The problem with team building is that it usually doesn’t result in sustainable levels of teaming, nor does it position the team for success. There’s a really good reason for this too, because what usually passes for a teaming event is more often a social engagement rather than an authentic connection of hearts and minds around achieving a task. The other common mistake is using an activity that requires teams for the event to occur, but doesn’t actually build teams - like paintball or ten pin bowling.
So what does help to create sustainable teams? At its core, good teaming is about creating the space for a bunch of different people to build rapport – to get to know each other; their likes, dislikes, where they’ve worked before, what excites them, their personality. All of these factors, if explored will provide your team with a level of connection that will build rapport and contribute to more effective team work. After all, building rapport is about establishing sameness, and reducing differences. If you can achieve this, then you will go some way to having a connected team; but you won’t have a team that has achieved a level of closeness required to perform above and beyond expectations – both for themselves (individually) and for each other.
Effective teaming goes beyond this and allows the group to connect on a values level around their reason for being. If you can create the opportunity for this to occur then you are setting both the team, and the team members up for long-term success.
So how do you do this? Well, there a number of factors, and in this article I’ll explore three that contribute to a more effective team building process and support a more sustainable outcomes.
1. Be clear on the team's reason for being
2. Create a common language
3. The teaming process never ends
Be Clear on the Team’s Reason for Being
I’ve worked with many struggling matrix structures, joint ventures, leadership groups and business teams across many countries, and this first factor was missing on nearly all occasions.
When I ask these groups the primary purpose of their team, responses are usually lacking of clarity and many times the mission of the organisation is used in place of the purpose of their team.
What they hadn’t done was that very critical piece of work that ultimately sets the team up for success. They hadn’t taken the time to ask themselves the questions that help define purpose… "why are we here – what is the specific purpose of our team?" When asking these questions, of course it will be relative to, and in context of the overall mission of the project, the joint venture or the company. That’s what helps to ensure added relevance and meaning for the team from the outset. However the question is also an opportunity for the leadership of the team/s to be fully aligned around what this group has been brought together to achieve, and to be clear on the expectations that may exist of their team from other groups, such as the leadership levels above or other stakeholder groups.
It is this step that also provides the focus and direction for the way in which you choose to construct your teaming event including who needs to be involved and the type and experience of facilitator.
Create a Common Language
Language is symbolic, and it helps to define who we are. When different people come together to a team, they bring with them their own language defined by who they are. This can be defined by factors such as their race, their life experiences, their knowledge and their skills. When you bring two groups together, like a joint venture, or multiple groups in a project consortium then the variables are increased and the issue of common language extends far beyond their mother tongue or the use of technical or organisational jargon – that is merely the tip of the iceberg.
One of the greatest inhibitors to sustainable teaming are the beliefs held by individuals that they have to hold on to who they are and what defines them. We see this more often in matrix structures, joint ventures and consortiums where more energy is invested in defending their patch rather than relaxing the boundaries and collaborating. Creating a common language is about defining how the group can work, and exist, together without having to give up who they are. It is in effect an unconditional approach that allows for conditional behaviour and results. This can be done through the creation of team charters, like the On TRACC process, that acknowledge not only the reason for being, but also creates a shared and agreed way of operating on a values level.
The Teaming Process Never Ends
A team is made up of people, and people are constantly changing as is the environment in which the team exists. This means that when you are planning your teaming approach you aren’t just thinking about the traditional ‘main event’ that occurs at the beginning. What’s the plan for continuing to bring the group together and check in on the commitments made during the teaming activity? Think medium to long term when you pull your teaming activity together and look for ways to integrate the outcomes of the teaming process into your everyday operations. Importantly, if there is a seismic shift in the environment, such as a restructure, or a major change to the make up of a team or its purpose, then it makes sense that you revisit the teaming process, even if it’s an abridged version, to ensure you are still on track, and capable of delivering as a team.
These are three core tenets of effective team building. It doesn’t mean you can’t relax socially throughout the process or have some fun and games; but these become complimentary or a more intentional means to an end. The point I will leave you with is simple, but far-reaching. Good business results require really good teams who are engaged not only with each other, but also with the reason their team exists. It therefore makes a whole lot of sense that investing a little more in your team at the beginning will yield longer-term success.