It’s often seen as a quick fix but organisations who want to improve team dynamics look to corporate events to get the job done. Are these team building activities really the quickest way to improve team performance? Team Coach Anoek Neele describes the conditions necessary for improving team performance.
What is team building?
Team building is the process of creating within a group of coworkers their own dynamic – a sub-culture from the unique contributions of people with different values, perspectives and backgrounds.
The features of effective team performance
Real team performance won’t be achieved by building a raft together, but rather by systematically working towards team dynamics. So called “high performing teams” have four main criteria: They have clear goals, they listen and communicate well with each other, there is mutual trust, and colleagues utilize each other’s strengths.
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#1 Set clear goals
It seems like a no-brainer that a team needs a clear objective and responsibilities. Yet regularly, I come across teams who don’t have this. The reasons for this can vary. Sometimes a team is built because of reorganisation, and there is little chemistry. Or it makes fiscal sense to shuffle employees from one team to another with another manager. For a team building to function optimally, it’s essential to define the common goal. An efficient and fun way to start this conversation, is by performing a short survey.
#2 Clear division of tasks
In some teams building, tasks ‘get picked up’ without it being specifically assigned to anyone or falling under someone’s responsibilities. It can be seen as a nice gesture if someone feels capable of doing so, but it can also lead to unnecessary confusion and eventual irritation. This makes the alignment of tasks so much more important, because if left unchecked they can wreak havoc.
#3 Promote a safe environment
Sometimes a point of discussion seems to never come to a conclusion. It goes around, and around and repeats endlessly. If this happens, it may indicate a lack of confidence within the team building. It has rumblings of something else, left under the surface. The environment isn’t safe enough to bring up dormant issues.
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Often, someone external can help in these situations. A team will give hints and a push in the right direction, if they’re in a safe environment to do so. As a coach, I might ask “Why do you continue to do this the same as always? Shall we try something different?” Sometimes that’s a difficult question to ask. You can’t force a safe atmosphere. It takes time to build trust within a team, and its only ever there when the foundational needs are met: clear goals and responsibilities, and clear division of tasks.
#4 Allow team members to bring out the best in each other
I recently met a team of social workers. Within the team each had found their own specialisation in dealing with youth. One focused primarily on very young children, another was tasked with finding the right family in the right neighbourhood, and the third maintained contact with schools. The team building itself makes a big difference within communities based on their available talents. To bring out the best in each other, you have to let go of control in the first place. Then you’ll be able to see each other’s talents, appreciate those talents, and promote confidence in each other to use those talents. Only then can the best team members encourage each other in using their particular talents.
Team building is a continuous development
Team development isn’t an overnight process. It’s a continuous activity, which requires a deep understanding of the criteria for enhanced team performance. Talent can flourish and high performance achieved by consistently working to improve each criteria.
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