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Lessons in team building I wish I knew sooner

Mar 26, 2024 | Building Great Teams, Leading Others, Team Building

Let’s get real about team building. If you think it’s all about trust falls and off-site retreats, you’re in for a wild ride. Over my years of trial and error (emphasis on the error), I’ve gathered some nuggets of wisdom that I wish someone had slipped into my pocket on day one. So, buckle up, because I’m about to spill the tea on team building.

  1. The “One Size Fits All” Approach Fits No One

I used to think a killer team-building activity was like a secret sauce—all you had to do was slather it on, and boom, instant team cohesion. Turns out, teams are more like salads than sandwiches. Each ingredient has its unique flavor, and what works for the romaine doesn’t always fly with the arugula. Tailor your approach to the individuals in your team, and you’ll start seeing some real magic happen.

  1. Vulnerability is Gold

Remember those trust falls I mentioned? There’s actually a kernel of truth hidden in there. Showing vulnerability isn’t about literally falling backward and hoping you don’t end up on the floor. It’s about being open with your team, sharing challenges, and not always wearing the “I’ve got this” mask. Vulnerability builds trust, and trust is the bedrock of any kickass team.

  1. Listening > Talking

Early on, I thought leadership was about having all the answers. Spoiler alert: it’s not. It’s about listening—really listening—to what your team has to say. Sometimes, the best ideas come from the quietest voice in the room. Giving space for those voices not only uncovers hidden gems but also makes everyone feel valued and heard.

  1. Conflict Isn’t the Enemy

Here’s a shocker: conflict can be good. I used to see it as a failure in team dynamics, but it’s actually a sign that people care enough to have opinions. The trick is in managing conflict constructively, turning those heated debates into opportunities for growth and innovation. It’s like alchemy, but instead of turning lead into gold, you’re turning disagreements into progress.

  1. Celebrate the Small Wins

I used to focus on the big milestones, but I’ve learned that celebrating the small victories is just as important. It’s the high-fives for minor successes, the shoutouts for effort, and the recognition of progress that keep the morale high and the team motivated. It turns out, a little recognition goes a long way in building a team that feels appreciated and empowered.

Reflection Time

Looking back, if I had known these lessons from the get-go, I might have saved myself some headaches (and probably a few team members some too). But here’s the thing about team building: it’s a journey, not a destination. It’s about evolving, learning from the missteps, and continuously striving to create an environment where everyone can thrive.

So, to those just starting on their team-building journey, take these lessons to heart, but also remember to be patient with yourself. Building a dream team doesn’t happen overnight, but with persistence, openness, and a bit of humor, you’ll get there. And trust me, it’s worth the ride.

There’s a better leader inside all of us.

Hi, I’m James Robbins and i’ts my life’s work to help leaders reach their highest potential. Click below to get free tools and resources to help you become the leader everyone wants to follow.

About James Robbins

James is a rare mix of management consultant, change specialist, adventurer and motivational speaker. He speaks to audiences worldwide, helping them raise their performance to match their potential. He has been helping equip and transform leaders for over 20 years.

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I hope you enjoy reading this article.

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