There is no time in New York like the weeks of the U.S. Open. I’m not a big tennis fan, but I do love competition, dedication, and celebration. Something happens to the city in those weeks: it becomes electrified as the competition builds, like the national fervor of March Madness all packed into one city. Fans flood the city wearing tennis gear and trek to Queens to sit in the sun for hours. Often, the most exciting matches are found on the smaller outer courts, where up-and-coming stars duke it out for a chance to appear on the main stage.
At the same time, I’m uncomfortable with my love of the U.S. Open. Tennis is a sport that requires a lot of resources to play and to watch. It isn’t a game that easily crosses socioeconomic barriers. And understanding tennis has a code: scoring is counted in non-sequential increments – sometimes not with numbers but words, you must win by two, except in the cases when you can win by one, men and women’s games are scored differently, clothing is highly standardized, there are two sets of lines, and sometimes you get two chances, but other times you don’t. And that’s just playing; if you’re watching tennis, there are another set of rules. No cheering until the point is over, until recently that cheering was limited to polite applause, at certain events attendees dress up, but not at others. Even if you can cross the economic barrier to entry, how do you learn about the terms and rules for playing or watching tennis? It is exclusionary by its very nature.
The same thing happens when you join a company. Figuring out how to dress appropriately for your role in various settings: the office, client meetings, sponsored social events, can be overwhelming. Never mind the labyrinth of acronyms and special terms each company creates: they make work faster once you know them, but they can be a beast to learn. It’s easy to find yourself outside the social fence, an outsider, unable to concentrate on your actual work until you figure out the code going on around you.
Don’t leave your employees on the other side of the fence. Well-researched onboarding programs clue them into the code that is your organization has created. Creating a welcoming environment means more than lunch with the boss on your first day, although that is important too. Give them the rulebook – and only put rules in it that are actually enforced. If you write down rules that don’t apply, it leads to worse confusion than no rules. Make the implicit explicit: tell them about unspoken rules or practices. Create a shared dictionary of your acronyms and terms. Let them watch a few of your ‘matches,’ and tell them what to look for when they are observing. When they go to practice for the first time, provide them the support and feedback they need so they know what parts of their game they need to work on. All of these tactics can take your team to center court. Inqune can partner with you to get you there.