A leader running her first workshop

5 Useful Steps To Successfully Run Your First Team Workshop As A New Leader

Many posts in this toolkit give you tips on how to introduce yourself to your team and get to know the team members. But it is not only important to get to know the individual team members, but also the team dynamics and the interaction between them. Where better to do this than in a team workshop? These 5 tips will help you to conduct a successful first-team workshop.

Why a team workshop?

The goal of a first-team workshop is to provide a space for you and the team to get an understanding of each other’s working styles, communication patterns, and content priorities early on. This way everyone can work well together as quickly as possible. I recommend that you do this workshop in your first month after you have had a 1:1 conversation with each team member and managed to get an initial overview of the content topics in the team. 

The structure of the first team workshop suggested here is based on the “New Manager Assimilation Program”, which has become established in many companies:

  • 09:00 Start & introduction by you (goal, workshop rules,… )
  • 09:10 Look into the past 
  • 10:30 Coffee break
  • 10:45 Answers to the team’s questions for you 
  • 11:00 Look into the future
  • 12:15 Action plan
  • 12:30 End – Lunch together (optional) 

Preparation

You should plan at least half a day for the first team workshop, but you can adapt and extend the times presented here with your team as you wish.

Ideally, you should meet outside the office, as it is easier to keep your mind free of operational issues! If you want to do it in the office, a different meeting room than the one you usually use is recommended. This also shows to your team “Something is different, we actually take time for us as a team”. If you want to do the workshop virtually, this is of course also possible, you need a video platform (Zoom, etc.) and a virtual pinboard (Miro, etc.). 

You can be the moderator, maybe you have internal moderators in your organisation or an external moderator can support you. If you are both the new leader of the team AND the facilitator of the workshop, I recommend you to use symbolically “2 hats”, the one of the facilitator, and then verbalise when you add something to the conversation with your “leadership hat”.

Preparation also includes preparing the flip charts or virtual boards with the questions below. Additional equipment for a physical workshop includes sufficient flip-chart sheets, enough markers (at least one per person), and tape to stick the flip-chart sheets to the walls of your workshop room. 

A look into the past

After an introduction by you to start off the workshop, the first task is to look into the history of the team. To do this, hang up the flip charts with questions 1-5 (one question on each flip-chart paper) on the walls in the room. Each team member gets a big marker and has 30 minutes to write down their answers to the questions individually or in pairs.

  • What do we already know about our new leader?
  • What do we not yet know, but would like to know? 
  • What should our new team leader know about us as a team? 
  • What were our biggest challenges last year? How did we solve them?
  • What are we proud of in our team?

As a leader, you can leave the room during this time. If you have not yet shared your leader manifesto with your team, you can also use this time to compile the most important points on a flip chart for a presentation afterwards.

In plenary with everyone, your team then has 20 minutes to debrief you on the flip charts or you can extend the time to talk intensively about the topics. You can plan 10 minutes for yourself to present your leader manifesto and give your team a glimpse into your own past.

During the coffee break, you can think of answers to the questions on flip chart no. 2 (“What do we not yet know, but would like to know?”). You then share these for about 15 minutes after the break. 

Look into the future

Now it is time to look into the future. Have the team work on the following questions on two more flip chart papers on the walls:

  • What do we see as the biggest challenges for the next year? What suggestions do we have to overcome them?
  • What support do we want from our new team leader?

In parallel, you will work on similar questions:

  • What do I see as the biggest challenges for the next year?
  • What are my expectations of the team?

Take 20 minutes for brainstorming and at least 30 minutes for debriefing or discussing how you want to work together in the future.

Wrapping up

Write down the actions discussed on an action plan (who/will do what/with whom/by when?). It is a good idea to have an informal lunch together and/or to use the afternoon to discuss operational issues, e.g. annual objectives, etc.

This first team workshop will help you understand each other better and find a common direction for the team for the coming months. Investing in #TeamTime is always time well invested!  

Would you like to feel even stronger supported in your first leadership role? Check out our free video tutorial “Essentials for first-time leader” and a free checklist for the first 100 days.

Katrin also offers 1:1 coaching for first-time leaders and her Leadership Foundation Programme for a cohort of 6 first-time leaders.

photo by Lucie Greiner