“Team building” is by no means a new concept in the workplace, but since its introduction into the corporate lexicon, the meaning and goals behind this term have evolved, and these words now carry meanings that vary according to context. Some employers attach specific goals to this term; for example, clinical healthcare settings or product assembly lines may require very specific forms of cooperation in order to keep productivity high and participants safe. Other professional situations require a more abstract form of “teamwork”; some workers don’t depend on each other’s output, but they do need to get along in order to keep the workplace functional, pleasant, and professional.
If you’re a leader or manager and you intend to boost group cohesion with team building activities, plan these activities carefully. Don’t let your exercises alienate or upset the teams you’re trying to bring together. Keep these tips in mind.
Factor group size into the equation
Large corporations that require “team building” programs conceived at the C-level rarely get what they need from these types of activities. In order for the session to be well received, it should be shaped to the needs of the specific group and the individuals within that group. Cookie cutter team building (especially when it’s mandatory) tends to bring out forced cooperation, feigned compliance, and fake smiles that hide irritation over wasted time. This benefits nobody. Keep your program tailored to your group, and focus on specific areas in which teamwork is needed or may be lacking.
Keep your activities meaningful
If you’re facing a specific team problem (for example, bullying, missed deadlines, hyper-competition, in-fighting, unstructured meetings, disengagement, etc), attack that specific problem with your team-building program. If you need your team to learn a new skill or execute a shared new task, focus your program on this task. Make sure the activities fit the goals.
Don’t encourage dishonesty
There’s an easy way to drive your teams apart and make your workplace even more closed off, cold, and isolated than it already is: Create team-building activities that encourage dishonesty and insincerity. Don’t force employees to lie about their personal feelings, interests, or backgrounds. Instead, choose programs that encourage trust, collaboration, and honest disclosure. If employees are permitted to relax and be themselves, they’ll appreciate and trust each other more.
If your program reveals cracks in cohesion, fix the cracks
Don’t consider your program a failure if it exposes cracks in the foundations of your group. For example, if your teams are reluctant to participate honestly, that’s a problem. If the room feels uncomfortable and awkward during the session, that’s a problem. If your employees seem unable or unwilling to open up and trust each other, that’s no good. Now that you know where the issues lie, you can start on the long path toward fixing them. Keep your program fun if you can. If you can’t, then figure out why.
For more on how to encourage trust, honesty, teamwork and open communication, consult the management experts at Cordia.