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“Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.” ~ James Thurber

I remember many years ago I partnered with a young man I had come to know well through his attendance in my programs. He had an idea: I had developed a 3-day leadership program, refined it, and he wanted to use it as a basis for his budding coaching business.

I had watched his development over the years, was very fond of him and his wife, and said, “Sure!” It gave him a finished product and seasoned facilitator to accelerate his clients’ results. And it gave me an increased marketing base.

After a few months I sensed a frustration, an impatience, from him. I’ll never forget the conversation (by phone) where, in response to my confusion about what I was picking up from him (what had I done, or not done?) he suddenly uttered, “But I thought we were a team!” 

Turned out his interpretation of the word ‘team’ and mine were different. It opened the door to a clarifying discussion and we proceeded. It also taught me an incredible lesson: Do not assume people have the same idea about some of the smallest words we use in life: team, trust, love, peace.

This young man is now in his forties, a seasoned and successful business coach, with two incredible kids, a gorgeous big home in the country, and over 30,000 clients via a major bank. He’s written a terrific book. He’s suffered some set backs I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and rose above them all.

But here’s the thing: If you asked him by which scale he measures his success, I can guarantee you he’d say his marriage and his kids.

The teams that really matter.

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” ~ Casey Stengel

Team: It’s a word we toss around way too casually, as though all within earshot have the same interpretation of its meaning, the same expectations of being included as part of this team or that team.

Team experiences start young, as soon as we’re born. We’re part of our immediate family team, and their families. Then schools, sports, friends. All teams.

We are team-craving animals.

But not all of us experience healthy teams, well-functioning, communicating teams, and previous work environments and colleague interactions (not to mention childhood influences) can drastically impact future performance; if a new hire has had a previous unhealthy team experience, a conversation about what it means to be part of this new team is not only wise, it’s imperative.

Or you end up with obfuscated obstacles on the journey toward team productivity that show up in communication: talking too much, not enough, or not timely, or worse yet, not truthful.

Once the meaning of ‘team’ is mutually understood and agreed upon, it offers insight into larger teams: organization, community, nation, world.

And it is in those higher levels of understanding—reachable only through conversation—that character evidences itself, and trust (the only currency that matters long-term) is generated.

A good place to start when considering ‘team’ development, folks.

Start a conversation—we’ve gotta’ talk with each other, not at each other.

But more, we need to know what that word means—not only to us, but to those who might be listening to and watching us—before we use it.

“A boat doesn’t go forward if each person is rowing their own way.”~ Swahili proverb

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