Can teams be “built”? Let’s be honest here, have you ever gone on a team building event that worked? A friend recently got a great job in a large firm and was told to “do a team building event for her new team”. You’ve probably heard of the type of event I’m talking about; a team get to do some fun thing for the day/ evening and afterwards the whole team is expected to work better and know each other, respect each other and so on and so on. Team building events rarely work as they’re set up wrongly; even worse is when people don’t feel as if they’re allowed to say anything negative about the event and you’re starting to dissolve productivity, not improve it.
What’s wrong with team building events?
The magical myth of the team building event in our psyche and creeps its way into large, and small, firms. Yes, a team is better if it functions “as a team” rather than as a group of individuals. Some of the common problems are:
- making people do something they (or some of them) don’t want to do isn’t going to help with “team building” or make them work as a team. It will create discontent.
- people often don’t feel they are allowed to comment. You telling them they can say what they like is not the same as them feeling they can comment! If people don’t feel that constructive (but not positive) comments are welcome, you will never build a team that works for you. That part of the problem is yours, not theirs, and needs to be dealt before you even think of running any team building sessions.
- people are not clear what the event is for. I know it’s for “team building”, but you need better objectives than that. The basic idea behind most team “jollies” is that the team will relax and get to see each other in a different light and become more effective in a normal setting. A “jolly” on its own is not going to do that, even if all members of the team think it is fun. The principle of a “team building” event (i.e. taking people out of the day to day work situation is not wrong) but needs more to be effective.
Why bother with team building?
If done well there can be important benefits. The trick is to think about the problems you have in the team, and the benefits you want. Then decide how best to achieve what you want – sounds obvious, a bit like common sense!
- Communication in the team: Spending time with colleagues in a different setting can change the way people talk to each other. That sounds like a good thing, people in different states, talking differently, gives an opportunity to learn something about each other as they’re using different language to normal. It might challenge some people though; they might lose the familiar and comfortable, they may feel insecure and not like the different communication.
- Motivation of the team: Having fun as a group of you can be motivating and motivated people do more, right? Well, if you believe it’s possible to motivate somebody and if all the team have the same view of fun.
- Learn more about individuals in the team: Having seen each other doing stupid things, or in scary situations you now feel more comfortable with each other back in the office…really? Isn’t that the same justification as the (often disastrous) office Christmas party? But a big benefit of team building can be learning more about each other, it’s just how you get there.
- Learn more about your firm, values, objectives and get inspired by them: This is a great thing to achieve, and if all the team are inspired by the same thing it’s really powerful
Can team building work?
Yes! A team that understand each others role more fully than before can:
- operate more efficiently
- create positive improvements in processes
- improve client service (have you been on the phone to somebody that doesn’t really understand what their colleague does?)
- enjoy working together and feel more motivated (leaving Maslow, Vroom and other motivation studies for another day)
- reduce staff turnover. People that are happier working, stay for longer; that’s a direct saving to the bottom line.
You may like to read how to get teambuilding events to work. How will you change your approach to team building events?