December 18, 2013

The Art of Team

Teams are the glue that bind everything together in our world.

There’s lots of frameworks and models freely accessible about different functional pieces of a venture like finance, business model, sales, marketing, community building, social media, organic farming, etc. The tools to learn all of these practices, and more, already exist. There’s a difference between knowing how to do something and being able to use that knowledge to create something. The teams I admire most mold essential functional elements of a venture together with an inventive spirit.

As I’ve been working on writing proposals and developing financial models for a sustainability project, I’ve been realizing more and more that all this stuff is the easy part. The tough part is bringing together a team of people with the right mix of skills and experiences who can execute on the functions needed for the business to thrive in a harmonious fashion. Joining a team whose aim is to build a transformative venture is a serious commitment, not unlike the commitment of a marriage. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on building a collaborative team and here’s what I’ve learned as some things to keep in mind.

Tell Stories

You’ve got to know each other well. The best way to get to know someone is to share life stories, especially vulnerabilities. This is a tall task for a one hour conversation, it can take months or even years to develop enough trust for this kind of sharing. I want to be on a team where I feel excited and proud to share my teammates’ stories.

Let Your Team Fly

Ideally, members of a team collectively have the skills and experiences to make the whole go. I want to join a team where I feel confident about each person’s desire and ability to exercise their superpower for the betterment of the whole team. Collaboration is imperative, but it must be balanced with honoring each team member’s superpower and getting out of the way to let them fly.

Love Differences

Having a variety of skill sets probably means there’s also a variety of backgrounds and worldviews present in a single team. In challenging situations, it can be easy to get caught in a vicious circle arguing about petty differences. Teams must remember they are united in their differences and this diversity fosters an environment for awesome things to happen. You’ve got to learn to empathize and love the things you see differently, leaving past baggage at the door.


We’re not all telepathic, yet. Some form of communication gets used to convey ideas, formulate & execute plans and for feedback. It’s great if you can limit emotional attachment to a venture, but we’re human and it’s probably going to get emotional. Teams need to carry emotions in a non-attacking manner maintaining positivity and constructive communication. At the Experience Institute, we have a weekly ritual where our team shares highs, lows, learnings and a word of gratitude. This helps keep communication flowing. You end up spending lots of time together as a core team. Someone once told me, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I want to be on a team with people I wish to learn from. What practices have you found effective in building a collaborative team?

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