Team Building: What is it? by Micaela Thomas

Jessamy Amic

Posted: January 20, 2023

Table of Contents

We recently asked our Marketing Project Manager, Micaela Thomas her thoughts and snippets on team building. This is what she shared:

How might one describe team building? Is it endless backlogs of work aching for relief with a few extra hours perched behind a desk and an enormous cup of tea? (I am a firm believer in the restorative powers of a fresh cuppa).

Or is it that well-known great awkward event at the end of the year when the hint is hunted, the small talk endured, the year reviewed, and the presentations with big numbers and even bigger strategies are admired?

Is it perhaps that all too familiar energy, of the hamster wheel turning and the hamsters fighting over who set these quarterly targets and why there was a sudden lack of cheese crackers to motivate the furious peddling furballs on the wheel.

I think an honest amount of all of the above.

With a few more inside jokes, hard laughs, and problematic spreadsheet puzzles needing solving. Plus the added benefit of being thrown together with other humans who bring countless hours of experience, talent, and unique personalities.

The best way to describe team building is to understand that actions speak louder than any other noise on the planet. Think sledgehammer to a pin drop. You have to continue building your team. Every day.

I have had the great privilege to help project manage my team through what can only be described as a combination of a marketing apocalypse and several successful course launches, company-wide events and personality* building. *in a dictionary search for = hard work.

Alright then. Now that the awkward onslaught of introductory prose is over, I have managed to pin down some of my thoughts on a page. 

No one has died – unless you’re some kind of medical professional – in which case this section is best skipped and you can move on to point 2.

It’s true – sometimes the deadlines feel quite literally like their namesake, and tasks pile up faster than we care to admit. Those message notifications popping up and the inbox looking like a 5-part Netflix adaptation waiting to be discovered. In these moments, take a step back, take a deep breath, see the bigger picture, and be there for your team. As an ant relates to the stars, we cannot possibly account for every one of our actions having a measurable reaction. You have the best foot forward when walking at a normal pace. Someone wise once told me the only way to eat an elephant is one piece at a time. 12 months in, I have only nibbled on a foot.

Laugh. Like an abnormal amount. This includes medical professionals.

Continuing the medical metaphor for a sentence longer, laughter is physically a balm to the weary soul, the tired eyes and exhausted brain. The release of endorphins and the sound of your fellow humans’ genuine laughter – that’s the stuff that makes people believe in magic or a deity, or both. We don’t judge here. Shared, snorting laughter will make it easier to believe in things like quarterly reporting and standup meetings. Find things that make you laugh with your team. Silly ideas, great memes, wonderful stories. Help paint a tapestry of laughter in your team, it will never go wrong.

Find your team’s weird. Literally.

Our team’s mascot is the Duck. Not Superman or Spiderman, not Elsa with a thing for blue dresses and sequins. But the humble duck. Have you ever seen an angry duck in real life? No one has, or at least no one has lived to tell the tale. Finding our duck as a team has enabled us to find our energy, our ethos and our care for one another. Also, ducks are disarmingly cute and I am biassed.

Does your team like to work on Tuesdays dressed in pink? Do you only have coffee in humorous mugs? Are there pets you want to share and finally find a group of humans who have to be nice about the 80th selfie of you and your cat?

Find the weird in the team. Nurture it. Share it. Be unashamedly proud of what sets your team apart. Honestly the new ‘normal’ is so 2022.

Meet problems with grace and kindness for those who started them.

Problems are what make work workable. If you didn’t have problems, your work would be mind-numbingly boring. The best bit about problems is they usually start with people. Person A wants a million people to see us on TikTok. Person B points out we don’t even have an account. The Duck has already eyed the latest trends and has “7 steps for social media success” googled, Chrome tab open and link shared with the team.

Understanding that problems come from people will help you understand how they were made in the first place. And as we all know, to make mistakes is to be human. Swear blind that you have never made a mistake in your life and I will help you file down that Pinocchio nose to a useful pencil. Again… Point 1. No one died. Deep breaths and roll up your sleeves. Work with your team, pushing and encouraging them to work together. Untangling impossible problems as a team – combining all that brain power – is the best medicine…or is that laughter… what point are we on again?

Check-in and know your people.

Not what they had for breakfast per say but, you never know, you could be missing out on a life-altering air-fryer egg-muffin recipe. (Try saying that 5 times fast)

I know spending more time with people in a hybrid environment is tricky. Staying connected with them remotely is even harder. With multiple deadlines, company-wide strategies, team and unending to-do lists – how on earth do you have time to check in, answer emails and reply to the metric ton of messages?

Carving out time to check in on your humans will make it far easier to coordinate them when the problems are flying in. You will know their strengths, their weaknesses and most importantly, how their brains work in tandem. Help them to see each other and connect. It ain’t a sprint but a marathon and a word of encouragement on a bad day can mean the difference between showing up with energy or clocking off mentally even before the day has begun. I send a hello and goodbye to the team every day. Let the team know you are there. Knowing you aren’t alone is fundamental to being part of a functioning team.

Ha. I did it. 5 points laboriously explained to help encapsulate a few nuggets of wisdom from a Ducky Project Manager still learning to find her webbed feet. And who is immensely grateful to her fellow ducks as she paddles along with them.

Micaela is our Marketing Project Manager. She holds a Triple Major Bachelor of Arts from UCT, several certificates in product and content marketing and 4 years of marketing experience in online education. During the week she works hard with the team on all things marketing at MasterStart – but on weekends you can find her eating a scrumptious eggs benedict, sipping coffee and enjoying long walks in Kirstenbosch. An avid reader and gamer – she believes that education is the key to unlocking the potential in our society for the good of all.

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