative ideas for ensuring your new hire has an amazing first day.