As your company grows, so will your team. That first team meeting with a new team is essential to set a positive tone and foster a psychologically safe environment. 

“Whether you’re taking over an existing team or starting a new one, it’s critical to devote time and energy to establishing how you want your team to work, not just what you want them to achieve.”

Carolyn O’Hara

Why does preparing for your first team meeting matter?

You don’t write a test without studying – most of the time – so why would you hold a meeting without preparing? 

The best thing you can do to achieve the amazing meeting you’ve been manifesting is to PREPARE! This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many meetings I’ve attended that were clearly not prepared.

And I’m sure you too have a story or two to tell about your own experiences with unprepared meetings. Let me guess, they go something like this:

  • Zero outcomes
  • No action items
  • Waste of valuable time
  • No purpose
  • No assigned roles

The list could go on.

Therefore, it is important to prepare for your first team meeting by creating a meeting agenda, sharing it with meeting attendees ahead of time, and assigning clear meeting roles (and rotating them).

6 topics for your first meeting with the new team

1 Getting to know each other

Getting to know your team members is especially important if you want to build trust (and trust me, you do!). By getting to know your team members, you are showing them that you want to build a relationship with them. This will ultimately create a more psychologically safe environment and foster more collaboration. 

So, it is important as a manager to encourage team members to get to know each other. This can be achieved by introducing icebreakers in your first team meeting with new team members. 

Here are a few examples of team building questions:

Personal icebreakers 
  • What are your hobbies outside of work?
  • What does your perfect day off look like?
  • What do you like to do on the weekend?
Music, books, and/or movie icebreakers
  • Who is your favourite artist?
  • What is your favourite book?
  • What is your favourite reality tv show? 
Travel and adventure icebreaker
  • Where have you travelled to?
  • What is your dream vacation?
  • Do you prefer spontaneous or planned adventures?
History-themed icebreakers
  • If you could meet any historical figure, who would you meet?
  • If you could live in another generation, which one would you choose?
  • If you had a time machine, would you travel to the past or future? What would you do there?
Food and/or drink icebreakers
  • What is your least favourite restaurant?
  • What is your go-to snack?
  • Do you prefer ordering in or eating out?
“This or that” icebreakers
  • Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
  • Would you rather be able to teleport or time travel?
  • Would you rather go to space or get to travel the world for free for a year?

2 About your manager (+ what you stand for)

As a manager, it is important to share your values and what you stand for. According to Carolyn O’Hara, Harvard Business Review contributor, managers should explain their priorities, decision-making processes, and how they evaluate their teams’ individual and collective performance. 

This is important to include in team meetings when new team members join in order to ensure new members know your values and what you stand for and to serve as a reminder to current team members. 

For example, Tsedal Neeley explains that there are two types of trust – swift trust and passable trust. Swift trust is the idea that team members decide to trust each other almost immediately, only losing trust when given a reason to. Whereas passable trust is the idea that trust is more permanent and doesn’t have an expectation for a deeper connection. So, if you value one trust over another, it is important to communicate this with your team members. 

“By communicating your vision and values, you will show your team that you’re committed to a healthy degree of transparency.”

– O’Hara.

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to build trust within your team by having a collaborative meeting agenda to address everyone’s talking points and questions.

3 Feedback (stop, start, continue)

Feedback is how we improve, therefore, giving your team members feedback is a very important task as a manager. However, as a manager, sometimes we get caught up in giving feedback while forgetting to ask for our own. 

Asking your team members for feedback anonymously is a great tip for managers to ensure they are also evaluating themself. By asking for anonymous feedback, you are more likely to get truthful answers – nobody’s going to publicly critique their boss! For example, holding anonymous polls after meetings asking team members for feedback on how to improve team meetings. 

Another way to get feedback as a manager is to use the “stop, start, continue” method. According to Thomas J. DeLong, there are three questions you should ask yourself in each phase of the method:

1. Stop

  • Are you hearing that you should quit doing something that you feel is a skill or strength?
  • Is your first response that quitting this behavior will have catastrophic consequences?
  • On reflection, is it possible that you’ve fallen into a behavioral rut? If you stop doing one thing, might you have an opportunity to try something new and different?

2. Keep

  • Is there something you’re doing right that people feel you should do more of?
  • Have you been dismissive of this particular behavior or skill for some reason?
  • What might happen if you used this “keep” more? How might it impact your effectiveness and satisfaction with your job?

3. Start

  • Are people recommending you do something that feels foreign or scary?
  • What about it makes you anxious? Is it because you are afraid of looking like you don’t know what you’re doing?
  • Why are people suggesting you start doing this new thing? What benefits do they feel will accrue to you, your group, or your organization?

4 Communication expectations

Communicating your expectations is a great way to ensure that new team members know how to act. O’Hara suggests having team members share their best and worst work experiences to help your team learn good and bad dynamics to implement or avoid and ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Also according to O’Hara, it’s the role of the leader to set expectations and explain processes. Failure to do so may lead to an environment where team members feel left out, unsure, and hesitant to contribute. 

“Discussing those good and bad dynamics will help everyone get on the same page about what behavior they want to encourage — and avoid — going forward.”

5 Questions from the team

In every meeting, it is important to allow time for questions. However, this is especially important in the first team meeting because you are providing team members with a lot of new information and setting the tone for future meetings.

We’ve all been in a meeting where we are confused over something but are saying in our heads “is this a stupid question?” or “am I the only one with this question?”. 

Well, guess what… NO questions are stupid questions and if you are wondering, so are others! Therefore, as a manager, it is important to provide a safe, judgment-free space for questions.

6 Action items and meeting recap

It is important to include action items in your meeting agenda, especially with a new team as they tell team members what their next steps will be. For “veteran” employees, they may be able to delegate their own action items based on what was discussed in the meeting. However, for new employees, providing as much guidance as possible is important. 

Furthermore, even the most veteran employees forget things. Therefore, by recording action items in a note-taking tool, like Fellow, you can ensure that your employees know what is expected of them and hold them accountable for their tasks. 

It is also important to include a meeting recap (which includes action items) so that missed attendees can be informed on decisions made and action items assigned. 

First team meeting agenda

Starting your first team meeting with a new team can feel like a lot of pressure. You want to make a good impression and set a positive tone while ensuring that your meeting is productive and delightful. 

Use this first team meeting agenda template to set the tone for success and achieve the meeting you’ve been manifesting!

3 do’s and don’ts 

According to O’Hara, there are 3 do’s and 3 don’ts for your first team meeting with a new team:

1. Do’s

  • Be clear about what goes into your decision making and how you’ll evaluate the team’s progress
  • Encourage team members to connect — better communication early on will help avoid misunderstandings and poor results later
  • Look for roadblocks or grievances you can fix — it will earn you capital and inspire the team

2. Don’t:

  • Jump into trying to accomplish the work without building relationships with the team
  • Assume that new team members understand how you or others work ­— take the time to explain processes and expectations.
  • Be afraid to communicate often early on — you can always pull back when the team is working well

Parting advice

Limit the stress of holding the “perfect” meeting with your new team by following the above advice! Using Fellow’s tools, you can ensure that your meetings are productive and delightful by following our first team meeting agenda template that each team member can collaborate on. 

As always, thank you for reading and we can’t wait to see you rocking your new team meeting!