Forever Teams

Published: October 19, 2021

Boomers see it all the time. A friend or colleague retires or decides to scale back. Seemingly overnight, they grow old. Somehow, the vibrancy of creating work disappears and the indulgence of the golf addiction sparks grey hair, slumped posture, and conversations about medical concerns. They turn the ‘old’ corner. Variations of this theme, unfortunately, happen in every generation. It all boils down to the choice to stop growing.

As an HR Director in the corporate space, it was common to interview a candidate who boasted ten years of experience. Often, within the first minute of the interview, it became clear that they had one year of experience ten times. They had stopped growing. They just kept trotting out common business axioms and tired cliches. They had turned the ‘old’ corner prematurely.

It’s not just individuals who stop living early in their lifespan. Relationships and teams stop growing all the time. Relationships and teams move through eternal cycles. They build foundations to support trust and connection. When all is working well, they leverage this platform to support exploration and discovery and then manage the change they create with resilience. Then, they do it again and again and again.

When a relationship or a team stops growing, it’s often because they got stuck and the labor of getting unstuck was too much. They were unable to navigate a disappointment. They couldn’t recalibrate to adapt to their new circumstances. They struggled to establish sufficient trust and psychological safety to enable collaboration. They were afraid of the consequences of change.

Growth causes stress and stress makes people resist growth. Staying the same feels better since it is a familiar pain. If the goal is comfort, the labor of getting unstuck will never be justified. If some discomfort is first acknowledged as an acceptable price for growth, however, the sky is the limit. The team is poised to age gracefully and maintain its vitality.

Embrace the concept of the ‘forever team.’ Relationships that keep moving through each obstacle, cycle after cycle, are eternal. Some people come and some people go. Business landscapes keep changing. But the teams that understand the purpose of each stage never grow old.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.