We've turned a calendar year and as you've maybe noticed the external noise and chaos has continued. So what do you do? What does your team do?Stay the course, yes. Dial in your focus, yes. Revisit your key priorities, yes. Make connection a necessity with your team, yes.Just like in sports, the fundamentals of building a great team will always be necessary. But there is one more key component needed in order to build a successful team. It starts with a study on rats!In the 1950s, Dr. Richter and his team studied how rats would swim if put in a container of water with no way out. The wild he studied, known for their fierce, aggressive behavior, "constantly on the alert for any avenue of escape," died within 15 minutes or less of entering the container. 15 minutes!This is crazy given the toughness of these wild rats. The researchers concluded: "The situation of these rats scarcely seems one demanding fight or flight - it is rather one of hopelessness; ... the rats are in a situation against which they have no defense. "Without hope, the rats gave up quickly.In later studies, Dr. Richter and his team briefly conditioned the rats before putting them in the containers. Several times they immersed rats in water for a few minutes and then pulled them right back out."In this way the rats quickly learn that the situation is not actually hopeless; thereafter they again become aggressive, try to escape, and show no signs of giving up."Because the rats had been rescued before, they believed they would be rescued each time they were dunked in water. They had hope. And that hope propelled the rats to swim for 60 straight hours - 240 times longer than the rats that hadn't been conditioned. Hope was their fuel. So let me ask you...Are you building hope among your team? Is there a sense of "in this together" even in disagreement? Are you allowing your team to feel heard, seen and valued? Are your actions and words consistent day in and day out? Maybe you feel stuck as you enter the year? Maybe your team is clearly less motivated or even depressed? Maybe you are plagued with the uncertainty that lies ahead? As you face those challenges head on, resolve that your team will not lose hope in 2021.Together narrow your focus (even if you disagree on external circumstances), as you find common ground among your team goals.Building hope requires action because it's the evidence of action (and the resulting growth) that actually becomes your team's fuel. Hope just might be the secret x factor to 2021!