Dancers, Disney World, and the Value of Downtime

Never underestimate the value of downtime with your teammates.

I have just returned from a week-long dance competition at Disney World. Before you get any frightening mental images of me in a tutu, let me reassure you that the dancer was my 10 year old daughter. She and her teammates had qualified to dance at a North American competition with fabulous teams from all over the continent.

The competition itself was a great team building opportunity. The choreographers built routines around the strengths of each dancer—showing off those who could do the splits and those who could land triple pirouettes. The kids practiced for months to execute their dances at a level worthy of the stiff competition. When one member was tired or low energy, her teammates shared their snacks. The teamwork back stage and on stage was quite exceptional.

But when all is said and done, one of the most valuable aspects of the trip was the chance for my daughter to spend downtime with her teammates (and for our family to bond with the families of the other dancers).  Hours at the pool, at the buffet, and in lines at Disney World were opportunities to get to know one another, to learn about favorite music or teen idols.

It got me to thinking that the same downtime is so valuable for teams at work.  As a consultant, I spend a significant amount of time traveling.  I have always found that once I travel with a colleague, we have a closer relationship than we had before.  Somehow, knowing things that seem trivial or irrelevant about someone’s past, their family, their habits, all contribute to building trust and understanding.

Do you create the opportunities to have downtime with your teammates? Do you know where they grew up, their favorite junk food, what they’re like at 7am or 11pm? None of these things is mission critical for working together but somehow knowing a few of these answers can strengthen your relationship.

It’s summer.  Find a chance to spend some downtime with your teammates.  You’ll be glad you did.