Remember how nerve-wracking it was the first time you were hired or moved into a new position? In the beginning, you had no sense of place. You probably felt a little alienated and lost. After a while, if nobody gave you guidance or support, you began to wonder if you made the right decision. The longer the uncertainty was, the less confidence you had in yourself and in your work.
Like the fellow in the story that follows the type of welcome you received was a big factor in determining how you as a new hire felt about being part of the team.
Earl had accepted a position working for a biotech company reported to be on a fast track. He had high expectations for what he could contribute to the company. By the time he had been there a week, though, no one had spoken to him about the goals of his department or the immediate objectives of his job. He had only a vague idea of the projects he would be working on.
When he asked a coworker about the project folders on his desk, he was told, “You’re the genius, you figure it out.” A short time later, Earl received an accusatory email from his team leader complaining about his missing an important deadline; one he had never heard about.
Earl had the uncomfortable feeling of being out of place. No one seemed to notice that he was around. The fact that he was new seemed to count against him. Not being there for very long implied that he either did not know anything or that he had nothing of value to offer. Sink or swim—it was up to him. Ultimately, he sank.
Contrast Earl’s experience with that of Amy’s. Like Earl, she entered her new position with high expectations and a little apprehension about where she would fit in. Her doubts were quickly dispelled after her peer coach spent an entire afternoon explaining her duties and letting her know about department goals and objectives. Later, she took Amy around to meet the other members of her team who seemed to know a great deal about her background. Their welcome was sincere.
Amy was soon working on tasks that were both fulfilling and meaningful. She went home at the end of the second week knowing she was a valued member of her team.
What Amy’s coworkers did right was to show her the respect due a new team member. They told her what her job was and showed how what she did contributed to the team’s goals. They introduced her to those she would be working with in other units, which made her feel complete. In other words, the team was assembled around her.
Rather than respect Earl’s skills and abilities, his coworkers made him feel like a stranger. There was no recognition of his place on the team. The people around him were working independently at cross-purposes and not accomplishing very much. Rather than pulling together as a team, Earl’s coworkers were pulling themselves apart. Instead of looking forward to a prosperous future, Earl was looking for a way out.
The difference between Amy’s fruitful journey and Earl’s wasteful venture is in how well peer coaches help new hires to fit in fast and to find job satisfaction quickly. Amy’s colleagues did it right and Earl’s did it wrong.
Doers have the skills necessary to excel in whatever job they may be assigned. By empowering them to pass along these skills as peer coaches, an organization is able to replace the me-ness that promotes individualism with a we-ness that fosters collaboration.