Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea! Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast where we talk about mindset, motivation, and resilience in dance. Today is part two of a three-part series on team building. So, if you missed the first one, pause, go back an episode to 108, then come right back here.
Last time, we talked about the two different types of cohesion or unity that your dancers are striving for, and those two types, as a reminder, are being socially connected and being united around their goals so that they believe in their ability to achieve those goals as a team. So, there’s social connection and they have task and goal connection.
Establishing this cohesion or unity among a group of dancers is an ongoing process, and anyone who’s been a teacher or a coach more than one year will probably tell you every group is different. One big reason why each group is different is because there are four factors that influence your ability to create a cohesive group, and those factors will change with every group of dancers. So, today, I’m gonna explain those four factors and help you understand what it takes to create a cohesive team. So, why do some groups have an easier time working together and getting along compared to others? I’ll answer that and more in part two of The Team Building Series!
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Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
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First Factor: Situation – 1:53
The first factor that influences team cohesion is the environment or the situation you're in. Things like the size of the group, the age of the dancers, if they all live close together, those factors all play a role. Cohesion is harder on huge groups of dancers and easier when there are not as many. It might be harder if there’s a huge age range of dancers or if they don't live very close together, so getting together socially is hard. Sometimes dancers might be part of a studio where they’ve all known each other and worked together for years, and other times the dancers might come together for a few weeks, for a specific project, and then it’s over. Your situation impacts how challenging it is to create that sense of unity.
Research shows that one aspect of the situation that you can use to improve cohesion is the distinctiveness of your group. Something as simple as do they all know they are a part of something unique and special. Even small things like a team name, wearing the same T-shirts, things like that can help improve unity. We know humans are social beings. We naturally create ingroups and outgroups. Being a part of an ingroup or belonging to the team is motivating and comforting. So, without hurting anyone who’s not a part of the group, making your dance team feel unique and special and distinct helps increase cohesion. When we feel like our group is special and we feel like we belong to that group, that leads to a strong sense of connection, loyalty, and motivation.
Think of those teams who have famous sayings or slogans, sometimes they're top secret. You don't get to know what it is until you're a part of that program, those small things make you distinct, and then it’s motivating and feels really special when you belong to that team.
Second Factor: Personal – 3:45
The second factor that influences unity and cohesion are personal factors. You have a group of dancers with a bunch of different personalities and backgrounds and perspectives all trying to work together. The more you can honor those differences and allow people to bring their unique personalities together, the better. This is an important point. Cohesion isn't about sameness. The goal is not to create a bunch of robots who all believe and act the same way. Cohesion is about belonging. You only feel like you truly belong when you are allowed to be yourself and that self is accepted and cared for.
As the leader, you can help build cohesion by noticing, highlighting, honoring, sharing how everyone is unique and contributes to your team. Activities that allow for honest communication, acceptance, and true connection build that sense of community. Of course, not everyone is the same, so understanding how personal factors influence your connection to the group will allow for a stronger bond.
Some people will be more committed than others. Some people will be really similar and some will be super different. Some will have more anxiety. Some will slack off, come in, do the job, and leave, and never put anything in extra outside of that time. Some will love the program exactly as it is, and others will want it to change. The point is that everyone’s individual differences come together and influence how cohesive your team can be, but rather than trying to make everyone the same, I’ve found that noticing and accepting those differences while uniting around team values and goals leads to the best results.
It’s not that everyone is so unique you can do whatever you want. It’s about honoring how we are different, accepting everyone as is with the expectation that everyone will give their best as we strive towards our goals.
Third Factor: Leadership – 5:37
The third factor that strongly impacts unity is you, the leadership. Teachers, studio owners, coaches, your values determine whether strong cohesion is even possible. If the coach’s top value is competitive success, unity will be nearly impossible. If the coach values connection and hard work and rising to the challenge, then the dancers will value that too.
If you remember from the last episode, one of the types of cohesion, again, is task cohesion, which is your belief that your team can work together to accomplish a task. In dance, that could be your team’s belief that they will get that hard turn section or their belief that they can learn choreography quickly and turn it around for a great performance in a matter of days. We want our dancers to believe in their ability to come together and accomplish their goal. That’s the task cohesion, and, as I said in the last episode, that’s the type of cohesion we tend to ignore. We focus on social and getting along, ignoring this task piece.
Task cohesion comes from taking on challenges together, working together to reach your goals, and developing a confidence that everyone will do their part. That sense of connection and confidence starts at the top. Leaders who preach hard work but don't show it themselves, or leaders who say they care about work ethic but only praise competitive success will destroy that team’s cohesion. But leaders who set up challenges and then use the positive coaching approach to help dancers overcome those challenges will see an increase in cohesion. The dancers learn, “This is hard, but when we work together, we can do it.” They start to believe in their ability to achieve those goals.
Leadership is one of the big factors that influences cohesion, so I hope you take this as a good thing because what you do matters. You do have it in your power to establish the team culture you want. It starts at the top, so own that power and responsibility and create that solid cohesion that you want to see, not just socially and having people get along, but helping them bond around their belief that working hard will pay off and that they can accomplish their goals when they all work together.
Fourth Factor: Team – 7:49
Lastly, the fourth factor that increases cohesion includes things that are unique to that specific team. These team factors are things like how stable is the group? Are people moving in and out of it depending on the routine, or are they a solid group of dancers for a year or longer? Does everyone know their roles on the team? What are those team norms? Can everyone articulate them and live by them? Are there common team goals, or how does the team communicate with each other? All of these things are specific to each group and will influence cohesion.
Some of those things make it easier. Some of them make it harder. Some of it you have in your control, and some of it you don't. You might be in a studio setting where dancers are re-grouped for different routines constantly, so you can't control the instability of it, or on the other extreme, maybe you have a school setting where there’s one audition a year and no one leaves. So, you have the exact same group of dancers in every routine. That can help cohesion. Maybe your team is somewhere in the middle, and yes, being a consistent group can improve cohesion. That may not be possible in your setting, and that’s okay. So, you lean into other team factors instead.
Look for any of those team factors that are in your control. Some of the big ones are talking about expectations and norms, and it goes a long way. What do you expect during warmup? Are you allowed to talk? Who’s running things? What kind of energy are we looking for? How did you give and receive feedback on this team? How do you communicate about something that’s bothering you? The more you can establish those norms, the more you gain buy-in from everyone to live in those norms and be accountable, the more cohesive your team will be.
Goals and Values Conversations – 9:32
I know I’ve shared many times about how valuable goals and values conversations are with any group, and this cohesion piece is a strong reason why. Establishing these team values every year or every show, depending on how that group changes, it’s an essential starting point for a cohesive unit. Don't skip this step. Discuss your values, your norms, your expectations as a unit so everyone contributes, believes in it, and then hold each other accountable to showing up in those values every day.
Okay, that’s a lot. Let me summarize this a bit. I started with the question: “Why do some groups have an easier time working together and getting along compared to others?” Well, it’s because of these four factors. Some are gonna work in your favor, and some are not, and it’s about consciously using the factors in your control to your advantage. We know a more cohesive group is gonna be happier and more successful when they're on stage, so yes, this stuff matters. Plus, it’s just a lot more fun to teach and coach a group of dancers who are a solid unit together.
So, putting this together, first are the factors dictated by your situation, like the ages of your dancers, whether you're a school or a studio, how often they practice. Many of those may not be in your control. But then there are personal factors for everyone in the team. There are leadership styles, which is a very important factor, and finally, the team factors like shared values and norms. Some of it’s in your control, some isn't, and you may not be able to change some situational factors. You certainly can't control personalities, but what I’m getting at is that you can recognize what’s not in your control and still be aware of how it’s influencing things. Talk about it, address it, and then take action on the things that are in your control in order to help create the most cohesive team possible.
I hope this helps to kind of understand what’s influencing and why some groups are just harder to get together. So, if this has inspired you and you want some more ideas for team building, maybe some specific games to try, I have a free download to help you with that. I know many of us are looking for new ways to shake it up a little bit. This download has 15 ideas. It covers games for increased communication, games to get to know each other, and games that are just for fun. The link is in the show notes. Just go to the website for this episode at www.chelseapierotti.com/109.
Finally, if you have a fellow dance teacher who you think would really benefit from this, please share the episode with them. Word of mouth is still the best way for this amazing community to grow. So, I genuinely just want to pause and say I appreciate you so much. Thanks for listening today. Keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
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