Blog – From You to We

Have you ever noticed that when someone initially joins your company, department, or team, for a while, they talk about the group as, “you as opposed to “we. They ask questions such as, “How do you do this? or “Where do you keep this information on the computer system?

Then suddenly, one day, almost imperceptibly, it happens. They make the shift from “you to “we. The change will be subtle, so you’ll have to listen for it carefully and watch for it closely.

You’ll hear the transition in statements, such as, “How have we handled situations like this in the past? or “What were we trying to accomplish when we made this decision?

When the shift happens, it’s not just a shift in words… it’s a change in attitude. Even more importantly, it’s a change in behavior that demonstrates their commitment to the organization and their sense of connection to their co-workers.

Making the Shift
You can’t mandate this change by simply telling them to say, “my team rather than “your team. However, you can impact the transition by including the new individuals in discussions and decisions. Rather than telling new people how “things are done around here, accept that you’ve hired them for their experience and ask them how they did things where they used to work. During the hiring process, people are very concerned with the knowledge and experience an individual will bring to the team. Yet, once they get onboard, the new people are expected to follow existing processes and let go of old methods from their former organization. People will be more connected to the new group when they feel that their experience and opinions are valued.

The shift from “you to “we can further be accelerated when the current members of the team take proactive steps to get to know the new members. It’s all too easy to go out to lunch with the same people every day and neglect the new people. It’s only natural to check in with the same folks each morning or ask them about their weekend. After all, we are creatures of habit. Remember that new people have to acclimate to both the new job and the new work environment, and get to know the people. If you’re already a part of the team, it’s much easier for you to make the effort than it is for them.

This transformation can also be accelerated by a process that has come to be known as “onboarding. Onboarding means getting people up to speed as quickly as possible so that they can be efficient and get desired results. Effective onboarding goes beyond that. When a person is new to your team, whether they are new to your organization or not, they need to disconnect from their previous organization or group, and form new connections with the new people.

Remember back to when you first joined your current team or organization. For a while, you may have kept in contact with your old group, but as you developed new relationships, the old ones faded away. When new people start reaching out to their current team rather than their former one, the transition is taking place. Within a few weeks, people should be talking about the team as our team, not your team. Their words should convey that they have taken ownership of their role in the group and have made the psychological commitment to the new team. Once this happens, loyalty to team and its members can become strong. If they don’t make the transition quickly, you run the risk of losing them. The rapid assimilation of an individual into the team benefits everyone from the new individual to the team to the organization as a whole.

So, the next time you get a new member on your team, do whatever you can to help them make the shift from “you to “we.