photo of Sam Ragland

When I think back on my time at The Palm Beach Post, I mostly reflect on the team I built. The team’s contagious joy, consistent momentum, and shared mission created impactful journalism, innovative news products and exponential growth for each of us. 

The team kept burnout at bay for each of us. When I consider how, I think about the most important lesson I learned during the pandemic: Connection has the power to counterbalance adversity. And this adversity, difficulty or distress can be self-inflicted as often as it can be caused by outside factors. Yep, the mere act of being a journalist brings adversity.

That team was special because of the way we chose to connect. And I appreciate how the team at API also optimizes for connection. Here, we’reworking toward shared knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. And we’re intentional about bringing in support to add capacity, influence and expertise. Working alongside each other in this way increases our resilience, reduces our stress and promotes our self-worth and sense of belonging.

Today’s Mental Health Reset challenge aims to buoy your well-being while lightening your load.


You have something to prove. Your team is too busy and at capacity. Or, worse, there is no team because your shop is depleted. You’ll look ill-prepared or weak if you share the load — whether tactical, mental or emotional. Let’s be honest: There are countless issues working against news leaders trying to build healthy, effective, innovative teams. 

First, let me suggest that your dream team doesn’t have to be just people who formally report to you. In fact, I’ve found that I can promote people’s leadership abilities when I’m bringing them onto a dream team, enabling them to lead from where they are. This doesn’t just foster a sense of connection and belonging but contributes to what Gallup researchers call career well-being, the foundation of a thriving life. Going it alone is not, and cannot be, the solution. Instead of putting up or reinforcing siloes, tear them down by modeling teamwork and deliberately building the team of your dreams.


Before you can build a dream team, consider what that team will work toward. For this assignment, we’ll focus on building a team to solve a problem that is within your control. But this exercise is also helpful for creating teams to develop coverage plans, imagine new products or explore revenue opportunities. This “dream team grid” is backed by HBR research and comes from my years of experience building and nurturing cross-departmental teams. Download the template here.


  • Reminders before you start: 
    • Not every team will have each role or trait represented, and some team members will represent multiple roles. 
    • Think across your newsroom and across your entire company. 
    • Think about natural fits and stretch roles (promote potential — not just experience). 
    • Consider community stakeholders who could be allies and co-collaborators. 
    • Don’t forget about yourself. As the formal “leader” or convener of the team, you shouldn’t always be the quarterback.
  • The problem: State it briefly, interrogate it and then restate. What is the root of this problem?
  • Get to building: Some of these are more self-explanatory than others so consider the following as behaviors of the role more than as definitions.

The Quarterback: Sets and monitors vision The Bridge: Knows all sides; spans and connects departments and stakeholders The Adhesive: Brings mutual understanding — your “peace keeper” The Influencer: Uses social capital for team goals The Architect: Designs the way for the project The Questioner: Asks questions to deepen curiosity and model humility The Empath: Sees all perspectives; builds trust and momentum The Motivator: Encourages and celebrates team progress The Specialist: Focuses on the details


Bring your dream team together for a brainstorm. Remember: There’s no monopoly on good ideas, so you, news leader, can remove whatever pressure you’ve placed on yourself to have all the ideas. Instead, participate in your dream team — don’t just oversee it. 

After your brainstorm, focus on the best idea to solve the problem and then build a plan, assign owners and Get. To. Work. If you get stuck on moving an idea to action, check out API’s Ideas to Action Resource deck (you’ll find directions for each tool in the speaker notes ????).

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You also might be interested in:

  • Sustainability cannot simply focus on finances. If we want to do better journalism, sustainability must also focus on building community, inside and outside of the newsroom.

  • This is a column on how to measure well-being for yourself and your organization. By the end, you’ll have a clear direction and quantitative ways to chart a healthy path forward for your journalists.

  • Experts define moral injury as the suffering that comes from witnessing, perpetrating or failing to prevent events that violate one’s own deeply held moral beliefs and values. It is not classified as a mental illness, but it can lead to depression, substance abuse or burnout, which is one reason news managers need to understand the phenomenon of moral injury — and ways to address it or head it off.