in Learning and Development, Self-Improvement

This article is part six of a seven part series on my perspective on building teams. You can read the rest of the series on my blog at While I’m sharing anonymous examples of situations based on real experiences, the series should not be construed as an attack or disparagement on any specific organization I’m involved with, but rather as a list of my thoughts on how to improve teams in general. I look forward to your constructive criticisms and thoughts.

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“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” –James M. Barrie

In the last article, we looked at values and goals. Now, I want to talk about two aspects of “work” and compare them to “play.”

The first is work vs play in terms of stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are caused by a disconnect between what you value and what you do. Many people find themselves dreading Mondays and praying for Fridays. I’m confident that you know exactly what I’m talking about, so I won’t go into a lot more detail about why this is. I’m a huge believer that you shouldn’t have to dread work, and you should be able to look forward to at least a part of your job each day — and I don’t mean the 5pm part.

It ought to be difficult for someone to look at you and figure out if you’re working or playing, because you should be able to enjoy it that much. I don’t mean giddy with excitement, but just happy, smiling, and not ready to punch the guy next to you.

The master in the art of living
draws no sharp distinction between
his labor and his leisure,
his mind and his body,
his work and his play,
his education and his recreation.
He hardly knows which.
He simply pursues his vision of excellence
through whatever he is doing
and leaves others to determine
whether his is working or playing.
To himself, he is always doing both.
—James A. Michener

Figure out what matters and protect it. Stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter.

friendsThe second aspect is work vs play in terms of on time and off time. To help strengthen the bond of your team, you should be getting together on occasion outside of work – or at least outside of the looming deadlines and daily grind at work. Go have a picnic, grill some burgers, go to a game — almost anything would work. Get out there and socialize just a bit. I know folks are going to say they don’t want to be anywhere near some of their coworkers if they don’t have to. Well — that’s kind of the point. If you had a tight team, that wouldn’t be an issue. If you do things to help tighten up the team, they might be uncomfortable at first, but either you’ll figure out how to deal with the issues, or the issues will get resolved. Either way seems like a win to me.

The important thing to do is to learn how your team thinks. When you can figure out what rails their train of thought takes to get from here to there, you can start to anticipate questions or problems, and make opportunities to learn, grow and bond. When you communicate more often, and when you train together, you’ll find that you can understand each other’s values and goals, if not share them.

If you want to work together, you have to play together. Share the smiles so you can bear the sorrows.

Join me once again to wrap up this series and tie everything together in Part Seven.