Few initiatives of any importance can be planned or implemented by a single person working alone. Some level of teamwork is required. That level of teamwork might be as simple as timely communication between members. The work of other teams might require a higher level of teamwork that includes coordination of activities. Still other teams are highly interdependent and require very tight teamwork involving collaborative thinking in addition to coordination and communication. The level of teamwork that your team needs is determined by the nature of the work not by how much people like each other or how much of a team they want to be.
My work with teams is always focused on the real work of the team. Whether we are working on clarifying roles, developing protocols for decision making, or improving communication skills the work is always done in the context of doing real work. We choose an area of team building to work on by determining what will have the biggest impact on completing a real work task. "Team spirit" develops when teams are successful at accomplishing real work that matters.
The purpose of team building is to help your team be more effective. The most noticeable outcome is that the quality of the teams work will improve. That might mean better and more timely decisions, smoother implementation of action plans, or progress on an issue that the team has been stuck on for too long.
Youll also find that there is greater alignment within the team there will be a higher level of understanding and buy-in on team goals. Members will be more motivated about their work and more committed to the team. That higher level of commitment to the team usually translates into speedier execution on action items.
Your team will be better at working through disagreements and resolving sticky issues. Theyll have some simple structures and tools that can de-personalize the stresses of working in teams. That leads to an increased ability to collaborate on planning and execution.
How I Work
As always, I start with an in depth discussion with you to identify what outcomes you want what youre dissatisfied with and what you hope will be different as a result of the team building. Well talk about the specific nature of what your team does and how much interdependence is needed for the team to be effective that determines what team issues we need to address.
Well also talk about the current business issues your team is working on whether it be strategic planning, budgeting, or developing a new product. Effective team building is rooted in the real work of the team, not in kayaking trips or make believe games. A typical team building offsite will iterate between team issues (such as goals, roles and processes) and business issues. The team gets real work done and improves its ability to work together in the future.
The next step is an on-line survey or face to face interviews with each member of the team. You know what youd like to be different, but your team knows what is getting in the way. Ill ask them what works well on the team as well as what they wish were different. Ill also ask about the biggest challenges facing the team and the critical business issues that need to be addressed. Interviews and surveys are always done anonymously. I will collate the responses and share them first with you and then with the entire team.
Once the assessment is completed Ill provide an action plan that is customized for your specific team. I often recommend an offsite, but sometimes thats not what your team needs. After interviewing the members of a marketing team I recommended that the general manager and his management team needed to revise the way the marketing team is evaluated and rewarded the identified problems could not be solved with traditional team building. With another team it became clear that a conflict between two individuals needed to be resolved before team building could be effective.
Every team building is different, but many address common issues. Most teams benefit from building clarity and agreement on the team's goals, the roles each member will play, and the groundrules members will live by in working with each other. Many teams also find it useful to use a structured process for giving each other constructive feedback. For more on these teamwork basics click here.
For brand new teams I often do a New Team Kickoff workshop. This customized workshop helps set productive team norms while the team develops specific objectives and work plans. This is particularly useful for cross-functional teams where members often start out with widely divergent attitudes and approaches. The workshop helps the new team hit the ground running with clearly defined deliverables and a work plan that everyone buys into.
New CEOs and other senior managers can start off on the right foot with a New Leader Assimilation session. This structured process gets issues out in the open and provides a forum for setting expectations. The result is an acceleration of the getting-to-know-you phase -- a time when most direct reports go silent they try to figure you out!