The Power of Team Building

Anchana smiling while leaning against a wall

Anchana Kuganesan, Design Research Team Lead, MASc, Biomedical Engineering-Clinical Stream 

Team building is crucial to motivate my teams about their work. Anchana reflects on team building and socials, creating trust and collaboration that ignites a passion in each of her team members.  

As a team lead at the Innovation Hub for the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about leading a team and inspiring those around me to take action in our work. This allowed me to become more confident in the work, and I feel well connected to the Innovation Hub team members as a community. I am constantly learning from my team members and fellow team leads and enjoy coming up with new ideas to take our work one step further. Some ways I connect with team members include 1-1s, team meetings, coworking meetings, and team socials. Team building does not have to be elaborate; it can be as simple as a group activity before a team meeting. Not only does this allow team members to bond with one another, but it also brings passion to the work they do.  

Learning from my Team  

As a project begins, asking my team members how they work best helps. This includes how they like to communicate, how they prefer to celebrate their wins, and especially how they can let me know when there is excitement or stress. For example, I would ask them how they would like to receive feedback, how they prefer to complete work, and what time of day they are most productive. If they enjoyed something at their previous job, I encourage them to share that with me. As someone relatively new to a leadership role, I appreciate their ideas for what has worked in their past workplaces so that I could implement them. I believe that great leaders care about the values of their team. Bringing them together for shared experiences would be the ideal next step in team building. 

Relatable Experiences for All 

Icon of a hand holding up an icon of an individual with a heart to convey support and trust

I plan socials every month or so for the team to give us time outside our meeting times to connect and destress. During the warmer months, we’ve taken walks at the Harbourfront to get ice cream; in the winter months, we’ve gone to board game cafés. I get to know their hobbies and interests, and it’s so exciting to learn about what they are passionate about. I found that my team members tend to open up and trust me more as a leader and fellow student. Trust with my team is important to ensure they can lean on me when needed, but also elevate them to reach their potential. I feel a strong sense of community after these socials.  

Documenting Memories 

To date, my favourite social is our holiday event, where we built a gingerbread house and decorated it together. My teams got to meet one another, share their holiday plans, what they wanted to do after their time in university, and even some individual wins they were experiencing that week. I went home feeling content about our conversations. I take photos and videos to document these memories and share them with the team. During busy weeks, I look back at these memories and reflect on my journey at the Innovation Hub and as a U of T student. These documented memories will last a long time. 

Building My Own Community 

I’ve learned the importance of team building in my eight months at the Innovation Hub. As a leader, colleague, student, and, most important, as a person, I want to feel a sense of community everywhere I go. To do this, I must build trust and collaborate with those I interact with often. I find that team building is my way of doing this. To create a space for them to be comfortable and enjoy their work, having social events on occasion can be a great way to build a positive team dynamic. Team socials are not only a great way to relax but have brought us closer as a team, reigniting our passion for work. 

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