The Way We Age

Published: March 22, 2023

At the Team Clock Institute, we are fortunate to be in a position to observe the lifespan of many teams. There are up years and down years. Some teams achieve nirvana and unintentionally become complacent. Others get stuck in a rut and decide that the labor of repair is more painful than staying the same. Still others find a sustainable rhythm of continuous improvement and invest in the next generation. When we take a snapshot of the current state of the team, stories unfold that enable the data to make sense. No struggle – or growth – occurs without precipitants.

The rings of a freshly hewn tree reveal every stage of prosperity and adversity in that tree’s lifespan. Narrow bands represent drought seasons while wider bands celebrate abundance. Year after year, stage after stage, the living entity either coped with an environmental challenge or harnessed its good fortune. Either way, the living thing navigated the season in concert with many other living things.

There is way more happening in the below-ground root systems than in the more visible crown above. Neighbors share both nutrients and defense against pests and disease. Forests thrive and survive as communities. The same dynamics that allow teams to thrive – sacrifice, collaboration, and interdependence – guide the wellness of all things in the ecosystem.

Take a retrospective look at your team. What cyclical themes and patterns led to today’s circumstances? How did you manage the droughts? How did you share the abundance? Who contributed nutrients? Who fought off the pests?

Your rings tell the story.

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.