Get inspiration straight to your inbox.

Subscribe Now

3 Insider Tips from Expert Team Building Facilitators

May 2, 2014 • Uncategorized
Photo Credit: Melanie Holtsman

Highly successful C-level executives and professional athletic coaches share a gift: they know how to facilitate team building. You know a great team when you see them. They communicate directly, and even intuit what one other needs. A current of selflessness runs through a great team. It’s not just that they meet their goals; it’s how they get there—with confidence and energy. They are greater than the sum of their parts. But how does your team rise to that level?

Here’s what I’ve learned from three superb team building facilitators.

1. Doc Rivers: Facilitating the Building of a Team Response by Recognizing Obstacles

It’s hard to imagine a tougher spot than my friend Doc Rivers has found himself in this last week, leading his team to the NBA playoffs while dealing with a race-based scandal involving the team owner—their boss. It was such a delicate situation in a very limited space; anything they said or did was under a microscope. Yet his Los Angeles Clippers didn’t splinter under the spotlight or pressure partly because Doc models an honest, wise response to their complicated situation. His leadership impressed me, not for the first time. I represented him when he was a broadcaster returning to the NBA to coach, and his ethic was always to ground himself in great knowledge by asking questions. He always is trying to find how he can add value in a given situation and shift to deliver that in an authentic way. Doc is great at remaining methodical and thoughtfully reactive, which set the tone for the Clippers’ response. And really, that’s all he can do as a facilitator, because the team must rise to the challenge. He said as much to the Los Angeles Times a week before the scandal broke, when asked about his team’s success on the court. “Let me be clear: It’s not me, it’s them,” Rivers said. “Like, I push them, but at some point a player has to make a choice.”

2. Donna Hyland: Facilitating the Building of a Caring Team Through Commitment

With all the changes in our healthcare system, Donna Hyland remains focused on what matters most to keeping children healthy. As a trustee of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation, I’ve observed Donna’s keen grasp of the times where meaning is made in our lives. Even though she is president of the Children’s Healthcare, she remains in touch with the kids who arrive with life-threatening conditions, with terminal illnesses, with organs in need of a matching transplant. She knows their families and stories and stays in close touch with the doctors who help save so many of them. As the foundation of healthcare as we know it shifts, she remains a strong leader of a nonprofit team that is committed to the delivery of exceptional care to any child, regardless of financial concern. Like Doc, Donna facilitates the building of her hospital team by listening. They have one another’s backs—and more importantly, the back of every child who comes through their doors—partly because Donna communicates that level of commitment in her words and actions. She embraces feedback from her front-line employees, and is a very present leader where the work is being done. You can’t expect people to follow what they don’t see you doing.

3. Arthur Blank: Facilitating the Building of a Successful Team Through Empathy

As the cofounder of Home Depot and owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons, Arthur is considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists of this era. He is a transformer, a creative problem solver and a visionary. He facilitates people doing what has never been done before, and for many of them, doing what they didn’t think was possible on their own. With the Falcons, Arthur overturned the culture from perennial losers to a Super Bowl contender and now a very solid franchise. He started by asking his players to pull together and tell him what they needed for success. Then he went a step farther by actually staying with them in their dorm during training camp. He learned the mattresses were so thin that players were sleeping on the floor for greater comfort! Players could barely get wet in the shower because the showerheads were way too small to fit their frames. His ground-level awareness made him aware of all these needs, which like bricks made up the foundation of the team’s mediocrity. He pried away each bad part and analyzed it, then helped the Falcons build something more solid that they could proudly call their own. He replaced buildings and thinking, and this started months before the season began, by sharing their living space. Teams always respond more to a leader’s actions than words.

Your Game Changer Takeaway for Successfully Facilitating Team Development

Doc Rivers, Donna Hyland and Arthur Blank brilliantly facilitate team development through their own styles of leadership, but similar methods. They expect their team to rise to their best and know that ultimately the team’s level of effort is created not through micromanagement or control but through the choice of each team member. They model and reward the behavior that they want to see. They ask questions and gather information, especially from the front lines, even if that requires personal discomfort. They are grounded in fearlessness, and that gives their team license to reach high, higher than they might have thought possible.

Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.