Episode 110: Team Bonding Part 3
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 three of a three-part series on team building. So, if you missed the first two, pause, go back to episode 108 and 109, and then come right back here.
As a quick recap, we talked about the two different types of cohesion (or unity) that your dancers are striving for, which is being socially connected and being united around their goals and their belief that they can achieve them. Then we covered the four different factors that influence your ability to bond and how to lean into the factors you have control over and be aware of those important factors you may not be able to change but they're still impacting your dancers’ ability to form that strong connection.
So, keeping those in mind and moving forward, today I’m gonna cover five specific strategies you can use to increase cohesion. So, if you're looking for the more practical approach, this episode is all for you.
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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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I hope hearing more about the different types of cohesion and different aspects of a team that influence cohesion is all helpful to set the stage. But I also know sometimes we just need the practical advice. I was always the coach that was saying, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. If it’s gonna work, just tell me what to do.” So, that’s what I’m here for today. Let’s get to it!
Make Your Dancers Distinct – 1:54
The first idea is about making your dancers distinct. When you help your team feel like they are a part of something unique and special, they're more likely to socially connect and connect around their goals. With dancers, I think one easy way to do this is to emphasize any unique traditions or history that is associated with your team or company. I’ve seen things like giving seniors cards before their last performance, getting an ice cream treat after a long nationals practice. I’ve seen team barbecues with skits or riddles to solve. Maybe you have a tradition around how you warm up because there’s a history around how the studio was founded. These traditions can be social. They can be about how you structure things. They can be about designing a new T-shirt. What matters is that it brings all of the dancers together. Teach them those traditions. Tell them what they're about and why they matter.
If you as the coach or the teacher are new to the studio or new to your school team, or there may be some traditions that have become harmful over time, it could be time to create something new. I know some traditions around bringing new dancers into a team might not be appropriate anymore or maybe you just don’t have any traditions that you’re working with. That’s okay. Just start them. Make sure you bring up tradition. Talk to your dancers about why being part of this legacy or why creating your legacy matters. The more distinct they feel as a team, the more cohesive they can become.
Identify Individual Roles – 3:27
The second idea has to do with helping every dancer feel like they have an important individual role. That could mean specific titles, but it doesn't have to be so formal. The idea is to know that everyone has something to contribute. No matter how old, how experienced, how technical of a dancer, everyone has something to share.
One practical thing I’ve done with teams that helps is to brainstorm with everyone together about what each role should be. If you are a high school or college team, for example, you could draw four columns on the board and talk about the roles of a freshman versus sophomore versus a junior and a senior, maybe things like being on time and prepared for class and asking questions are great roles for the new members of your team. By outlining roles and expectations for everyone, each dancer knows how they're supposed to contribute to the team. The expectations are clear, and everyone helped come up with them together.
If you are in a studio or a set up that doesn't split into specific groups like that, talk about roles in whatever setup makes sense. Maybe it’s experienced company members versus new or different levels of company within the studio or you could go even smaller. Say you have 12 dancers in your advanced company, talk through the roles of each of them and how they individually contribute. When dancers know they have an important role to play, they're more likely to own that role, lean into it, and do the work that’s expected of them which leads to that greater sense of cohesion.
Establish Group Norms – 4:59
The third idea I’ve talked about before, but it’s worth reiterating. It’s establishing group norms. Have a conversation with the dancers about key aspects of how your program is run. What does practice look like? What’s expected? Is it acceptable to give each other feedback or is that not a norm for your group? How do you ask questions? How do you leave class at the end? Use input from team members to establish those norms and show each of your dancers how group standards contribute to better performances down the road.
One practical tip here is to define what a five-star practice looks like. Imagine a one-star practice is one where nothing gets done, everyone’s cranky, maybe you have to leave early because you can't take it anymore. And then a five-star practice is when you walk out feeling like it was the best practice you ever had. Everyone feels fulfilled and excited and like you got a lot accomplished. Work together to define that five-star rehearsal. Everyone will come together around the group norms and work together to have more five-star days.
Talk About Individual Sacrifice – 6:05
The fourth idea is to talk about individual sacrifice. We say things like, “There's no ‘I’ in team,” and quotes like that, but we don't always talk about what we mean and what the expectations are. Maybe team members are all expected to work a certain number of hours on fundraising or a community service project. For your leaders or veteran dancers, you can have a separate conversation about sacrifice from the top. They can lead by example, show how they put the team first.
Having this conversation about what sacrifice looks like, what are the expectations, and to really make it practical, talk about the behaviors you will see. This one’s not about thoughts and mindset. It’s about behaviors that other teammates will see that demonstrate how you prioritize the team over yourself. Take a moment to define it for your program.
Communicate Better – 6:55
Finally, you can build cohesion through better communication. I’ve talked about this before too, and overall, you want a team environment that encourages open communication, that listens to everyone on the team, not just the leaders, and dancers know they will be heard. Their ideas may not always be acted on, but they're always allowed to contribute. One practical way to start this conversation and increase communication on the team is to have everyone identify on a piece of paper why they want their fellow dancers on the team and then create a summary sheet for each dancer. This is a great thing to do maybe at the end of the summer or after they’ve had a chance to get to know each other for a while, but it’s still relatively early in the season.
If you want your dancers to communicate over the hard things like cleaning routines, holding each other accountable when they break the rules, you want to start with an example of positive communication that will help bring them together.
All right, let’s summarize this all and make sure you walk away with five concrete ideas you can use this summer to focus on team cohesion and becoming a solid unit.
- Number one is to identify traditions. Talk about them and engage in what makes your team special.
- Number two is to identify everyone’s individual roles, so they know how to contribute.
- Number three is to define what a five-star practice or rehearsal means to you.
- Number four is to discuss what sacrifice looks like and what you expect of everyone.
- Number five is to start with a positive example of communication by having everyone talk about why they want each member as a part of the team.
These are just a few of your options, but I hope you’re inspired to use one or two or even all of them this summer. If you try something and it works, let me know! I’d love to hear from you. You could always share your team-building ideas and success with me by leaving a voice note at www.chelseapierotti.com/message. You’ll see the link in the show notes as well. And if you didn't grab the free download yet, I also have 15 ideas for team-building games that you can get for free. You can use the link in the show notes for the web page for this episode www.chelseapierotti.com/110.
Thank you for listening! I hope you have a wonderful time setting up your team for success this season, getting to know each other, and creating those life-long connections. As always, keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
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