Leave your ego at the door: four tips for joining a new team

We’ve all been the team newbie at some point. On a sporting field surrounded by unfamiliar faces, or on the first day in a new job, it’s never easy joining a new team.

Twice in the past 12 months, I have found myself in similar circumstances, as the new guy parachuting into an established team structure. It’s bloody daunting, but what it has taught me is that there are several key tactics you can use to break the ice, find your place and start adding value from the get-go.

By way of explanation, I actually had a pretty interesting tour of duty in 2018 that saw me take the field across all four levels of rugby in Australia. The circumstances that led me to play in the Shute Shield club competition and the National Rugby Championship (NRC) might not have been particularly lucky (through being injured due to a calf tear, or also a lack of game time in preparation for a Wallabies campaign). Yet I still count myself extremely fortunate to have fronted up for my beloved Sydney University Students in the Shute Shield final against Warringah, and also to run out for the Sydney Rays down in Victoria against the Melbourne Rising. There are also been games for my regular club side, the NSW Waratahs, as well as rep duties with the Wallabies in what turned out to be an extremely diverse year.

I say fortunate, because I had the opportunity to learn what it takes to enter an established team and get results as quickly as possible. This was partly about finding my place and working out how I could best serve the team, as the outsider joining a group who train and play together, week-in and week-out.

In my specific case, there were also critics who didn’t agree with the rationale for sending me to join the Students in the Shute Shield final – having only played one game for them in 2018, earlier in the season – as a way of building my match fitness for the Wallabies. With extra scrutiny, I needed to dive straight in, yet simultaneously walk on tiptoes so as not to upset their structure.

There were four key things I learned from the challenging, but rewarding, experience of being the team newbie, and they can be just as relevant in the workplace as on the sporting field.

Get personal

The first and most important thing for me was to learn everyone’s name and get to know them. It wasn’t that hard in my case, because they are all great blokes. It’s amazing how often you find that you’re surrounded by like-minded people. If possible, do some research in advance that helps start conversations. Once you get comfortable with a few names, keep building them up. Grab a chat between drills or at the water cooler. Barriers tumble as you build rapport.

Tip: You might want to stay away from nicknames to start, even if someone introduces themselves that way. Earn the right to use it.

Find your space

Next for me was making sure that I was trying to learn their system, their way of doing things and fitting in. Understanding how they go about it gives you time to adjust without treading on toes, showing you’re a team player.

Tip: Have a voice, but don’t try to take over or change things. Leave your ego at the door.

Bring your A-game

I make sure that from the very first moment, I’m doing all the one-percenters. For me that’s stretching and activating before every session, being detail-focused on the plays and the theory side of the game (notes, notes, notes), or staying around after the session to do extra skills.

Tip: It’s through your actions that you show others you want to be part of their team. Rip into it!

Enjoy it

Yep, it’s daunting initially but honestly, some of my fondest memories of 2018 have been playing alongside the blokes in these teams. I consider myself fortunate to not only play a part on the field, but also to have made countless new mates.

Joining a new team give you the chance to enhance your skill set, network across similar fields and even the chance to change up your routine. It’s exciting, and a lot of fun.