Why is Team Building important?
Whenever you get two or more people working together you also get interactions that will depend on their personalities and relationship. To optimise the results of such interactions, it is vital that the individuals involved recognise and appreciate the different roles they are most suited to play and how those roles fit into the needs of the organisation.
There are multiple different versions of how a team “ought” to be set up – clearly to optimally benefit the organisation – but does this relate to output, productivity, minimising costs, customer satisfaction or less down time? There is no absolutely right approach – but there may well be a best approach specific for your own organisation. Finding that approach, however, may not be easy – hence can benefit from discussing the options with experienced trainers.
What are the positives and negatives of Team Building?
The positive side of Team Building is that each individual can do what they do best in a way that supports and maintains the roles and capabilities of others (who are also doing what they do best in other areas of the organisation).
The negative side of Team Building occurs when you get two (or more) individuals vying for a specific role (either those that are unsuccessful end up undertaking roles they are less suited for, or they leave – and in either case there can be recriminations and relationship issues). Alternatively, you can get the situation where an organisation desperately needs a role fulfilled and either the individual in that role is unsuitable or there simply is not anyone in the role in the first place. In all instances of inappropriate role-holders (or lack of), the solution commences with recognising that there is a problem – then moving to identify what is causing the problem and finally taking action to ameliorate or remove the problem causes.
How does Team Building work?
This is often easier said than done. Agreement is usually strong that a problem exists but complexities multiply when the investigation shifts to identifying what the problem is. This is because one of the key issues that will come under the microscope is the way different personnel (likely in different departments/roles) work with each other. This focus tends to result in the leaders of specific departments or teams defending their own on the grounds that a critique of their staff is a critique of them or their work. This, in turn, leads to very political manoeuvrings to shift blame, obfuscate investigations and protect key staff (and self).
To break the log jam that results, and allow the organisation to clear away the distractions, the art of Team Building is required. By enacting exercises that draw people together – whether in work or play activities – allows them to interact and see each other in different lights. This leads to better understanding of the others’ points of view and more clarity as to why they are saying what they are saying. Combine this with activities where each person learns to rely on others (often encouraged using risk-based activities such as abseiling or hill walking or kayaking) means that this sets up the relationship models that ought to work better going forwards. Thus, if two departments are not working well together. A classic example would be sales and production – where sales have won some superb orders (in their minds) and they are destroyed by production because they don’t fulfil things as told. Conversely, production is frustrated that sales keep promising things that they are not equipped to produce or can do better, or which are now out of date, so the results are not the best that production can do so they feel frustrated. When each side learns about how their reactions are perceived by the other side, all persons start down a course of discovery which usually ends in a far better understanding of a) what is wrong, b) what needs to be changed, c) how to make the changes and d) what their new role will be. After that, it is “just” a matter of moving these changes forward.
What Team Building exercises are there?
There are a huge range of possible alternatives. Often these relate to activities carried out outside the organisation – aimed at breaking the “normal” interaction links as much as possible: hill walks, kayaking, survival treks or more simple ‘tasks’ (make a bridge with limited materials and time that can carry 5 people and a 20 gallon drum over a ravine (usually represented by 2 lines on the ground) or design a machine that will transport an egg over 5 metres and deposit it in a basket a meter above the ground using elastic bands and splints of wood no longer than 20cm each). These are aimed at requiring more ingenuity and skills than are expected to be present in the whole team – so everyone has to contribute – encouraging people to join in, do more, interact differently and break the original moulds.
Sometimes they relate to more work-related tasks. For example, where individuals are pulled out of their normal roles to work with different partners to solve internal organisational problems. So, an individual from sales and one from production would be told to sit down and work through what is going on between the two departments and to find solutions. They then both get to present their solutions to the rest of their colleagues in both departments.
In almost all situations, there will be some sort of moderator role/position alongside the teams. This is partially to suggest new ideas or approaches they might use, but also to ensure that the focus remains on the problem not the people – unless there are clear indications that one or more of the people is the problem. This moderator role also ensures that, with an outsider present, the participants do not automatically slip into their “normal” relationship approaches so easily – helping them to remain objective to their colleagues’ points of views and sympathetic to all parties’ problems.
There are also a number of tests and exercises that identify the best roles that each individual is most suited to carry out – this comes under Psychological Testing.
There are an infinite number of ways that such activities can play out – just as Sun Tzu said “there are only five tastes: salt, bitter, sweet, sour, acrid, but together they can make an infinite number of flavours; there are only five colours: black white, red, blue and yellow, but together the number of hues they make is infinite”.
How do you take this forward?
To find out more about what this could do for your organisation, your team or even just you yourself, please Contact Us so that we can discuss your needs with you.
Meet a Qualitator