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10 Things I Learned About Teams – Outside of the Office

By Joey Havens

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Against my better judgment, I decided to participate on my firm’s Dragon Boat racing team for a local charity event. Despite my reluctance, we had a wonderful time and it was a great time for many team members to bond and spend time face-to-face. I’m so glad that I decided to participate and I want to share with you the top ten things I learned from this event. 

  1. Getting out of your comfort zone can be fun and is good for you. Even though we know this logically, it becomes crystal clear as we experience it.  I not only had a good time, but learned a lot and established some new and stronger relationships. 
  2. Sometimes my highest and best use is on the sidelines simply acting as a cheerleader. We had three races and our fastest time was the one where I was on the sideline.  We don’t always have to be on the front lines to be valuable to our team. There are a lot of roles that contribute to team success and everyone plays a valuable part. 
  3. To be successful, your team has to be properly aligned, focused and in sync. Just like in business, one or two individuals doing their own thing can cause the team to lose balance, sink the boat or simply slow down forward progress. 
  4. Communication is important whether you are racing or working. Our captain was well organized, and helped everyone understand their role.  She made sure that everyone stayed connected and in sync. 
  5. Every team needs a strong support staff.  We had lots of fans and volunteers who helped with food, refreshments and moral support.  Having that support is critical to having a successful race or business. 
  6. Stick to what you are best at doing. It is evident from the team pictures that my headband simply didn’t have the same effect as did those worn by other team members.  I should have stuck with just the wrist bands. Stick to what you are best at, we all have different skillsets and we are stronger when we collaborate those strengths.
  7. Flexibility is the key to winning the race or beating our competition. Just like in business, Dragon boat racing also has periods of time when you go really hard, then some fast sprints and for most of the race, you move into a nice strong steady rhythm.   
  8. Knowledge sharing is extremely important. When knowledge is shared, the team performs better.  Just as stated in our vision at HORNE, we must be knowledge leaders and share that knowledge. 
  1. Training creates high performance. The team that won all of the heats practiced and trained frequently for the event. This training gave them an edge over the competition, most of whom do this once a year, or had run a couple of races or practiced a couple of times. We must train as a team to expect high performance and great results.
  2. Every team is more engaged and energized when they receive recognition for their contributions. Our captain did a great job of recognizing our team members for their efforts and we grew stronger as a team throughout the race from her feedback. 

One of my favorite things as a leader has always been the joy of spending time with my team members. These external events are great team builders and really give me a chance to learn more about each person, both personally and professionally. As leaders, let’s be diligent in showing our team members how much we care by taking the time to be face-to-face. Are you taking the opportunities to build strong relationships and high trust with your team?