How connected do you feel to other members of your team these days? If your team is working remotely, connected only by Slack and Zoom, it might be hard to sustain a sense of teamwork. Research shows that workers who have a sense of teamwork are more productive and have greater job satisfaction. But Virtual Happy Hours and other “team-building” efforts only go so far.
As a leader, how can you reinforce the benefits of working well together?
I recently remembered an exercise adapted from the work of Dennis Sandow. It’s a simple exercise with powerful results. It produces greater awareness and appreciation of the people we rely on to “get stuff done.”
This might be an interesting exercise to try at your next team meeting. But first I would suggest you do it yourself with a partner. Here are the steps:
Find a partner to do this exercise with.
- Reflect on something you have accomplished in any area of your life in the past six to twelve months. Something you are proud of. Write that down.
- Write down the names of all the people who helped you achieve that goal. It doesn’t need to be people on your team or in your family.
- Share with your partner how it feels to reflect on that accomplishment. Do you feel pride? Gratitude? A sense of completion? Fully experience the feelings as you’re sharing them.
- Hand your paper to your partner. Ask the partner to randomly cross off three or four names on the list and hand it back to you.
Now, imagine the people whose names have been crossed off are not available to help you again. How would that affect your performance? Your feelings of positivity? What has been lost? How do you feel as you reflect on the people missing from the list?
Then, mentally add those people back to the list. Reflect on what the people on your list did to help you accomplish the result you’re proud of. Maybe one person gave you moral support when you were feeling down. Perhaps another person did childcare so you could concentrate on your goal. Just knowing another person was there for you if you needed him gave you the confidence to proceed.
Whatever it was, pay attention to what worked in that situation that you want to sustain.
Once you’re complete, switch with your partner and work through the steps with them.
Afterward, reflect together on what you’ve learned that you want to be more mindful of going forward.
I did this exercise once with people who worked in hospital settings. After completing the exercise, the discussion was lively. People commented on how essential each person on their list was to their collective success. In a hospital setting, how well a team worked together could be a life and death matter. As well as successful results, participants also felt well-being through collaboration with others. As a result, people left our meeting feeling even more committed to strengthening collaboration among the people they knew.
Doing this exercise with your team could be an antidote to increasing disconnect as we move deeper into our second COVID winter. When you remind yourself of your accomplishments and the people you relied on to make them happen, you’re drawing upon two potent sources of well being. Next time you’re trying to figure out how to engage your team, give this exercise a try. Of course, you’ll have to make a few adaptations to doing it remotely. I have confidence you’ll figure it out!
P.S. What are some other ways to get your team to work well together? Here’s a fantastic article on the 5 qualities of the most effective teams based on extensive research. Practical tips, too! Check it out.
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Deborah Reidy is founder and president of Reidy Associates, a coaching and consulting service established in 1996. Reidy Associates works with nonprofit, government and industry leaders to help them create cultures that encourage inspiration, accountability and results.
She holds a MEd in Adult Education and a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) designation from the International Coach Federation.
In 2012, she published a book on leadership for families of people with disabilities entitled Why Not Lead?, based on her highly successful leadership development programs. She also blogs regularly on leadership topics. Deborah and her husband Jim live in Southampton and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.