Whether you’re leading a new team or beginning in a new organization, as the old adage goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Good etiquette has been championed since the time of Emily Post, and before, and there’s a good reason for it.
But it’s not as simple as a smile and a firm handshake. When you take your place in a new team, your “first” impression is formed over many weeks. And, making a good impression doesn’t mean stifling debate and just accepting everything with a smile. Disagreement can lead to creative solutions, but that’s not how you want to start a relationship.
See, it’s not as easy as you may have thought. But it’s also not difficult to make a good impression if you have some guidance. Here are some tips to help you get off to a good start with your new project team.
1. Smile, Handshake, Blah, Blah, Blah
Let’s get this one out of the way. You know you need to present a welcoming front. I know I’m being a bit flippant, but your body language at your first meeting does matter. No slouching, no tatty clothes, no poor personal hygiene. Smiling is good. A firm handshake is good. Remembering people’s names is great.
Try not to let the walk-around-the-office-and-meet-everyone overwhelm you. Take notes if you have to – I actually drew a floor plan of a new office and wrote people’s names on it so I had something to refer to. People do appreciate your taking the time to try.
Now on to the other stuff.
2. Prepare for Meetings
All meetings in the early days of your new project or in a new organization are big meetings. You should have all your notes prepared the day before. Don’t run around that morning trying to print out copies of slides or your latest project report. Get organized in advance.
For me, that also means taking a couple of spare copies of the agenda and the minutes of the last meeting along because there is always someone who hasn’t brought them or can’t get them up on the screen. I know, paperless is the goal. Until I can rely on everyone to come as prepared as me, I have to assume someone won’t be.
You should also prepare mentally. If you are about to share difficult news, report on a problem, or even challenge poor performance or missed deadlines, then you need to prepare how you are going to do that.
This will make sure you can get your point across without rambling. When I need to address a difficult point I make a few notes to keep me on track. I obviously don’t read out a prepared statement but a couple of bullet points make sure I don’t forget anything important and can convey my message quickly and professionally.
3. Do What You Say
The fastest way to undermine your credibility is to fail to deliver on your promises. That can happen on day one of a new job or your very last day. Credibility is a frail thing, so start building it from the moment you walk through the door.
Delivering on your promises is actually very easy to do. First, be careful what you promise! Be realistic about what you can achieve. Then, do what you said you would do. Take notes and stay organized so you don’t miss deadlines. Putting alerts in your calendar for when you said you would complete a task or follow up with someone can help if you aren’t very good at remembering.
If you genuinely can’t deliver as promised, go back to the person and let them know the reason why along with the next date you will report in on that task.
4. Pay Attention
You are not too important to listen properly in a meeting. Stay off your smartphone. If you have to do something else while on a conference call (it’s not just me, is it?), then go on mute so other people can’t hear you typing away in the background.
Paying attention isn’t just a strategy for giving the impression that you care about the topics under discussion. You might actually learn something too. When you mentally switch off, you miss bits of the conversation. In a new team, on a new project, you can’t afford to miss what is being said. And you can’t afford to miss the subtext of what is not being said, either. That’s all useful information to help you fit into the team and to make sure you are hitting the ground running.
5. Value People’s Time
Valuing people’s time falls into the subset of activities called ‘treat others as you would like to be treated. Don’t expect others to be happy about waiting for you to start a meeting. Be on time for your events and calls.
Equally, when you have people in a meeting, then stick to the agenda. Finish on time. Everyone has other things that they can be getting on with instead of listening to you ramble on in a meeting that looks like it will never finish.
Another way to make it clear that you value your team’s time is to ask if they have a second to talk before you launch into your request. Check that they are okay to be interrupted right now. If they are about to go into a meeting or they are in the middle of a complex task, then schedule a time to chat later.
Value their holiday time, too. Don’t expect your team members to be picking up emails or voicemails while they are on vacation (and you shouldn’t do that either – it’s called a vacation for a reason).
A final tip for making a good impression is to quickly get to grips with the project tools in use in your new team (and if they aren’t using anything, implement some fast). ProjectManager is so easy to use that it will take you barely any time to get started and create your new project. Take a free 30-day trial.