Learning to jump at the same time

Team dynamics that really get you to your goals

3… 2…1… go. Have you ever done a countdown with your team? Perhaps not an actual one but a hypothetical one or an implied one, perhaps. When you finish a team meeting and you think everyone is on the same page, you clap your hands and say “Okay, let’s get on with it then”. Everyone disperses and you believe they’re all walking out into the business with the same intention and plan and heading towards the goals you’ve collectively agreed. Or so you think.

What then happens when you, a week later, notice that some of the key activities are not being actioned. Were we not all on board last week? Where did you go wrong in your explanation?, you ask yourself. You were sure you saw nodding and agreement and even some “a-ha” moments. Or were those just in your mind?

I recently embarked on a very long adventure race in the South Island of New Zealand. It was an epic adventure with a team of 4 across 15 hours of harsh, dry (and sometimes very wet) terrain. To say communication was fundamental would be a complete understatement. Our survival and ability to get to the end without injury depended up on it.

We were constantly checking in with each other, reminding each other to drink water, pace ourselves, check our surroundings, our direction, our distance ahead and behind. It was a relentless verbal assessment of our status.

At one point in the race, we were ushered to the top of a cliff over a river, given buoyancy devices and told to jump, at the same time. If anyone did not jump we would lose 30 minutes of time. We stood, time slowing down and speeding up all at once, held hands and the countdown began. 3…2…1…go. We jumped. We trusted in the team around us and our commitment to getting the job done that no matter our fear, we would jump.

Had one of us remained on the cliff it would have been a pointless exercise. We could only finish with all 4 of us on board.

What had us so convinced we would all jump? Well, for a start, we held hands. We had a physical commitment to all moving together. Secondarily, we had agreed at the beginning of the race (actually at the beginning of training for the race) what our goals were, and our purpose for being there. We focused not on winning, but on enjoying the experience fully, on being there for each other and on completing the race. If we didn’t jump, we wouldn’t have felt like we were doing any of those things.

Finally, we had built trust. Over 3 months of training we spent time together listening, laughing, testing our communications. We took turns leading and assuming different roles until we settled into where we were the most effective together. All this, so that when we had moments at the top of a cliff, where the only option was to jump, we did.

When you’re wondering why you may have received a lot of verbal agreement around a plan and then the behaviours don’t seem to follow suit, ask yourself:

  • Did I commit to them (holding hands)?
  • Did we set clear goals and a purpose?
  • Did we practice communicating, testing roles and building trust?

If you could like more information on how to do this with your team, please get in touch.