My staff cringes whenever I bring up the topic of team building. Talk about resistance! Last year we went to a baseball game as a group but I’m not sure anything was accomplished. Oh wait, we did decide to never do a baseball game again…but I digress. Is team building really necessary? I ask because you gave a speech at a conference I attended recently and I remember that you emphasized the importance of it. Can you expound on that again?
– Kumbaya Kimberly
Dear Kumbaya Kimberly,
In a recent Dear Geese blog I talked about the two components of team dynamics: the WHAT and the HOW. The WHAT represents what the team does…essentially the work itself, and the HOW represents how the work gets done…the communication, collaboration, teamwork, leadership, etc. In that blog titled, Annoying Co-Worker (which I encourage you to read), I emphasized that the HOW directly impacts the WHAT and requires as much attention…and team building is one of the best ways to do that.
Now here is what you probably don’t know about team building:
There are three levels of team building: low impact, medium impact and high impact.
Low-impact team building is not much different than going to a baseball game together. Minimal interaction…minimal sharing…minimal learning…and no real team building, per se. It’s fun and creates social interaction but in the end has limited benefit. That’s not to say it’s a bad idea; it’s just not going to have much of an ROI (return on investment). Low-impact team building does not require an outside facilitator.
Medium-impact team building uses group initiatives and problem-solving activities to enhance how the team communicates, collaborates, and works together. Typically this level of team building will begin with fun and sometimes silly ice breakers (to loosen people up), followed by a physical activity of some sort (to build trust and communication) and culminate with discussion exercises where the group identifies their strengths, growth areas, and makes a few commitments for moving forward. Medium-impact team building requires an outside facilitator.
High-impact team building focuses on a specific aspect of the team—be it around communication, leadership, trust, conflict, personality differences or unresolved issues. For this type of team building you want an experienced team builder who excels in group-process facilitation. Here I’m talking about someone who can skillfully create a safe environment where team members can openly share with one-another and address any issue that’s preventing them from being successful, even if it’s their team leader.
High-impact team building not only requires an outside facilitator but a facilitator who can provide both a pre & post team assessment, not to mention some follow-up work with the team.
Kimberly, I would suggest talking with your team about a medium-impact team building and see if doing something with more substance might appeal to them. I’d also be happy to confer with you on other options to consider.
Either way, don’t give up on team building…just change it up.