Career

Team Building Over Coffee

In six weeks, I will celebrate my eight-year anniversary working for TCU. I will also celebrate my eight-year anniversary working on the same team (through three name changes) and for the same boss. I consider myself extremely lucky to work for my boss. She is a strong leader who invests in our professional development, trusts us with our programs and tasks and goes to bat for us with administrators. Everything I have learned about managing my direct reports, I have learned from her and her boss. I am not alone in admiring my boss; I think that our team holds her in high regard and generally team morale is high. But like any team, we are not without our challenges. We’ve had some turnover recently and due to some office space constraints our team of nine is located in three different areas of the building.

I like this list of characteristics of high performing teams from Forbes, which includes:

  • Over communication
  • Psychological safety
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Collaboration

Just to name a few.

One of my favorite Christian radio station hosts is fond of saying, “You won’t follow someone you don’t trust, and you can’t trust someone you don’t know.” Her point is to spend more time in the Bible getting to know, trust and follow Christ, but I think the point is applicable with our professional relationships as well. How can you trust, respect and collaborate with colleagues that you don’t know?

The Turquoise Table

My boss came into our staff meeting three or four weeks ago really excited about a speaker she had heard at a Junior League meeting the week before. Kristen Schell was on a mission to get to know her neighbors, so she painted a picnic table turquoise, put it in her front yard and began inviting her neighbors who walked by over to do life together. Her Turquoise Table has launched a movement of Front Yard People who are gathering at tables in all 50 states and around the world. While speaking at the Junior League meeting, Ms. Schell asked women to think about where they spend the majority of their time and to imagine putting a Turquoise Table there to better get to know the people around you.

Turquoise Coffee Time

My boss wisely decided that a turquoise colored table in the middle of our office might not be the best idea, but she proposed embracing the concept and adapting it for our team. Thus Turquoise Coffee Time was born. Now at 10:15am every day, anyone from our team who is available gathers to enjoy coffee together for a few minutes. We talk about children, grandchildren, diets, vacations, wedding plans, graduate school exams – basically anything except work. We’re getting to know each other; we’re working to trust each other.

I really love this concept for a few reasons:

  1. Anyone can do it! You don’t have to be the CEO or work in HR to implement this employee morale boosting initiative. You don’t even have to be the team leader, you just have to be part of the team.
  2. It doesn’t have to cost anything. We all bring our own coffee, tea, or snacks to the table.
  3. I am a big proponent of taking a break when things get overwhelming! We all need breaks to get away from the tasks demanding our attention, why not break together?

Today is the first day of our two-day annual team retreat, where much planning and team building will take place. But this year I have a surprise for everyone on our team: turquoise mugs!

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