“Be a team player.” This phrase is a staple reference to group efforts: working as a unit, one for all, united we stand.
Whatever you prefer to call it, one thing is certain—working together as a team is an undeniably important component of social and professional life. It’s also something that LifeStar Living’s Tim Ficker thinks about daily.
Executive Vice President of Advisory Services, Ficker has extensive experience covering everything from team building and leadership development to executive coaching and strategic planning. He is the ideal person to speak on the subject of the individual, not as a lone entity but, rather, as an indispensable part of a band of teammates working together to accomplish a single goal.
“Perhaps the best way to understand the true definition of a team is by breaking it down to the individual and the role he plays as part of a group,” says Ficker. “This allows each member to better understand himself.
“Together, people who better understand themselves make for a much stronger team.”
According to Ficker, an organization can accomplish this through a three-step process.
First, you have to know your own strengths and values to the team.
“Often, people aren’t truly aware of their talents,” notes Ficker. “But once they do have a clear sense of their inherent abilities, they tend to keep that in mind as they begin to think more strategically.”
As Ficker points out, when armed with this knowledge, an individual is more effective both for the team and for the general group effort. What’s more, although it’s beneficial when someone understands himself, it’s even better when one’s teammates can also appreciate him.
So, once team members have learned about themselves and shared their talents with colleagues, the second step is to make sure that everyone knows precisely why he’s there to begin with. In other words, every person should ask himself: Am I simply an extraneous addition to the group, or do I add value to the team?
Naturally, a person who understands their strengths (Step 1) is that much closer to understanding their role on the team.
“This is a very important step in the process,” adds Ficker. “When starting a project or an initiative, everyone at the table needs to be on the same page as to what the team is trying to accomplish; if every member knows his/her value, he knows what he needs to contribute, and that, in itself, effectively moves a project forward.”
Finally, Step 3 involves the creation of opportunities for teammates to trust and understand one another. The best way to do this, according to Ficker, is to have everyone tell their stories.
“By stories, I don’t mean reciting resumes,” he explains. “I like people to talk about themselves.”
“For instance, think back to your childhood. What were your hobbies and interests? Was there a challenge you had to overcome?”
Such questions and their answers add depth and substance to every member of the team and, in doing so, add depth and substance to teammates’ perceptions of them as people.
“I want people to talk about introspective things because this is as much a process of learning about themselves as it is the team learning about each other,” says Ficker. “This, in turn, cultivates trust, and that makes for a powerful group experience.”
And while these three steps certainly apply to team building within the corporate world, and the field of retirement living, in particular, it’s also of great use to seniors within their communities.
For example, the residents, themselves, run many of the clubs and organizations at retirement communities. One of the distinct benefits of this is the fact that it brings them together and, in the process, allows them to learn about one another in the same way executive teams do in the corporate setting.
“There’s a phrase we often use in our field: ‘Person-centered care,’” Ficker notes. “It’s used more on the healthcare side of things, but it’s still relevant in this case.
“Like the corporate sector, communities bring together residents to ask similar questions: ‘What do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?”
Residents flourish socially when they know their neighbors. After all, a community is no different than a team—residents work together to create a friendly, welcoming, and productive environment for everyone.
Thinking in the group context is helpful, whether it’s among those serving on a church committee or a community board. The ultimate objective is to take individuals’ knowledge and strengths and use them to build a winning team.
Ficker summarizes the concept perfectly.
“When residents put their experiences and the things that they enjoy into a framework of helping neighbors, the resulting team effort enhances the quality of life on campus, as it does in the corporate realm.”