Why Teams Need Loss

Published: September 18, 2018

The first reaction to a loss is usually disappointment. Something has changed. Things aren’t the way they used to be. When a team is in transition, it’s difficult to see the benefits. When you add stress to the situation, it’s even harder to appreciate the value of the loss. Energy gets depleted and hope is diminished. So, why do we need to lose something to gain something?

When my kids were small, one of their favorite Sesame Street songs queried, “It’s a rainy day, it’s a rainy day. It’s raining outside, and I can’t go out and play. Why do we need the rain, anyway?” The song then proceeds to list all the reasons the world needs rain. Basically, it refreshes, cleanses, nourishes, and makes new growth possible.

Recently, a client asked if we could skip the “Distancing” stage of the Team Clock® after he remembered some of the negative interactions that followed a leadership change. As he recalled, the team split into factions and didn’t play nice in the sandbox. When he stepped back and gained perspective, he realized this stage had value. Goals were recalibrated. New talent stepped up to fill gaps created by unexpected departures. Mission, values, and team culture were clarified and re-anchored.

There is a valuable reason for depletion to accompany loss. It slows the world down. It enables new perspective. It recharges the system with fresh energy. While it’s tempting to avoid the lull in team tempo, sustaining a full sprint without a break is impossible. The break has purpose. Like the result of a good night’s sleep, we begin the next day rejuvenated.

Growth and movement only happen when we embrace change. Saying goodbye to old ways is scary. Familiarity can provide comfort again once the new leader, the new teammates, the new expectations, the new organizational structure, the new location, or the new direction becomes clear. In the meantime, treasure your downtime.

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.