Sunday, October 28, 2007

October 29, 2007 – Dealing with a Newbie, Part 1

Starting at a new place can be very daunting. It represents a clean slate. Few, if any, people know who you are, what your past is or what your capabilities are. Whether you are looking to clean up your act or just re-establish yourself in a different environment, it can be intimidating.
As a manager adding new people to your project or organization you need to be aware of the newbies in your midst and how to make them part of the team. This week we’ll take a look at some general ideas on how to make them feel at home. Next week we can address nuisance newbies.

Make the introductions. Take them around the office and introduce the team. The two most important sets of people to meet are management and the keeper of supplies. The supplies person is obvious, but the management is vital. The worst way for someone to meet management is by making a rookie statement during a meeting.

Give them the overview. Talk them through the purpose of your department or the scope of the project. Paint the big picture and where they fit in. Build them up by telling them why they were selected for this specific position. They don’t need to know that the first two recruits turned the job down.

Hand over the documents. Give them the Charter for the organization, the Statement of Work for the project or any other defining documents that they need to understand the environment. As you brush the dust off to hand it to them, you may want to take another look at it yourself.

Tell them where the pot holes are. Back before California, in Ohio and New York, there were two driving hazard seasons: the Orange Traffic Cones of road construction (May to October) and the car swallowing Pot Hole months (November to April). Point out the hazards in your work place. If there are people or topics that need to be handled with caution, let the newbies know. Without your warnings they could blow a tire or land upside down in an open trench.

Get them what they need. During the first day at my new job, Carmen showed up at my desk with pens, paper, paperclips, tape, stapler and a bunch of other essentials. In most of my previous entries I had to find these myself. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get the name of the keeper of supplies, but rarely a full stock delivered.

Solve their problems. In one of my previous lives a newbie was having a problem. Her name was misspelled in the mail system and it was causing issues with her login and with people trying to contact her. When she asked the admin staff they pointed her somewhere else which led to someone else and back so many times that she was getting dizzy from the run around. I used her phone and made a couple of calls to put her in touch with the right person. In addition to solving her problem, I showed her that she was a priority part of the team.

Let them make mistakes. People learn by making mistakes. The ideas above set your newbies up for success, but if they aren’t allowed to make mistakes they won’t be able to achieve greatness. Establish an environment that encourages strong effort but recognizes that errors occur.

I have developed the Newbie Card system to break the ice and help overcome the fear of failure. Drop me an email or register at the Cutting’s Edge and I will send you a copy.

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