I can’t take it anymore!!! What is team building?
After 20 years of traveling all over the world and working with the top of fortune 100 companies and the bottom of lots of others, I have hit my breaking point. I’ve been doing leadership development, communication seminars and “teambuilding” and many of my own clients are still wondering… What is teambuilding? I’m wondering what they really want from me. I’m not sure anybody really knows. I might not even know. But at this point, I’m as big an expert as I can find, so I am going to try and help define this beast for all of us. The definition has become so broad, so overused that some people are beginning to confuse “team hazing” as teambuilding and I don’t really want to be a part of that. Do you…?
As Sr. Event Manager for Odyssey I have the pleasure of being on the inside track and planning the Life Cycle’s Programs, as well as other programs within the company. I find it hard to believe sometimes that it is a job. I never thought a job would give me to opportunity to change children’s lives, thousands of children’s lives.
One of my most memorable “life changing” experiences took place last year. We were doing a roll out with a large company. It involved planning programs that were going on simultaneously, stretching from California all the way to Florida. There is no describing the hours and hours of work that went into planning these programs. On the last day in Chicago, exhausted and more emotional then ever, my life changed.
These children were from Southside Chicago. If you have never heard of Southside, it is not surprising. They see things everyday that most people never experience. They come from single parent families, if they have a parent at all. Discipline is not a part of most of their lives.
There was one particular teenage girl that stood out that day. She had attitude. The way that she treated one of the Boys and Girls club directors was inappropriate. Oddly, I was nervous to tell this 11 year old girl that she was out of line. By reprimanding her it made her respect me. She went on to explain how she did not like this director and that she did not have to listen to her. After going back and forth she agreed that she would just not speak to her.
I watched this child’s attitude change right in front of my eyes. The moment the doors opened and she realized she was getting a bike, not just a bike but an opportunity, an experience, a moment to feel special, my life changed. It made truly realize how lucky I am and how to be better with the children I work with. She came up to me with tears in her eyes and gave me this immense hug. She apologized to me, the exchange that we had has pushed me to work so hard for these kids. It is amazing what a bike can do.
Change all your negative thinking about the people who do not fit in. These people on the edges are just that. They are the most important part of our schools and your business, our communities and the world. They are like the edge pieces of a great puzzle. Take time now to think about who is on the edge in your life. Homeless people, bullies, nerds, your crazy uncle and so on. It is our job as leadership teachers and leaders in business to find them and fit them in first. Our reflex is to avoid them and label them as trouble makers or unmotivated dead wood. Think about it. When you are putting a puzzle together, you don’t go right for the middle. The easy part that holds the key image of the picture. No. You look for the edge pieces. The apparently unimportant pieces when the picture is together. You know the people who do not fit in at work or at school. Don’t avoid them. Search them out. Look for the corner pieces. The ones that appear to cause the most trouble or have almost nothing in common with the rest of the work team. These are the most vital points of your puzzle. I know they are not as much fun as the middle and when it is all together they don’t get the focus or the praise. But, they hold it together. You know it and I know it. So make a list and get started. In a subtle way let them know how valuable they are. No matter how small or how big your puzzle is you will always have edges and corners. Even in the smallest family or work team. The middle will fall together as a result. Give them the value they deserve. You can do it!
Look around your business or school today. You can see the diverse environment our kids are growing up in. Many people are cast out and find themselves lost in a feeling of misfit hopelessness. Kind of like the toys on the classic Rudolph the red nose rain deer movie. Only this time they are real lives. They are lives as important and with as much potential as yours and mine. Sons and daughters, feeling lost and without hope and without a place in the picture. After school they grow up and take this same hopelessness into the workplace. What should leaders do about this reality?
So often we see teams working on the plays and not the other stuff. They practice play after play before the players are fitting together. Coming up with more and more complex systems and processes and thinking that success is automatic if they can just come up with the next greatest formation. Heart. The pulse of the team is the key. You cannot win if you have no heart of a team and that must be discovered buy each person connecting to the purpose. They can never forget to focus on the reason they are together. The patiently prepare each person for their role and put the right kind of people in the right position. Teamwork or die. All football players must see their role as MVP material and visa versa. They all matter and they all win together or loose together. That is the fact.
Solutions to the teamwork challenges in Chapter 1 are tough to come by. We at Odyssey know a few things about taking the worst teams and making them the best. To keep it as simple as possible. First step, remind them why they have been put together. Remind them all the time! In as many ways as you can. Make the team objective personal to each of them and show them how the overall goal will benefit each of them. Do you think a professional football coach doesn’t remind his team about a little goal called the Super Bowl. They do. Everyday, in as many ways as they can. They then remind them of the few key behaviors that will get them there. They practice those behaviors and never stray. They then prepare each player for the role they will play in the overall goal. Blocker, defense and quarterback. The key is putting the right people in the right positions. Match the skills and interests of each and celebrate all the roles as equal. The final step, the easy step is to learn a few plays. Each team can run the same plays as every other team in the league. The difference is the other stuff. What is missing from the success of your team is probably not in the play you are running but in the commitment, the heart, of each player on the field.
At the heart of every business are people. Lots of them! Working as a team. Leading teams, making teams, restructuring old teams and shifting teams around. We all want to be the MVP of the team we are a part of. Are you one of the many that have found yourself looking across a conference room table at a bunch of your “team mates” waiting to figure out who is the real leader, who will get drunk on the first business trip and who will break the ice with the most inappropriate comment. The kind of comment that would make human resources give up hope. A slow and painful game of survivor unfolds as clicks are formed and alliances are created and tested. Some find themselves on the outside looking in. Some are right back in High School running for class clown or class president. Heaven forbid times get tough and the outcasts will be cast out and the “in” group will circle the wagons and protect each other. Never mind the real work that should be getting done. The politics and positioning take center stage and surviving becomes the number one goal. This situation is real and common. It will never work in football and it will never work on the long term for any company. Teamwork how do we navigate the traps and challenges? Seek and you will find the answers in your own motivations and personal faults. The
The mistake of many companies is to stiffly personal ownership thinking. To hope that people will fall in line with the rest of the prisoners and drive themselves into a level of contribution and performance that would convince them never to leave the comfort, mediocrity and security or the big company. Leaving it to a few high performers to provide for the many. This will not work long term for either party. The heart of teamwork comes down to individual work in alignment and in sync with others and with passion and accountability. The way only a true owner works. Own your company called you and bring as much value as possible to your one and only client, big company “X”.
Wake up tomorrow and go to work for yourself. You are the sole proprietor of your one person company. You have the freedom to move your service to any industry and any company. You take your resources, skills and assets with you. You get 100% of the profit. What you have “become” is the “X” factor that will make you a success or drive you into bankruptcy. You can seek out companies with missions that are in line with your personal little company mission statement and use the foundations of these organizations, not to prop you up, but to propel you and your one person business to the top of your own little industry. In turn you will bring the most value possible to the company you partner with. Eventually becoming an irreplaceable supplier of your one of a kind service for that company. Today you own it. Act like you do.
If you read my previous blog about ownership and who you work for, you might be feeling a little defensive or uncomfortable, good for you. You are learning something and realizing that you have more to offer. You have quietly been waiting. At least one to ninety nine percent of you is now crying out for you to take control of your life and stop playing the “I just work here” game. Powerful teams are built with owners. The kind of people that see work as personal and believe they are an integral part of everything. If each person in Home Depot realized that they work for themselves. That every time they help a customer, or don’t help a customer it is a reflection on them personally. Home Depot would put Lowes out of business in a few months. If each person is any organization felt a deep sense of pride and connection to their work and how that “job” was an extension of their purpose. Their role is an extension of their place in the universe and their unique opportunity to bring some value to the world. In turn they would receive recognition, satisfaction and yes a paycheck. Their life would be better and the bottom line would reflect that vision.