An article written in letter form to a fictional character called Mariam. The contents of this letter are based on what the Author actually did and said in a real conversation with new team members. May the idea inspire you to tweaking or overhauling how you do team onboarding/induction.


Dear Mariam

Welcome to the team. I’m so glad you decided to join us.

You’ve obviously seen some things you like, and I hope you are starting to imagine how you can contribute to the team.

I am keen to have you play to your strengths and draw from your experience – these were things I saw, through the recruitment process, that led to you being chosen to join the team. However, I’m also interested to learn more about your perspective on what your time with this team looks like.

Let’s start with something that probably seems a bit radical.

You probably think of me (and this organisation) as your employer. Because I lead teams with a Self unLimited mindset,  I want you to think of me (and this organisation) as your client, and you are a provider of services. I’m intentional about this because it helps shift both of us to a better power dynamic. Clients and Service Providers coexist for mutual benefit and value creation. As your client, I’ll have a view of what value I’d like to gain from you, but you’ll also have a perspective on what value you have to offer and seek to create for yourself.

Your Self unLimited! Mariam unLimited: That’s the name of your Service Provider entity. And there’s lots for you to think about and decide, as the leader of Mariam unLimited. I’ll be encouraging you to do that thinking and make decisions that are right for you; and with the expectation that we’ll find and enact mutually beneficial decisions for us both. If this idea has got your intrigued, there’s a book to delve into this further.

So what’s our working relationship going to be? I’m not your parent; you’re not my child. I’m not your master; you’re not my slave or servant. So we’ll have a different relationship than you might have experienced on previous teams. I’m here to get value created for the organisation: From what I contribute and create; and what you create or contribute. This means there’s lots of room for initiative, and using your talents and experience to make a substantive impact. Expect that I’ll probably ask you more questions, then give you answers. And I don’t expect you to have quick answers, it will be something for you or us to be thinking about.

A key question when we meet for regular one-to-one session will be: How can I help? You need to come ready with your thoughts about what you seek from me, as well as what you want to bring to my attention.  These sessions are your time – please think about how you can best use them, to discover what might be needed and what is worth doing and contributing.

One activity will do together is your Professional Enrichment Plan. We don’t do Professional Development Plans here. Two key aspects of our team culture are learning and growth – for self and the whole team; for now and intermediate needs, and for the longer perspective beyond this team. In your Professional Enrichment Plan – which you write, not me (and for which you decide the majority of content, not me) – there will be things to learn, as well as things to practice, things to experience, and things to do for/with others. It’s enrichment because it’s also about focus on self-care, attending to your energies and emotions and what enables you to do your best work.

Some of the plan I’ll agree to fund and enable. Some of the plan will be up to you to fund and enable. I’m here with suggestions to help you get into this mindset – if you want them. (That’s one of those situations where you might have questions and I’ll have answers, not because I’m the Team Lead, but because you can access one of my strengths, which is ideas. And I’m a passionate advocate as Team Leader, of having each individual play to their strengths for the benefit of self and the team.)

You’ve joined a team of valuable people – so you have access to lots of knowledge and assistance (of which you can also contribute to your teammates). I’m not going to tell you what are our values, what’s important to us, about the team members, or how we work. That’s for you to discover and understand from multiple perspectives. So your first activity is an internal research project.

Your mission is to interview everyone on the team, find out stuff and write up a report for me and the team. All team members do this when they start. At our next one-to-one session, I’ll go through the details about what, how and when. This is a great way to get to know about your teammates, the team, and to introduce yourself. Fair warning: It’s also a real project, so you and I can get a real sense of your current capability and your potential for autonomous and teamwork. (We’ll do your Professional Enrichment Plan after this research activity as it might gain you valuable insights to shape your plan. )

One aspect you will cover is what the team is currently focusing on as Team Development. We don’t just learn individually. We learn together about things that can help us work best as a team. In the team’s Activity Time Budget,  I’ve made this a priority and allocated 5% time for this. (There’s also 5% allocated for Professional Enrichment). This can be one of those topics to learn more about from your teammates.

So we’ve made a start. Please take some time to think about other things you’d like to know or explore. I’m open to anything, truly! Remember, I’m your client, not your ‘boss’ – so I’m expecting you to take the initiative to ‘serve’ me and the team’s mission.

I’m so pleased to have you on the team. Let’s make it your best team experience yet.

Warm regards
Helen Palmer
Team Lead



Helen Palmer is founder of Questo. She deeply believes in the potential of teams that find their rhythm working together as an ensemble of talented individuals. Her ‘small’ ideas – turned into practical activities – have been put into practice with big impact for ensemble teams. Some of these ideas have now been packaged into short powerful sessions at affordable prices, so Team Lead’s everywhere can infuse positive modern change in their team ensemble. Explore with Helen about what’s a good fit for you, today!


Photo by Gia Oris on Unsplash

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