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  • Writer's pictureMerrill B. Lamont III

On Team Building

Let's Ask Cute Questions.

  • "What is your super-villain power?"

  • "What hobby do you wish you had?"

  • "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

  • "What has your first job? Now, what was a time where you failed at it?"

  • "What musical instrument did you play as a kid? Now, if you put us all together, what band are we obviously?"

Questions like the above are... cute. Notice they are all versions of telling a story, which gets the team to talk, and hopefully listen to each other, which is what we want. You also don't have to ask them at the beginning of a team's existence. If anything, injecting an energy like what y'all had at the beginning keeps a level of novelty going, and more importantly, echoes how building relationships takes recurring effort. Let me say that again.

Building relationships takes recurring effort.

Asking cute questions is not a large time commitment. So what would be more of an investment?

Let's Do Something Together.

  • Ever go out to eat as a team? Followed by ice cream? Then espresso? People remember that.

  • Ever go out for drinks as a team? People remember... varying amounts of that.

  • Ever 'Escape The Room' as a team? Or trying? People definitely remember that.

These are all versions of doing something together, usually outside of the office building. This gets the team to create a shared memory, so, yes, it's fun in the moment, and yet that moment is something you can look back upon, or at least is there subconsciously, when there will inevitably be difficult times. These shared memories, fun outings and otherwise, are like building blocks for the team's identity, and since memories erode over time, you gotta keep buildin' because building relationships takes recurring effort. Well, won't you look at that... that phrase snuck back in here again.

Building relationships takes recurring effort.

And then it was repeated! Again! Must be important...

Let's Suffer Together.

Wait. What?

  • Remember a refining meeting that dragged on, and yet you only got, like, two stories to 'Ready' in that hour and a half?

  • Remember that Sprint that started with a bunch of stories, which were carried over from the previous Sprint, and still were not done by the end of the Sprint?

  • Remember getting requirements that, no matter how you sliced it, were stupid, just plain stupid stupid stupid, and there was no way around it, and everybody hated it, but y'all pulled up your socks and got 'em done anyway?

  • Remember building something for months, just to find out almost nobody would use it?

These are all versions of shared pain. Nobody likes it in the moment, nor right after the moment, yet what is undeniable is that, through it all, you were together. This section is more accurately a subsection of the previous "Let's Do Something Together", but I focus on this because the treatment is different. This negative memory is another kind of relationship building block, where the chaos of life brings you this without trying, yet what you do with it really is an example of taking this pain... and transforming its energy to improve your work life in the short-term... and transforming its outcome to demonstrate resilience in the long-term.

Let's Know Each Other.

  • Enneagram

  • MBTA

  • DiSC

  • StrengthsFinder2.0 / CliftonStrengths

  • Astrological Sign

Astrology? Sure! Why not? These are all versions of personal categorization. Whether it's behavioural, or communication style, or positive psychology, or when 'n' where you were born on the planet, these categorizations can simplify interactions by looking at how our personalities are projected along any of these frameworks. Much like any report or metric you care to track, though, it's only useful if you do something with this information, so let's use my information and see what we can gleam.

  • Enneagram: N/A - I haven't done this one.

  • MBTA: Red Line - This is the subway line I take most frequently nowadays. I'm not sure what it says about me (I'll leave that to you), but I'm hoping you caught how it should've been 'MBTI'.

  • MBTI: ENTJ - That 'N' piece indicates I prefer talking about bigger picture ideas over combing through facts 'n' figures, so if you're going to sell something to me, now you know. In reality, I'm 'barely' and 'N', indicative of how I also enjoy talking about the specifics.

  • DiSC: Id - This assessment tells me I engage others with stories, yet take on too many things at once. Both are true. When approaching me, know I enjoy talking about people & relationships over things, and that I have an action bias.

  • StrengthsFinder2.0 / CliftonStrengths: Significance, Maximizer, Achiever, Self-Assurance, Relator - These are my top 5 of 34. In my last manager gig, I bought each of my direct reports the book at $20 a pop so they could take the assessment, hopefully share with me their info (they all did), and I could tailor how I helped grow each of them based on what they were good at. Some found it mostly useless. Some found it eye-openingly useful. Mine validated my deeper inclinations to any situation. Your mileage may vary.

  • Astrological Sign: Aquarius - I guess... uh... I like carrying water?

Find commonalities with your teammates ("You ride the Red Line, too?"). Discover complementary possibilities ("Let's ride the Red Line together!"). Playfully throw shade at those who are categorized differently ("The Green Line has too many stops, especially the 'B' branch. Sucks to be those poor souls."). Build off of this knowledge ("Just found out signal problems are causing a massive delay. Let's find another way home. Still better than living on the Green Line...").

Let's Build Trust.

  • Ask Cute Questions.

  • Do Something Together.

  • Suffer Together.

  • Know Each Other.

These are all versions of building trust. Trust takes time. Trust takes being vulnerable. It is the basis for greater accomplishments - you know this. And like anything great in life, it's well worth doing repeatedly.

So remember, folks:

Avoid the Green Line.

Wait. No. Let's try again:

Building relationships takes recurring effort.

That's my experience around team building. What's missing here?

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