A prescription for team building

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Jul 01, 2007


Brad Swift
Q A lot of negative tension flows through our practice, and it's undermining our work. How can I help our staff members come together as a team and stop criticizing each other?

"It sounds like something is missing, and the missing element is a feeling that you're a team," says Brad Swift, DVM, a life coach and founder of the Life on Purpose Institute in Flat Rock, N.C. He offers this advice to create a team that's aligned and able to work together.

1. Clean the slate of all of your past issues, problems, and upsets. This can be the most challenging step but it's also the most important. Old issues can fester for years and develop into a negative atmosphere. Gossiping, backbiting, and chronic complaining are symptoms of unresolved issues. Since many of these issues stay in the background, quietly undermining the team, it's important to bring them to the surface. Then you can all work together to resolve them. In some cases, this can take weeks or months to accomplish. But once you've cleaned the slate, the next step is easy and can be a lot of fun.

2. Identify the common commitments, interests, and values that brought you together. For example, you likely share a love for animals, a desire to make a difference, and an interest in providing for yourself and your family. These shared commitments become the foundation you'll build on to take the next step.

3. Create a vision for what's possible in the future and work to bring that vision into reality. Develop a vision statement using the team's common commitments, interests, and values you identified in step 2 as a framework. Don't settle for any vision that doesn't inspire and challenge you and your team members to reach your potential.

One word of caution: For this step to be truly effective, you must be thorough when you complete step 1. Otherwise, those past issues will raise their ugly head and you'll be right back where you started. Of course, if only a few matters crop up at this point, it's fairly easy to resolve them and move on. But if you find creating a vision for your practice is arduous, go back to steps 1 and 2.