A Team Above All, Above All A Team
By JULIA MUNSON, US-BRAZIL CONNECT HEALTHY TEAMS CONSULTANT
“You’re not a team because you work together. You’re a team because you respect, trust and care for each other.” Vala Afshar
When our son Zach was growing up, like many boys his age he loved sports! He tried all of them - soccer, baseball, football, swim team, basketball and hockey. Zach was eight years old when he tried baseball. His closest friends Tim and Alex were playing, and Tim’s dad Mark was one of the coaches, so this sounded like something that would be fun. Within a couple of weeks, Zach hated it! The games were long - sometimes up to three hours - and especially when he was placed in the outfield, Zach was bored out of his mind. It was hot and at the skill level of eight-year-olds, there were long stretches with little to no action. As a parent in the bleachers, I hated it, too! I was just as hot and bored as Zach. So it was tempting to give in when he asked to quit. His dad and I talked about it and decided he needed to see it through. I still remember the grumpy look on his face when we told him our decision. “You’re part of a team, Zach; this isn’t just about you.”
You may assume that by the time someone reaches adulthood and signs up for something like a fellowship at US Brazil-Connect, people would have integrated the lesson, “It’s not all about you.” However, our experience has taught us that age does not always translate to maturity and that under stress we all are prone to self-preservation.
During the rigorous 12-week training that Fellows go through, they devote 25% of their time to what we refer to as our Healthy Teams curriculum. This training consists of learning a set of practices that are designed to enhance connection and collaboration rather than competition and criticism. We reinforce practices that build healthy relationships, both with our Brazilian partners and with each other. Such practices include:
Being Creative Partners vs Consumers
This is the mindset that says “I’m here to contribute and creatively collaborate with others when challenges arise.”
Appreciation vs Criticism
This practice involves being intentional about generating a flow of positive energy with my team and with my students. We’ve had teams get very creative with how they express appreciation - by leaving little notes for each other… by making sure to recognize people at team meetings, etc. We recommend teams strive for a ratio of 5:1 - 5 appreciations for every 1 criticism that is expressed.
Responsibility vs Drama
This practice involves learning to act from a position of 100% responsibility. Anything outside of 100% means I’m functioning from something called the Drama Triangle, where I’m the Victim, Villain or Hero. We spend time teaching our teammates what these positions look and feel like, so that they will be able to accurately locate themselves and then shift back into a position of responsibility.
The folks who truly embody these practices return from their time in Brazil having been transformed. They appreciate the deep connections they develop, both with the Brazilian students and with their teammates. Even more than that, participants often tell us that one of their greatest takeaways from the program has to do with all that they learned in these areas of relationship skills, and how excited they are to see the fruits of this work in all of their relationships.
ABOUT JULIA MUNSON:
Working with over 500 US-Brazil Connect Fellows and Leaders, Julia Munson, LCSW, has helped to turn the US-Brazil Connect Fellowship into a journey of conscious leadership formation. She helps ensure our teams stay in a zone of collaborating and connecting as team members, taking on life-changing, maturing experiences. With over 30 years of experience, Julia provides training and consultation to organizations and non-profits and has deep expertise in creating conscious relationship skills and building conscious communities.