Building a team: and breathe now!

March 21, 2012, by , Posted in Blog,Team Building, 6 Comments

Building a team: Be here now!

In my work across organisations, I notice that many people, when building a team – a brand spanking new team or simply continuing to drive an existing team through to extraordinary – tend to get lost inside their own heads (sometimes their backsides!) thinking about why it isn’t working and why aren’t others doing this or that and believing that ‘Fred has always been a pain in the butt anyway!’

We can all be guilty of getting lost in our own thoughts. The problem arises if we take up residence there and fail to leave the safety of our thoughts and enter the world! Only when we do this do we have some chance of changing the story and influencing new action.

Being truly present though, takes energy, confidence and a desire to understand others.

One of Steven Covey’s 7 habits is ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ – to do this, we must be present.

Building a team: Silence!

Imagine paying a small fortune to see the greatest choir ever assembled. A bit like the chaps in the photo! Your expectations would be, and rightly so, fairly high I would guess? Now imagine that part way through they stop singing. They simply run out of breath singing such a complex piece that the auditorium is brought to silence whilst they get their breathe back! I doubt you would be impressed. Me neither.

Building a team: Powerful learningAs a singer, I quickly learnt about staggered breathing. A simple idea – in order that the sound is always consistent and there are no silences in choral singing, the moments when you take a breathe are staggered with your colleagues. I might breathe at one point and the singer next to me may breathe a bar later. Only this way can the choir create a wall of sound. Believe me, it doesn’t sound good when 200 singers take a breathe at the same time!

For staggered breathing to work seamlessly it takes each singer to be present and ‘in the moment’ – responding to what is happening around them, noticing that the singer next to you is pregnant and therefore unable to breathe in the way she would normally. How do you then adapt your own breathing to accommodate her? It requires immense flexibility and awareness.

Building a team: Powerful learning

In our team events, there is often great hilarity when we share the notion of staggered breathing. The assembled leaders have a deep and focussed chat with the person next to them to agree where they might breathe, they then disappear back into their own heads paying zero attention to the people around them!! Uncomfortable learning when it is then played back to them. They quickly discover, that being truly present and paying real attention can be challenging.

Ask yourself, with your own Leadership style, how much are you truly present and connected to what is happening around you? In your own organisation, how much time is spent being present and adaptable to the here and now? In building a team that ultimately becomes extraordinary, it is key. You can hear me talking more about my views on Team Building on our Youtube channel

About Richard Tyler

Richard is an extraordinary Business Speaker, Motivational Speaker and Facilitator. Richard has successfully combined two areas of expertise: The art of performance and behavioural psychology. He originally trained at Guildford School of Acting in Musical Theatre and has performed in many lead roles, such as Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. Circle him on Google Plus!

6 Responses to “Building a team: and breathe now!”

  1. Nicole says:

    This sounds like one big crazy exercise in coordinated breathing. I’m not sure what the actual application for this would be in the work place, other than how being conscious of your own breathing can help you from feeling anxious and operating more gracefully. Breathing is after all, how actors look so relaxed in front of the camera. I learned effective breathing exercise from a basic acting class. It is lesson one in acting 101.

    • Thanks Nicole. I am not advocating organisations have some mass breathing sessions. That would be frankly odd. The analogy is that of a choir – their need to align breathing and be present enough to notice. For teams and organisation, they also need to be present and therefore adaptable to changes. Many seem to go through the motions unconsciously. This makes improvising, flexibility and adaptation, rather tricky.

  2. Trevor says:

    This was a very interesting article , building a team from scratch is a very complicated thing to do and it takes skill and patience to do it. To better a team that is already in place is something different all together. You have a really good grasp on what it takes to be a team and the communication that is lacking in that area, how do we fix this and become better?

    • Thanks Trevor. We fix it by caring. For so many, it doesn’t matter enough so the effort required to build a truly collaborative team is non-existent. We become better when we start to see that paying attention to the other people, the vision and caring about our contribution pays off. For that to begin, we have to adapt attitude and shift behaviour.

  3. Joseph says:

    I won’t mock or dismiss the benefits of deep breathing exercises because If there is one thing I have learned since taking up Yoga, it is that the deep breathing rhythmic techniques of Yoga have certainly strengthened my heart and lungs and cardiovascular conditioning. And it has also helped me relax Any acting student or coach will tell you how important breathing technique is to becoming a great acor because of how it helps you relax.


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