What to Talk About First with New Team Members

Don’t make new team members fill out paper work their first morning. Don’t immediately jump into some kind of intense meeting or financial review. Use the time and the power of first impressions. Focus on what really matters—the culture of your organization.

One leader suggested the following. She has a conversation with each new team member on their first day. During this conversation she has them take a pin and place it in a large map of the US she keeps in her office and asks the new employee to place the pin near their home town.

She begins this conversation by pointing out that they all come from different cultures. They all have different values. They all have different educations. They all have different family dynamics. Different faith traditions. And that all of them have different motivations for being on the team.

She might even point out some of the more interesting things about some of the senior team members (with their permission, of course) and discuss the new comer’s background and how they see themselves fitting in based on all the unique things about them.

This valuable first conversation is about inclusion and diversity. While there are many valid first conversations with a new team member, making them feel unique and included and letting them know that the organization welcomes diversity can go a long way towards making the new guy feel at home immediately.

Why Absent Leaders Are the Most Destructive

Absent leaders are those who enjoy the privileges of leadership yet avoid useful involvement with their team. This style of leadership is marked solely by its destructive nature.

For some team members having a boss that lets you do as you please sound great—especially if they are being bullied or micromanaged by their current leader. However, a top complaint among team members about leaders is when they are absent. Team members tend to be most concerned with what their leaders don’t do.

Being ignored by one’s team leader doesn’t foster a work culture of individual responsibility, rather one of being treated poorly and being alienated. Impact of an absent leader on an organization is more immediate and long lasting than any other kind of destructive leadership archetype as well as the constructive ones. Some even believe it contributes to other organizational issues like increased bullying between team members, role ambiguity, additional stress and possibly even health complaints.

In large organizations, despite their destructive nature, absent leaders often go unnoticed. For example, in one fictional organization two senior team members go over the head of their absent, do-nothing leader to complain. The higher-up they complain to says that they already have a handful of bad leaders to deal with—one who has a substance abuse issue, one who is constantly being sent to HR, and another accused of misusing the organization’s money. This higher-up tells the senior team members they simply don’t have time to deal with someone who isn’t actively making waves and they will just have to deal with it.

While this fictional organization clearly has all kinds of problems it demonstrates how do-nothing, absent leaders can fall between the cracks and be left in their position because their offenses are not overt. So, an absent leader can be left in their position for years, slowly poisoning the organization.