By Michael Nylund

The first few weeks on a new contract are an exciting, yet crucial time. It’s a balancing act of performance and validating the reasons the client brought you on all while integrating yourself into a new team.

In my time as a consultant, I’ve found consultants often join existing teams in the middle of on-going projects. For these reasons, they do not have the luxury of slowly integrating into company and team culture. Further, because they’re hired for their specific expertise, consultants are expected to add value early. Due to these pressures, new consultants are focused on finding early wins for themselves to demonstrate their value. While this can be effective, this internal focus can paint the picture that the consultant is not a team player and even alienate them from their new team. 

To be successful as a new team member in an unfamiliar culture, I’ve identified a few key areas to focus on when you start your next contract to provide a framework for success and catalyze your integration into the team:

Assess. When working with a new team, consultants should listen carefully in team meetings and, as much as possible, establish early 1:1s with team members.  Ask team members what they’re trying to accomplish, what barriers they encounter and look for ways you can add value.

Identify gaps. Do team members have meetings established with the resources needed to move the project forward? Is the team communicating effectively? Could the team benefit from more internal communication or are they overwhelmed with meetings and need more independent time to work? Identify areas for improvement and begin to take note on how you might solve for these.

Create early wins for team members.  Once you have an understanding of what your team needs and where gaps are, you’ll have a clearer path to taking action. By applying your outside expertise and fresh energy to these problems, you can identify opportunities to remove barriers or incorporate new resources.  Establishing early wins for your team rather than yourself multiplies your impact and builds trust.