The First Thing to Do When Leading a New Team

Working in teams is the way our workplaces perform their best. Even during this time when many leaders are working remotely, teams still dominate our profit and not-for-profit workspaces. Some of us may be moving between teams while others are part of forming new ones. It’s the formation of new ones that can trip up a leader if they don’t take the time to establish a team agreement.

This is what is happening with a newly formed team I am beginning to lead in a non-profit. Some of the members are from the existing team while others are brand new. It seems that not everyone has the same idea of the best way to share ideas and feedback. In fact, some of the previous team members were part of a very toxic, non-functional team and not entirely sure what a high performing team looks like.

The first step in leading a new team is to develop a team agreement.

When forming a new team, instead of jumping in and tackling the challenges or tasks that may seem urgent, it is critical to first create an agreement that all the team members support. Without that unique document, leaders and team members can have a difficult time navigating the way they want to function and lead.

Here are five steps to create an impactful team agreement:

1. Set Up A Virtual Retreat

Building a team begins with building relationships and connections. A great way to ignite that process is by holding a virtual retreat. Similar to an in-person retreat, a virtual get together involves stepping away from the workplace routines and focusing on developing the team and its members. The team deliberately puts their work issues on hold and pivots to a safe and inviting virtual place to meet up. Members need to feel that they belong and they are valued at the retreat. An easy icebreaker question to ask each person is: What excites you most about being on this new team?

2. Decide on Your Core Values

Break up into partners or smaller groups and decide what is most important for this new team to be successful. What actions and behaviors will contribute to cultivating highly connected members?

  • How will we listen to each other to understand what is being shared?
  • How will we show team members that we are reliable and trustworthy?
  • How will we communicate to be effective?
  • How will we disagree respectfully?

A team agreement includes the team's core values and respectful ways to communicate.CLICK TO TWEET

3. Create A Mission and Vision Statement

A team should know their “why”, their purpose for what they are doing. The team should also know who they are and what they stand for. Having a clear understanding of why a team is headed in a certain direction is key to making sure the members arrive at the finish line  successfully. Additionally, it is imperative to define the decisions, actions and behaviors that will enable team members to live their vision or “why”.

4. Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

In a team agreement each member’s role and responsibilities should be spelled out clearly. How many times have you worked on a team and didn’t have clarity about your job tasks or how you will perform at a high level? To gain a team perspective on job responsibilities this may be helpful:

  • Ask each member to create their job description.
  • Share the descriptions with each other and identify areas that members overlap or connect.
  • Go around and share expectations each team member has for each other. This can add great clarity to roles.

5. Design A Formal Team Agreement

Once the team has gone through this checklist of steps, then design a formal team agreement that includes the core values, the vision, the mission and each member’s role. In the document try to be as specific as possible, making sure to express what success looks like. Have all team members participate in the design so there will be an abundance of empowerment and buy-in.

Have you ever designed a team agreement? What did it look like?

Related: Five Strategies to Build an Interconnected Remote Team