• May 2013

The Art of Team Building

By Lyndsey DePalma
Founder and President
House of Steep

Photos by House of Steep

Does this sound familiar? You are sitting at your desk, and that colleague who has bugged you for ages does something that irks you again. You know that it’s illogical—there’s just something about this person that rubs you the wrong way.

So what do you do? Odds are good that your first response is to tense up. Your shoulders creep toward your ears, your heart races just a little, and maybe your stomach cramps a tad. You silently plot ways to avoid the person—or pretend that venting to your friends makes you feel better. You’d rather not react like this, but it seems uncontrollable.

Is it? So many opinions and judgments come from a lack of genuinely understanding another person—at home, in friendships, and in families. In the workplace, this happens so often that we have created formal exercises to help employees work together better.

How do we stop jumping to conclusions with our colleagues? From my years spent working in HR departments, I found that team building is the most powerful exercise. It changes our routine and helps us learn something new about people about whom we may have preconceived notions.

Almost all the time, team building helps us learn more about ourselves, which is the most effective path to peaceful co-existence.

What kind of team-building exercises work best? For many of our customers—not to mention our own staff—it’s clear that physically moving into a different environment or atmosphere can help you see a situation or a person in a different light. In a culture that has alternatives to everything—alternative health, alternative music, alternative routes—give it a try.

Break up your routines and seek out places to commune and gather that aren’t the same old thing. Then challenge yourself to have some non-traditional conversations. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised that you’ll start seeing your world, and your colleagues, in new ways.

Here are some ideas:

  • On a regular basis, get out of the office with small groups of colleagues. Try to really understand your comrades, try engaging in constructive practices like team building and personality-type exercises. House of Steep understands the importance of really valuing your day and the people who come into it, so we offer small-group team-building breakfasts during the week. They often include a foot soak and a relaxation exercise. Our staff members facilitate the conversation, and the results never cease to amaze the group—and often the facilitator!

  • Recognize that working in small, intimate groups can really make an impact. The larger the group, the more time is needed to manage the dynamics—and the less time there to get to the heart of connecting. So keep it small—groups of three to five work best.
  • Mix it up. Gather uncommon threads of folks who wouldn’t usually come together—such as the art director, the junior member of the tech team, a new colleague who recently joined the team, and the CFO. Creatively combining people with different backgrounds, skill sets, and job responsibilities enables everyone to come to the table as people—not employees. To break the ice, play a game. It may sound silly, but it works.

Then, have them solve a problem—it doesn’t have to be work-related. Working together to solve a problem will help demonstrate everyone’s unique attributes, and everyone around the table can begin to appreciate new skills and strengths in people who aren’t just like themselves.

  • Look for a reason to celebrate the people around you. One of my biggest take-aways from reading “Conscious Capitalism,” by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey (which was featured in the April issue of BeInkandescent.com) was the technique that he uses at every meeting with Whole Foods employees: The Appreciation moment. At the end of every meeting, the group members say what they appreciate about the other members of their team. It’s a voluntary exercise, but quite often these take a half hour or more because almost everyone feels compelled to say something nice. And, he notes, it’s tough to dislike someone who just said something nice about you. Brilliant, right? So give it a try. From your boss, to your work buddies, to that one colleague who stressed you out this week—find one nice thing to say about them. We all have talents, so start looking for the good stuff in everyone.
  • Be a community organizer. Noticing the good in others is a good approach for your community at large. Today, after you finish reading this issue of BeInkandescent.com, take 10 minutes to find organizations that align with what really matters to you and your business.

  • Bring a timeless tradition to your present day. Whether at House of Steep or at home, prepare a light spread for an afternoon tea, and take the time to taste how the tea affects the flavor of the varieties of food you’re eating. Noticing the flavors brings your thoughts and emotions to the present, and with practice, this mindfulness can help your daily interactions with others. Tea is a good avenue for mindfulness because it is so diverse (between regions, processing, and blend types) that you can easily lose yourself in tasting the tea as it lands on different areas of your palate. Afternoon tea not your thing? Order a flight of tea (in brown, green, herbal, or house blends), or schedule a tea tasting with House of Steep staff to learn more about the aromas, flavors, and magic that can come from slowly enjoying a warming “cuppa.”
  • Find your passion, or enjoy the passions of others. If you make crafts, or enjoy buying handmade works of art, come to House of Steep’s Makers Market on June 22 to find original pieces that show off the talents of local crafters. If art and crafts isn’t your thing—start a book club, a knitting circle, a golf league, or a monthly trip to the bowling alley for your colleagues and friends. Whatever you are passionate about, there are surely others who share in your joy. Bring them together to play—deeper friendships, if not business opportunities, are likely to ensue. Eat, drink tea, and enjoy.
  • Understand what your meditation is. Is it centering over a cup of tea, or weekly catch-ups by phone with your relatives? Is it yoga or running? One of the secrets to being happy at work—and in your life—is knowing what keeps you calm, balanced, and at your best. Here’s to finding your peace—wherever you are.

About Lyndsey DePalma and the House of Steep

Lyndsey DePalma is the founder of the new Arlington, VA, tea house and reflexology studio, House of Steep, where visitors discover the treasure that is tea and the power of reflexology to heal and harmonize.

Before coming up with the concept for House of Steep, DePalma yearned to find a place to relax, and just be, for a while each day. Not satisfied with any of the existing answers and armed with some entrepreneurial hard-wiring and a respect for natural healing, DePalma left her corporate career in human resources to bridge the gap.

Since October of 2010, House of Steep has been taking up residence in DePalma’s heart and is on the way to becoming the ultimate destination for busy corporate citizens, casual connections, bridal parties, street shoppers, believers in alternative healing, moms and grandmoms, yogis and yoginis, consultants, crafters, lovers, and the rest of us.

For more information, visit www.houseofsteep.com.

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