Team Renewal

Published: December 26, 2018
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Beyond quarterly and annual performance goals, December 31st is an artificial renewal. New Year’s resolutions abound and businesses big and small reset strategic direction. Arbitrary markers of progress track movement but rarely refresh the system. Rebirth usually follows significant change. Norms are disrupted and teammates adapt. Other than calendar transitions, consider these drivers of team renewal.

A renewal occurs whenever a teammate is added or subtracted.

Subtle changes in team chemistry are most noticeable when talent joins or someone leaves. The hierarchy adjusts to the new brand of energy being infused or deleted. Friendships are either strengthened or strained. The ecosystem resets its balance.

A renewal occurs whenever a conflict gets resolved.

Tension demands resolution. There is a natural desire for peace when a team is in conflict or is struggling to solve a problem. Solutions give way to a new round of discovery. Teams that continuously create and resolve tension are always growing.

A renewal occurs whenever an innovation alters the work of the team.

Impasses are gifts for teams that thrive on invention. The act of solving a previously unsolvable problem boosts the energy of a team like nothing else. The pain of stretching capacity and resources has a wonderful payoff when the struggle opens new pathways.

A renewal occurs after the celebration of a success or the disappointment of a failure. 

In the infinite game of teams, a win is not the ending. Success becomes a temporary benchmark from which to evolve. Likewise, a failure doesn’t finish the game. It just changes the strategy and direction for keeping the game going.

A renewal occurs every time the team’s goals get redefined.

Course corrections are dramatic responses to the realization that a plan isn’t working. Problem solving includes permission to rethink direction. We define the challenge, consider options, weigh pros and cons, choose the best route, and evaluate outcomes. When the outcomes don’t address the challenge, we go back to the drawing board and reevaluate.

Year-end is fine time to measure performance and reinvest. But, occasions to renew the team don’t wait for calendar transitions. They are subtle and frequent. Windows of opportunity open and close whenever a change impacts people or processes. Waiting for the calendar to flip can cause a missed chance to energize the team. Put the team on constant change-watch and jump to adapt in the moment rather than reacting to hindsight.

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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 College 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.