When was the last time you started something new?  A new sport? A new job? A new volunteer team?  New is often exciting – and along with the excitement come questions like, “how do I do this?

A few years ago I had a conversation with a friend who (as far as I could tell) was jumping onto a volunteer team for the first time at our church.  She had always seemed to be a highly involved person so I thought it was interesting that it took her years to connect onto a team.

In talking with her about volunteering she told me an interesting story.  She said she had tried to join a team about 5 years earlier – she signed up and showed up ready to learn.  When she arrived she was thrown right into the mix of the team.  Being a go-getter she gave it a number of weeks to try and figure out what she was doing – but eventually she felt overwhelmed by what she didn’t know.  So, she stopped showing up to serve.  And she stayed on the sidelines…for 5 years!

That conversation helped remind me of the importance of good training experiences when people join a team.  Whether those are corporate trainings (large in nature) or one-on-one trainings doesn’t matter – the important thing is having a plan for training.

There are a few essential elements to a good training experience no matter the type of team:

Inspiration – People need to know the mission of the team; the reason the team exists.  Inspire people by giving them a context for the work of the team and the picture of what positive future exists because of your work.

Information – People don’t know what they don’t know.  Impart to people timely information and wisdom that will help them as they begin to engage on the team.  They don’t need to know everything up front; they just need a framework for how things work and how to make the greatest impact.

Interaction – While information feeds the mind, people also need tactile experiences to get comfortable on the team.  Provide training that allows people to try things out and get their hands dirty while dialoging with others about the team.  Interaction allows new people to ask questions and begin showing the initial skillset that they bring.

Initiation – Perhaps most easily overlooked, you have to give people a way to feel initiated onto the team.  Athletes experience this by the donning of the team jersey or cap. Fraternities are known for having intense initiation rituals. (You might not like what they do – but people know when they have been initiated!) Provide a meaningful moment when new people can feel like they have transitioned from outsider to team member.