Effective Team Management Doesn’t Have to be Spooky

“Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

You could hea14868533_sr the little girlies chanting this as the Plague swept across 17th century London. Corpses lined the cobblestone streets like the angel of death knocked door-to-door; a restless, lonely ghost selfishly claiming companions. The girls knelt around a lifeless body as they solemnly chanted, fingertips lightly pressing against the back of their motionless friend, levitating her off the ground as if possessed by a spirit in a childish séance. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” As Halloween has just past,  it is not unlikely that your own children played this game, repeating the incantation at their slumber parties, lifting their friends off the ground in the flickering candlelight. But are they trying to “summon spirits,” or simply demonstrating a strong team dynamic?

“Light as a feather, stiff as a board” is an urban legend (along the lines of Bloody Mary) in which children (most of the time) surround an individual on their knees, put their hands underneath the subject, and chant “light as a feather, stiff as a board” while they effortlessly lift their friend off the ground. It’s made spookier sans light, and the chanting doesn’t help quell childish angst. But in all reality, it’s nothing more than a team of people with a common vision working together to accomplish a goal. The combined strength of the children, plus the low center of gravity creating a solid fulcrum, makes the task of lifting a person a few inches off the ground extremely easy. The chanting reestablishes the idea that something supernatural is at play, and focuses the mind on the end result instead of the task, almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. This group-think and vision of a greater goal works in many aspects of teamwork, and can be a useful trick in effective team management.

If you can get your team behind an idea—one that engages them and will have a tangible outcome—they will be more likely to work together in the attempt to achieve it. And just like the kids playing the game, no single one of them could lift a body with just the palms of their hands—the parts are greater than the whole. These kids may know something that managers dealing with a team may not.
It starts with relating to the people around you. In all reality, it’s relate-ability—not the end result—that motivates a team. Working well together generates energy, and that energy ultimately produces results. But once that commonality is put into place, vision is the next key ingredient.
Having a vision is what excites people to work together toward a desired outcome. The kids, for example, wanted to see if they could evoke a spirit to make their friend levitate. Your vision might be to exceed sales quotas. Then, the team leader needs to help his or her team envision the goal. This was achieved by the kids in the form of chanting their mission.
Next, there needs to be a team commitment. If all of the kids weren’t lifting their fair share of the weight, the “supernatural” experiment wouldn’t work. If not everyone on a team is committed to the vision, the team leader can’t expect to see results.
Trust is imperative in any team exercise. The kids trusted each other to not give up, freak out, or drop their load. Likewise, an effective team manager needs to trust their team, and the team needs to trust each other. This works best when the leader commits to the vision first, and sets the example for everyone else. In the case of the levitation, one child was probably a little bolder than the rest and initiated the game.
Of course, with trust comes inclusion. When everyone feels included, they are more engaged and willing to work together. The children playing the spooky party game were all in it together. Add that feeling to the hype and thrill, and they were able to get their friend off the ground.
Finally, a team needs balance. This may be more metaphorical—as opposed to the literal necessity of balancing a friend on your collective hands—but the principle remains. A team leader needs to catalyze consensus within the team, and make sure everyone is bearing the fair brunt of the work, all while offering solutions as he or she oversees the operation.
Sure, managing a team can be a little scary at times, but knowing what it takes and learning how to effectively manage one can make the whole thing look like child’s play. Get your vision off the ground by leading your team to success.
If you have questions on how you can enhance your leadership skills and successfully lead your team, call Advanced Business Coaching, Inc  at 262.293.3166