In my experience, the success of any team, in sports or in business, depends on the presence of several important traits: mutual respect, dedication, hard work, dependability, consistency, and trust, among others.
While company-sponsored team-building exercises often strive to provide an artificial atmosphere in which co-workers can demonstrate fleeting evidence of some of these important traits, I believe they fall far short of providing a sustained environment that fosters the development and growth of stronger, better, more cohesive teams.
With that, another triathlete and I started a daily running group after a mutual friend introduced us, as he worked in legal and I worked in finance. We didn’t plan it, but our running group grew organically, adding a new team member every few weeks, as more people saw us coming and going from our regular lunchtime runs. Over the months and years that followed, our team grew to more than 20 consistent participants from nearly every functional discipline within Disney.
Our shared purpose in pursuit of year-round training (rain or shine) has fostered an incredibly strong, cohesive, cross-functional team, where each member demonstrates dedication, hard work, and consistency, engendering mutual respect and trust. In fact, we’ve grown into such a strong team that we regularly engage in “extracurricular” activities like endurance relays, mud runs, and even a hike across the Grand Canyon, during lulls on our collective race calendars, of course. Now, aside from being some of my closest friends, with almost any new challenge I face in my business roles I have dozens of trusted peers from nearly every discipline willing to listen and share their insights.
Although I’ve moved on from Disney, I took what I learned about team growing into my next role, and within weeks I started a work running group to get to know my new team. It has had its challenges (like not having an on-site gym with showers), but it has gained momentum and sparked a flurry of other team-growing activities including group yoga, after work walks and stairs climbs. I even convinced about 20 co-workers to attend my off-site indoor cycling class on several occasions.
As executive athletes, we owe it to ourselves and to our teams to share our passion for fitness. Although business-specific training will always be necessary to sharpen our functional tools, I can’t think of a better way to grow stronger, cross-functional teams. It might take longer this way, but the benefits will last longer, too.