The first lesson in Team Building 101 is “open up and listen up”! No need for notetaking or quizzes here. Just open your mind and you’ll reach the head of the class in no time.
Team Building 101: What to consider before you communicate
Remember the teacher in Charles Shultz’s comic strip Peanuts? When Miss Othmar, the teacher, spoke, all students heard was “Wonk Wonk Wonk Wonk Wonk”! Neither Linus or the rest of the Peanuts gang understood a word she said. They just sat politely, stared straight ahead, and tuned her out.
Peanuts debuted in 1950, but the truth is that more than 70 years later, nobody has mastered “Wonk.” You can’t communicate if you’re not understood. Reading the temperature of the room is great, but knowing your audience is better.
Speaking of oldies-but-goodies: one of my faves is the 1969 movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Remember what the Sundance Kid famously asked about the posse chasing him and Butch? “Who are these guys?!”
Well, follow his example and ask yourself the same question about your posse. And I’m not just talking about gender, race, or educational level—they’re just demographics, cold hard figures.
I’m talking about warm, fuzzy “people” stuff. So who are these guys? Why are they here—what are their professional aspirations? What do they care about personally? How are they important to your team? I know that warm and fuzzy are not part of the corporate wheelhouse, but it won’t kill you to give it a try, right? And if you do, it might just kill the competition, right?
Team Building 101: Open up and listen up!
Speaking of which, when a member of your staff speaks, what do you hear? If your answer is “Wonk Wonk Wonk Wonk Wonk,” that’s a problem.
If you don’t listen to them, why should they listen to you? Nope, the answer isn’t because you’re the boss. Team building means give-and-take. It’s about reciprocity. Leadership guru, Steve Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In other words: never be too self-important to close your mouth and open your ears.
Team Building 101: Own your spin
The pandemic has elevated the stress level in Corporate America to an all-time high. Leaders are being stretched to the limits of their abilities and as well as their confidence.
But you can’t [or shouldn’t] wear your COVID-mask to hide your fears. Own them and seek help if you need it. That’s the only way you can lead authentically and effectively. It’s the only way you can own your spin, that is to say, you need to actually believe what you’re saying.
If you don’t, no one else will. And make sure you know what you’re talking about. If you’re trying to drive home a point, don’t speculate. Do your homework first.
And while slide presentations can be great if you need a visual point of reference to reinforce your spiel, try to resist the temptation to hide behind them. Using graphs and charts as a form of “life support” may leave you dead in the water.
Team Building 101: It’s a contact sport
Very shortly after COVID-19 crashed into our lives, the Internet was loaded with protocols for proper body language during a virtual meeting! That’s because the disconnects were fast and furious and teams began to unravel.
Sometimes, in a remote setting, eye contact is the only obvious form of human contact! We all know that sometimes virtual work assignments can feel surreal. So it’s important to make the connection between what your body is saying and how people react to what you’re saying. And if you’re not sure, better ask directly.
Team Building 101: Accentuate the positive
You’ve got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-between
Songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote it and the Andrews Sisters sang it in 1944—you know, back in the dark ages before microwave ovens and Spotify. But even if you’ve never heard of either, they definitely got it right!
As a leader, you’ve got to cast your vision for the company in a way that makes your team look forward to the future instead of dreading it. Fanciful dreams won’t cut it either.
Being honest, hopeful, and optimistic are not mutually exclusive if your leadership style is a healthy one. Identifying the positives—financial and personnel—and basing your game plan on them are the best way to build a strong, confident, loyal team.