The Clock as a Tool for Team Wellness

Published: May 4, 2021

Locate your nearest clock, whether it’s on the wall or strapped to your wrist. Look at its features. Numbers from one to twelve form a circle and hands sweep around and around, passing the twelve twice daily for eternity. Now imagine that each number is a stage of your team’s development. Where on the clock is your team? Why? Let’s slow down and take a look at what is happening as your team evolves in these predictable cycles.

Watch the clock. As the hands make their way past the one, two and three, your team is investing in its foundation. As they move their way past the four, five and six, trust is being built. Once they travel across the seven, eight and nine, your team is taking risks and creating innovations. Finally, as the hands click past the ten, eleven and twelve, your team is adapting to the change it just created, only to arrive at a new stage of re-investment again at 1:00.

Around and around and around, from one stage to the next. Let’s look at each hour:

1:00 Teams enjoy clarity about norms, rules, roles, boundaries, goals and responsibilities.

2:00 Differences are celebrated as strengths and conflict is viewed as an opportunity.

3:00 Teams share a common vision for the future and a commitment to move forward together.

4:00 Team members follow through with commitments and accountability grows trust.

5:00 A personal connection develops as teammates collaborate and the ‘we’ becomes more important than the ‘me.’

6:00 Teammates feel attached and fix anything that falls outside of agreed-upon norms. This becomes the platform for growth.

7:00 Time and resources are dedicated to solving complex problems. Comfort is sacrificed to allow for exploration and discovery.

8:00 Smart risk-taking pushes the team to new levels while team members embrace the change created by innovation.

9:00 Team culture empowers freedom and encourages change in team structure to achieve breakthrough performance.

10:00 Team members hold themselves accountable for managing change effectively with maturity and resilience.

11:00 Teams acknowledge loss and talent is repositioned to accommodate new realities.

12:00 Teammates refocus and reinvest in the team’s next challenge.

In which stage is your team? How did you arrive there? What actions will move you to the next stage? More importantly, what is causing teammates to join you in moving forward or remain stuck in some other stage. Maybe everyone isn’t supposed to be in the same place.

Try this exercise the next time in-office gatherings permit. Imagine the clock on the floor in a conference room. Ask each teammate to stand on the number that best represents where they are on the Team Clock. Take turns sharing why you are there and what you need from your teammates in order to move forward. The clock never stops moving.

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.