Learning Together is the Key to Creating an Amazing Team

Team development does not need to be a massive event.

Learning and development is not an event.

Why does it not happen?

It rained cats and dogs for the four days we were together. I can’t recall ever having been so wet for so long. Eight people who had never met each other before crammed into a small tent. We cooked our food from rations and made audacious strategic plans by candlelight while trying to keep the coffee grains out of the rain puddles. We had paid to do this—serious money, in fact. It was a hardcore 4-day leadership training that we had signed up for.

The training consisted of solving a number of outdoor challenges in competition with other teams. The challenges to be solved where not the training as such—collaboration under adverse circumstances was the point of it all.

It's a long time ago—more than 25 years to be honest—but I can still recall lots of details. More than anything I can distinctly recall the other team members, despite the fact that I had never meet them before and have not seen them since. But from time to time one or the other will show up in my social media feed and I will always give them a reaction or like, regardless of what they are up to. They are my pals, and should any of them ever find the occasion to ask for my help, I would be there for them.

You see, we became comrades in adversity.

That is the power of having a powerful learning experience together. It leaves what in neuroscience is known as a somatic marker. The same way that most of us can recall what we were doing on that fateful morning of 9/11, strong emotional experiences leave a mark.

Just think back on your own life—early school years, participating on a sports team, time at boarding school or in the army—all of these experience have probably left some kind of somatic marker and, with that, some relationships that you probably still maintain or at least cherish.

Of course, I’m fully aware that there also exists a negative version of this where the somatic marker left from this kind of experience can result in a trauma due to bullying, a tyrannical teacher or a sadistic boss. But let’s leave that for another time.

My point is, that when we set up a good learning experience and skillfully hold the space—see previous blog post—so that everyone feels comfortable and safe, then we aren’t only improving the skills of the team, we are also strengthening the relationships between team members.

Team development does not need to be a massive event.

In fact, I am convinced that taking small steps on a regular basis is much more effective than producing a grand team building event—won't cost you an arm or a leg either.

It's quite simple really: What do you think is the most nourishing for you—to have a big feast for three days followed by six months or more of fasting? Or would you say that regular meals evenly distributed would be a better option?

It's a no brainer, right?

But if you think about it, that’s often what we do when it comes to learning and development of our teams. We create an over-the-top, magnificent and off-site team building event. It's a smashing success and everyone is thrilled—

—for at least a week afterwards. And then—

—well, not much. Things seem to revert to normal.

Learning and development is not an event.

What we need is for learning and development to become part of how we do things.

We have planning meetings, project reviews, and all that good stuff. We also get together for a couple of hours with the sole objective of learning something new together on a regular basis.

Have a 3-hour team learning session once a month and you will be surprised how much that will improve performance and relationships at the end of the year.

Why does it not happen?

One of the reasons I hear most is that the team leader does not feel comfortable in the role as the instructor or trainer. Also, that there is no budget for hiring in a professional that often.

Fair enough; I get that.

That is why I have created a bundle of workshops called Mike-In-A-Box.

Yes. Today, I’m shamelessly putting out my own stuff.

The format is simple:

Pick a workshop that you feel will help close a gap you and your team have identified.

Watch the videos together and do the suggested discussion.

Finally, follow the instructions as to how to decide what you would like to do differently in the future.

For you as a team leader, this is definitely an easy way to deliver quality training on a regular basis with a minimum effort.

Further Reading: Leadership: What, Why and How

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Mike Hohnen, MBA is a coach, trainer, author and public speaker who supports leaders, managers and their teams in implementing the principles of the Service Profit Chain.


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