TeambuildingTeambuilding is more than bowling outings and falling backward with a blindfold on.  Building an affective team takes conscious effort, and that could mean taking time away from the office to have ‘open’ dialogue about how the team is performing.  Note the special emphasis on ‘open’.

One of the reasons teambuilding has gotten a bad wrap is because many times it happens at the surface. Just because people are in the same room doing the same activity does not mean there is anything being built. To truly create something better, a structure has to be torn down so the new and improved version can stand in its place. This is what makes teambuilding effective – tearing away the façade to take a look at the beams and studs  …… to make the structure better.

Here are four techniques for clearing away the pretenses to get to what really matters for a teambuilding event.

  1. Dig deep. Picking the fruit off the tree does not change the seeds. The Facilitator must fully understand team issues, not just the symptoms.  What is visible to the outside world provides good clues, but getting to the root cause of the problem is necessary to make a change. Keep asking questions to get to the root cause of issues.
  2. Talk with lots of people. As the program is being designed, talk with as many stakeholders as possible. This of course includes the team leader and as many team members as possible. It also includes anyone who affected by the team’s performance – internal customers, other teams that rely on their decisions or performance, even external customers. Not only will you learn more about what’s going on with the team, you will likely find your ‘measure of success’ to determine if the program was successful. Be open and willing to set aside your prepared questions; set aside your own assumptions during this process.
  3. Play full out. Everyone is responsible for a productive team program: The team leader must be willing to allow time and space to talk about what is not working with the team, even if the conversation gets uncomfortable.  During the program, every participant needs to play full out and be open to new ideas. The Facilitator must be willing to bring the elephants into the room and know how to handle them. If people are speaking openly and honestly, there’s a good chance that conflict will surface. Brushing up on your conflict management skills is a good idea!
  4. Get commitment. Once participants have talked openly and honestly about what is and what is not working with the team, the stage is set to solicit input from the group on how to make things better.  Everyone must be heard before being asked to take steps forward. Even if the step is small, it’s important that everyone gets on board with at least one commitment. Ideally, this will be documented before the group leaves the room, with a plan to reinforce the agreement long after the day has ended.

Teambuilding is not an event, it is an ongoing process.  Programs are a great way to kick start an open dialogue and shift team norms, and the conversation must continue at every level to continuously work toward better results.

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