Lessons in Team Building from the “Castellers”

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Amazing Photograph courtesy of David Oliete

Força, Equilibri, Valor i Seny / Strength, Balance, Courage and Common Sense

These are the values of the “Castellers”, aka the “Human Towers”. It is also the reason why this 300 year-old Catalan tradition exemplifies the power of teamwork.

The first time I saw the “Castellers” I stood in amazement as a little girl quickly climbed up six adults, stood up straight, and raised her right arm signifying success to the cheering crowd roughly 30 feet below.

After gaining my ability to speak, I turned to my wife and asked her about the sanity levels of her fellow Catalans.

She shook her head and pointed to the foundations of the tower and said, “that little girl has a better chance of getting hurt walking down the street than she does climbing up those people. Her teammates simply won’t allow it”.

After she said this I scanned down the tower and my eyes fixated on the intricate support structure that was set in place. Roughly 150 people working together in unison, win or lose, to ensure the safety and well-being of their fellow team members.

It was the most incredible display of teamwork I had ever witnessed.

And like most great teams, it came down to the values that they had firmly set in place: Força, Equilibri, Valor i Seny / Strength, Balance, Courage and Common Sense

Força / Strength:
Securing a strong foundation that supports growth and reacting to change as a unified front. These are the strengths of any successful team, and the “Castellers” are no different. If a culture is put in place that not only supports growth, but embraces it, the team wins. If a team communicates and moves together in unison to changing conditions, the team wins. Often times it is the things that a team cannot control that leads to their unraveling. If a strong foundation is set in place where everyone knows their role and how they fit into the big picture, they will see the change coming and position themselves to adjust together, as a team.

Equilibri / Balance:
Achieving a consistent balance is key for any team to succeed. Stacking your strengths onto one side while leaving your weaknesses exposed and the tower comes crumbling down. Poor communication and lack of trust between departments and the tower comes crumbling down. Lacking the confidence to ask for help while not feeling and listening for when others are in need and the tower comes crumbling down. Department names do not separate the great companies, they connect them, and each one must have blind faith that the others will do their job so they can move forward as one balanced unit.

Valor / Courage:
Facing hard times or the unknown is scary. But it is a whole lot less scary when you have 149 other people reaching out to support you and 149 people to catch you when you fall. The support structure set up by each “Castellers” team encourages pushing boundaries, while at the same time they prepare for the worst in order that the team can rebound as a unified front. It is not the moments of success that define great teams. Great teams are formed in how well they respond to challenges and how quickly they gain the courage to get back up again.

Seny / Common Sense:
Open lines of communication. Hard work. Self-awareness. Trust. These characteristics are not “nice to haves” as a member of the “Castellers”. They are expected. Each team members voice must be heard and their ears must be open. Each team member must put in the practice hours to ensure the little details are executed. Each team member must help their fellow team members to maximise their strengths and do what they can to minimise any weakness. And each team member must have absolute trust in the person not only to their right and left, but above and below as well.

In the “Castellers” there is no room for individual ego, there is only room for team growth.Like Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

But perhaps the most memorable part of witnessing the “Castellers” in person was how they celebrated.
Win or lose, they smiled, laughed and hugged each other.
They know that they will always have tomorrow.
They know this because the outcome does not define them, their values do.

Força, Equilibri, Valor i Seny
Strength, Balance, Courage and Common Sense

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