Two weeks ago I facilitated a very special meeting with my former leadership team. They are some of my favorite people in the world, so anytime we gather to talk business or just to share what is happening in our lives, it feels like time apart from “the usual.” It’s almost as if the rest of the world pauses for just a minute to witness our magical exchange.
If you’ve ever been part of a truly great, cohesive team like ours, you might recognize that sense of pause and wonder. If you haven’t yet, then I’d suggest it’s something to both aspire to and work toward in your career.
We met for just an hour on Zoom, because the six of us happen to live now in three different geographic areas. In fact, one of my leadership team members is someone none of the rest of us have ever met in person, yet she feels just as much an essential part of that team as the rest, who had the good fortune to meet each other in person as we used to share the same geography pre-COVID. Life in the time of a global pandemic has changed the power of geography—both to unite or divide us the way it once did.
Ahead of our meeting, I asked each of my team members to reflect and come prepared to share their answers to four questions:
- Your favorite Kadabra leadership team memory with the group (e.g. a meeting, conversation, or experience you’ve had that became a highlight of your Kadabra experience)
- A highlight from your favorite interaction or project with a Kadabra client to date
- A new insight you gained about teamwork from being on the Kadabra leadership team that you hope to apply going forward in your life and/or work
- A wish or intention you have for each Kadabra leadership team member
You might be wondering, why these four questions? Why not do a round of appreciations or validations for each other, as some teams will do, instead? The answer to that question is that we already did, both long ago, and again, fairly recently. If we had not, then that would have been step one during another meeting altogether or required this one to be twice as long.
Rituals matter to teams, and often when it’s time for a team to disband a leader might be tempted to overlook the need for them. Or, perhaps we’ve come to associate “end of team” rituals with what happens at the end of our child’s basketball season. The players and their families get together with the coaches and trophies and certificates are distributed with a few words of acknowledgment from the coaches about each player. There may be pizza and/or cake involved (or not) but the formula tends to be a bit predictable. We’ve gotten used to acknowledging individual effort, contributions, and/or quirkiness as a foregone conclusion at these events.
Where I think sports coaches and parents miss the mark is that we typically don’t do a great job of focusing on what we or our children learned about teamwork from our experiences with the team. We don’t routinely ask people at the end of the season about lessons learned or what they would do differently with a future team, given the opportunity.
I recommend that organizational leaders both dedicate the time and invite their team members to do so, particularly when team membership changes or as it did in the case of Kadabra, a team disbands. In those moments we have a unique opportunity, individually and collectively, to harvest our unique learnings about working as part of a team. By doing so, we acknowledge and affirm what helped us and what we had to work hardest to adjust in order for us to succeed as a team and not just as individuals.
Another important ritual for team leaders to perform in these scenarios is to publicly express their personal thanks to the team for their work and to amplify any shared sense of gratitude within the team. Sometimes, those words are hard for us to say because they may come with a lot of emotion—both positive and negative.
I’m not ashamed to share that this certainly was the case for me. I thanked the team through my tears for saying “yes” to me and to Kadabra when I’d asked them to and for coming on the journey with us to this point. I don’t think there was a dry eye left on Zoom, but the point here isn’t that our end goal isn’t to make sure everyone ends up in tears, but rather a reminder that a leader’s words of heartfelt appreciation aren’t meant to remain unsaid. It doesn’t matter whether you think your team members know how much you appreciate them or how many times you’ve said so in the past. Whenever membership changes or you disband, you, the leader, get to repeat the ritual.
In the case of my former leadership team at Kadabra, I’m confident that we will find ways to continue collaborating with each other personally and professionally. And I acknowledge that it won’t be the same. We are off to make new adventures now, and we are ready.
What rituals are you planning with your team during this season of reset, rebirth and renewal? We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.