Synchronized swimming, that breathtaking Olympic sport which combines the rigors of ballet, swimming, and gymnastics underwater, has been part of the Olympics since 1984. Yet many people still assert that it isn’t a sport at all. They argue that it’s “basically underwater ballet” and since ballet isn’t a sport, it shouldn’t be anywhere near the Olympics. This is an odd response considering it encompasses strength training for teams and requires both trust and interdependence.
I surmise that this odd viewpoint comes from the seeming effortlessness with which the sport is executed. The girls simply make it look so easy! What non synchronized swimmers don’t realize is that those lithe athletes possess the lungs of a deep-sea diver, the stamina and endurance of a marathon runner, the skills of a speed swimmer, the strength of a bodybuilder, and the flexibility of a gymnast! As if those weren’t enough, they also possess the needed dramatic flair to best interpret the music they swim-dance to.
The training of synchronized swimmers is demanding on every level – perhaps even more demanding than most sports. They train for up to eight hours per day. Those eight hours include hours in the pool, as well as time doing weight training and flexibility.
What does this have to do with strength training for teams in the business world?
What does this have to do with work team training, you ask. A lot!
We hardly pay attention to the training they do, but look closely and you’ll see that they do a hefty combo of strength (weightlifting), flexibility (gymnastics), and cardio. It’s simplifying it, of course, but what their training demonstrates is how the different functionalities target different aspects of their performance. The goal is to make it look harmonized, smooth, and effortless. Almost easy.
And as one synchronized swimmer-in-training would say “If we make it look easy, we’re doing our job correctly!”
The key to building collaboration through team strength training is to provide teams with a holistic approach.
In the same breath, teams need that well-rounded approach to become cohesive. Since we want team members to be on the same page all the time, it isn’t enough to memorize the organizational mission and vision statement. Holding training seminars just won’t cut it either. Here are five classic ideas for building collaboration within and among teams.
1. LEVEL UP COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Working constructively with members of a group is something everyone must do regardless of industry. To help build collaboration on teams team, you need to improve communication skills by:
- Building trust – Discourage conflict of interest by avoiding talking behind each other’s backs and clarifying roles. Gossip can seem innocuous at first, but those quick conversations by the water dispenser can quickly escalate into hurtful comments. Always give team members the benefit of the doubt. Make sure everyone knows everyone else’s roles and responsibilities. During planning, connect expectations to objectives and find ways for teams to help each other out.
- Clearing up misunderstandings ASAP – Be quick and accurate at the first sign of misunderstanding and false impressions. Remember that it’s best to over-communicate than to under-communicate. If the conflict is beyond a team member’s skill set, have a committee preside. Whatever your move, the key is to acknowledge the conflict and moving quickly to dissipate the fire.
- Expecting and appreciating different ideas – Evaluate new ideas based on merits NOT the personality behind it. In this light, avoid making remarks that draw undesirable attention to a person’s background, beliefs, or even physical characteristics. Accept differences and appreciate differing points of view.
- Checking in on team effort regularly – Evaluate performance and effectiveness regularly. Do team meetings work? Is this new type of communication platform helping us reach objectives? Give praise where praise is due.
2. INCLUDE RELATIONSHIP SKILLS IN YOUR TRAINING
In addition to hard skills training, I highly suggest including modules that address emotional intelligence, conflict management, how to hold difficult conversations, teamwork, and ethics. When teams are taught how to convince and influence others effectively, healthy relationships are inevitable. Healthy relationships also build trust and interdependence.
On the other hand, persuasion skills that are aggressive and come with bullying, threats and fabrications are toxic and break trust, interdependence and your team’s collaboration. No matter how worthy a team member believes their skills are, behaviors like these frequently get people kicked off teams – agile or otherwise.
3. GET THE RIGHT TEAM LEADERS
The best people suited for this task are those who are relationship-oriented as well as task-oriented. Why?
When leaders are relationship-oriented, team members are more comfortable sharing knowledge when they know that trust and goodwill are present. On the other hand, when the leadership is task-oriented, employees feel safe to do more than what’s expected (without judgment) because objectives are clear and that monitoring and feedback are provided.
4. SHARE KNOWLEDGE
Many employees are more than happy to share their knowledge, insights, and resources. Often, the only roadblock is the absence of a platform to do so. Invest in file-sharing software, or consider creating physical and virtual spaces where teams can share insights, freely discuss failures and learning experiences, and give others constructive feedback.
5. WALK THE TALK
Lead by example. Collaborative behavior begins with the leader. When cooperation is demonstrated at every turn, the desired behavior trickles down.
One way of doing this is to practice talking with team members. Have one-on-one sessions regularly. Listen to requests and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Team members trust leaders they run to for support. The more your team trusts you, the more they know that you have their back and the more collaborative they become.
Team collaboration is indeed the foundation of any successful organization. Find out exactly what it takes to harness collaboration between departments and among employees HERE.
Care to dig deeper into the topic of strength training for teams?
Here are a few resources that deepen the conversations:
- Complimentary white paper: How to Build a Principled and Collaborative Work Culture
- Six Principles that Enhance Team Collaboration
- TIGERS Among Us Book Club
About TIGERS Success Series
TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your workforce behavior, work culture, profitability and project management and team leadership success.
We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable agile, high performance team outcomes. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success. We also license and certify elite internal and external consultants and project managers to use our resources for similar outcomes.