At some point in your working life, you’ve probably participated in team-building exercises that made you wonder, “What’s the point?” Maybe they were useless group activities that everyone mocked under their breath. Or maybe they were genuinely enjoyable events with colleagues that, while fun, didn’t change anything come Monday morning.
Team building doesn’t have to be that way. Really, these activities should improve team productivity and efficiency. But to do that, you have to be strategic. Specifically, you have to know what it means to build a team and how to measure team performance.
What does it mean to build a team?
Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do to build a great team was to hire a handful of qualified workers with good personalities? Unfortunately, teams don’t work that way.
Sadly, in the real world, team relationships take thought, effort, and compromise. Each person has their own way of doing things, values, strengths, and weaknesses. One person could prioritize deadlines and prefer to finish their work in a timely fashion. Another may value quality over speed and intentionally take extra time to get things right.
Without addressing these differences, conflict is inevitable.
The purpose of team building is to get the people on a team to work well together. More specifically, it teaches individuals about one another so their differences can be a positive rather than a negative.
How to know what’s best
When you plan a team-building activity, first consider the people on your team. After all, you’ll want your activity to bring out their individual work preferences, habits, values, and strengths.
Teams with money to spend might opt to participate in some “professionally-organized game in which their behaviors are observed.” (Errr… Escape room, anyone?!) But you don’t necessarily need a clock counting down as you attempt to escape a nightmarish laboratory before the crazy scientist returns to see your team in action.
You could have them…
- Design a fun, informational poster about their team,
- Discuss which superpower would be most beneficial for their job,
- Plan a ten-minute tour of your workplace, or
- Collectively role-play their response to an upset customer.
Top Tip: It’s important that your team building activity not be part of employees’ actual work. Work has its own purpose, and treating work like a team building exercise would be like treating a performance as if it were a practice!
Finding purpose in team building
As your team building activity is going on, pay attention to the team dynamics. What differences are at play? Has someone tried to do all the work themselves? Is anyone keeping a close eye on the time remaining to complete the task? What about delegating? Is anyone raising objections to what’s been proposed?
Once the task is done, everyone will have seen all the different ways each person behaved. Now it’s time to discuss those differences. Ask each person to explain why they did what they did and what they learned about one another. Finally, have them discuss how they feel their differences could be beneficial or harmful to the team as a whole.
After you’ve talked through these behaviors and your team members better understand one another, it may be time to make some changes based on what you’ve learned.
Let’s say one person took it upon themselves to monitor the team’s progress with a constant eye on the clock. They may have underutilized project management skills. A new area of growth for them may be in keeping the team on track with various projects.
Making it a team effort
Before team building efforts can be successful, your team has to want those efforts to be successful. They need to be willing to disagree and debate in good faith, compromise when needed, and balance out each other’s skills.
If you try to impose new workflows on a team that require them to be more collaborative, and the members of the team don’t want to collaborate more, you’ll get pushback every time. Forced to work together more, they’ll argue more about the way they want to do things.
A proven way to engage employees in team building: put them in charge of it. Let them plan their team-building activities and decide how best to incorporate what they learn into their workflows. Give them the freedom to be creative and build each other up. After all, team building should be a team effort!
Any team-building effort requires time and resources. In other words, you’re paying for it.
Meaning, you should be able to determine whether such efforts were worth the cost.
A vague feeling of improvement isn’t going to cut it – especially not when the fruits of team building can be measured. Before, during, and after team-building activities, you should be recording and analyzing metrics pertaining to team efficiency and productivity.
Did the team meet its goals? Look at the key performance indicators that make sense for your team. Productivity, morale, and retention are good figures to examine. Keep an eye on the numbers, account for other variables, and be willing to try new team-building activities or rethink your team-building strategy.
What do you think?
What was your last team building event? As you go out to plan your next activity, remember that you’re not just building any team–you’re growing your team. Therefore, keep the goal of improving collaboration at the forefront of your mind, and don’t forget to take action when you find something that could be beneficial!
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