Team Building 101:
If you brand it they will come. But what if they don’t?

If you’re expecting a post about the simple synchronicity between team building and business branding, and all the success I’ve had with it so far you can stop reading here.  What I can offer is a brief account of how a project I had intended to be focused on team building became one that was rich in opportunities for character building instead.  I’ll also tell you why my business, and my resolve to keep I growing and living “without walls” is stronger today as a result.

The backdrop:

Last Saturday I ran a 5K race in Baltimore City, Maryland with my legal assistant Kamilah.  We ran it as a team, though it wasn’t the team I originally had in mind.  Let me tell you why…

Working without walls doesn’t mean working without structure.  So how do you organize a team without the traditional boundaries that define and give structure to team building? How do you create cohesiveness among a group that works predominately virtually and remotely, having little direct or face-to-face contact?  You make the space for bonds to grow….or at least that was what I had in mind when I suggested that my staff run the Baltimore race as a team last week.

There are four of us all-together: myself, my paralegal Sam; legal assistant Kamilah; and intern Fernando.  The idea was clear. We would train separately, keeping track of the number of miles we each ran for three weeks leading up to the race.  Adding some purpose and positivity to the mission, I vowed to contribute $1 for every mile run to a “family pot.”  The pot would be contributed to Kamilah’s efforts to raise money to study abroad.  So that everyone had a chance to profit, I also announced $100 bonuses for the best time ran on the day of the race, and the greatest total miles run in training.  Team shirts were printed, emails with carefully drafted rules and guidelines were sent out, social media posts announcing the mission were posted, hashtags created, etc., …I thought my plan was flawless.

So what happened?

Well…. nothing.  There was no response to my oh so great email for more than a week, and when a response did come it was only one of the team members inquiring as to whether walking was an acceptable form of training.  After 14 days my intern officially went AWOL and stopped returning my texts, and my “gentle reminder” messages to the group seemed to go unread.

It was around this time that one of my least favorite character defects began trying to formulate a response: control. When I’m in that space I find myself in my head, thoughts racing: How can I make them respond? How can I make them see how hard I’m trying? What combination of text, emails and calls will lay the perfect guilt trip trap to make them work towards the outcome I’m so attached to?  I mean I ordered team shirts for Pete’s sake! Where’s my photo finish!?

REALITY CHECK: You can’t make anyone do anything. When we try to defy this rule we ultimately push others away or end up with an outcome that we weren’t looking for and/or that doesn’t last.  I can’t make my team develop a bond just like I couldn’t make them answer my emails. I can inspire, I can lead, I can make suggestions, and I can keep coming bac to the table to try again.

When character defects show up its an opportunity to check my motivations, strengthen my resolve to stay aware of how they influence me and reevaluate the tools I’ve put in place to make sure they don’t take me, or the team, off course. And that’s pretty much what I had to do in the final days leading up to the race.  The most important questions I asked myself over and over were “where are my energies going? Where do I want them to go? Is what I’m wanting to do next a practical use of my time?”

On the day of the race Kamilah was the only person that came out. We ran for 4 minutes and walked the rest of the course. We talked with each other the entire way. She confided in me. I learned about what was going on in her world and how she wants to grow in her role on the team. There was no photo finish and no best time.  Just two people engaged in fellowship and reaching a finish line together.  That’s teamwork.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.
(; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @S.A. Stevenson Law Offices)