It’s full steam ahead for us into this year’s ideation phase of the Health for America at MedStar Health fellowship. We’ve come a long way since September, and looking around the table at my colleagues-friends-coworkers, I reflect back to how different things felt when we met face-to-face in the lobby on our first official day. We started as almost complete strangers coming from very different backgrounds. Now, we’re a unified force, seamlessly (for the most part…we’re also just human!) working together toward our common goal of creating an innovative solution in stroke health care. While it feels there’s no set recipe to building a strong team, I thought I would share a few thoughts and anecdotes of how we got here.
The Making of a Team
Here are six experiences that have helped us become a strong(er) team.
1. Embracing and celebrating our differences
We joke about how the four of us come from very different backgrounds – we’re a mixture of biomedical engineers, future medical students, writers and journalists, thinkers, musicians, artists, athletes, and students of mindfulness. Our roots come from all around the world – China, Philippines, Lebanon, and Russia. Taking a StrengthsQuest personality inventory also helped us see our differences and similarities in a more objective manner.
2. Making mistakes together
And more broadly, being there for each other. If something went wrong during a meeting, for example, the team takes collective responsibility for what went wrong rather than blaming an individual. Over time, this has created trust and a strong sense that we can rely on each other.
3. Understanding each other’s expectations
Being unafraid to have a conversation about what each person expects (from other fellows, from the fellowship year, from the solution we create, etc.) helps create an even working ground. Part of this came about through the team charter we created—which helped us more clearly see the strengths, goals, and values of every other fellow on the team.
4. Learning to give and receive feedback
“Glows and grows” is a wonderful practice introduced by King and facilitated by HFA leaders, which essentially helped us anonymously gauge what everyone felt was going well or needed work. Creating this space to have open conversations about what we were grateful for and frustrated with in the team or each other created a way to openly dispel tension and once more create an even working ground for us to move forward (with a better understanding of where each of us stood emotionally). Outside of this, simply learning to have candid conversations with each other about how we felt about something was a big step and also created a lot of cohesion.
5. Showing gratitude
Reflecting on what you’re grateful for each day can create a powerful positivity boost—something that we found boosted team morale. We created a “gratitude jar” to put in little notes of gratitude at the end of a week. Another one we tried was “finger flashes”—each teammate shows a number on a scale of 1-5 on their hand (5 is best) to visualize how they felt—previously practiced by HFA alumni.
6. Enjoying all-you-can-eat sushi
Working so closely together on such an intense project, we’ve found it’s important to strike a balance between being coworkers and being friends. As Stephanie points out, these are two “modes” we have, and being able to switch between them is especially useful. So, sometimes, this means celebrating a milestone at work (hello, complete Landscape Analysis!) with all you-can-eat-sushi and quality time with members of our alumni network (thanks for joining, Jake!).
These are some of the top ideas that came to mind, but each day brings an opportunity for us to grow further, both as a team and as individuals. I’m excited to see how this dynamic carries us through the exciting and turbulent months ahead.