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Cultivating Champions: Get in the Zone

Let’s take it to the next level. How can you bring your team or organization to "the zone?"

We all want it – it’s that place where high performance, creative ideas and positive attitudes reside. It’s that place where we are working together, supporting one another, celebrating individual accomplishments and recognizing the role of the team toward getting there.

Creating a zone is a little more complicated when it involves a group. It requires leadership – at all levels. One person, the leader, needs to set the intention and create a mental environment where functioning “in the zone” is a possibility. Sometimes hitting the “reset” button and starting over again is necessary – that requires cooperation and leadership from all team members at all levels.

Here are some of the requirements for bringing your team into “the zone:”

  1. Team members need to understand what the zone is and why it is beneficial to be there.

  2. There needs to be a common vision to get in and stay in the zone (i.e., team members need to define what it would look like and feel like).

  3. There needs to be buy-in and commitment. Team members have to want to be in the zone together.

Here’s an activity to support an “in the zone” mentality:

Step 1: Start at the individual level – ground them in the experience of the zone.

To start on a creative note, you could kick things off with some music (e.g., theme from “Rocky”) or a motivational video clip. Get them thinking about moments when they were in the zone. Have them describe the experience. What were they doing? What did it look like? Feel like? How did they arrive at the zone – did they do something to get there or did it just happen?

Step 2: Expand the discussion to the team level.

Create a vision for what it would be like function in a “Team Zone.” Perhaps there are moments when your team has functioned this way. If so, have the group identify those moments and talk about what made them successful during those times. Record responses on a flipchart. To increase involvement, you might have small groups and/or pairs come up with some specifics about what it would be like to function in the zone. What would it look like? Feel like? What kinds of things would team members say to one another? What would team members avoid saying? What are the necessary requirements/commitments for success?

Step 3: Work together to create a “Team Zone” Charter.

The "Team Zone" Charter outlines the vision, joint commitments and requirements for fostering an in the zone type of environment. The charter is the team’s guidelines for success. It might start out with the words, “We are committed to….” An important note is that this charter needs to be viewable/accessible to all on a daily basis.

Step 4: Commit to the “Team Zone” Charter.

This is an important step that reinforces individual and group commitment. First, have each individual state his/her commitment (start, stop, continue format works well for this); end the meeting with a huddle, all hands in the middle, and have the group yell “In the Zone.”

Step 5: Monitor progress.

If your group is normal, there will be some ups and downs on their journey to create a team zone. When it comes to combining individual personalities, group dynamics and daily pressures, there are likely to be unpredictable situations that arise. Not everyone resides in their highest place in the workplace at all times. It is best to have the group acknowledge these situations as they come up. You may even have the group evaluate their progress toward achieving an “in the zone” type of environment that supports everyone’s top performance. You might facilitate group discussions that explore any of the following:

  • What’s working? Not working?

  • What takes people out of the zone at work? What brings people back into the zone at work?

There is every reason to invite the experience of being in the zone for your team – and chances are that the discussion will bring about some creative thinking about how team members want/need to work together. As a leader, your role will continue to be critical – you’ll need to remind the team of the benefits, offer them encouragement and feedback, reward their efforts and offer some perspective. Maintain your commitment to creating an environment which allows your team members to flourish.

We all deserve a work environment that brings us into the zone. The zone is a place where we feel good, work faster, think clearly and produce better results. It’s a creative and empowering place where new ideas are born.

Why wouldn’t we want to create a place like that?

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs.

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