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Team building

Team building : misconceptions, limitations and real benefits

We assume that you have organized team building games for your team so far - rafting, climbing, golf? What usually happens when your employees return to work? Do you notice an improvement in their working relationships or not?

Approximate reading time: 9m 28s

Among a number of companies there is the practice of conducting the so-called "team building". Organized as an outdoor game event or as an indoor training, for many managers team building has become a byword for the process of team building and supporting collaboration between employees.

At the same time, a large percentage of managers, incl. and human resource managers / HR /, there is a misunderstanding of the true purpose and benefits of team building programs. I mean specific perceptions and interpretations of team building that differ significantly from the nature of team building, although everyone knows that "team building" means "team building".

In my article below I will outline:

-What are the big misconceptions about team building
-What are the situations in which team building has its limitations and does not work
-What are the real benefits of team building
-What are the big misconceptions about team building.

The misconceptions about team building do not bring the real benefits that a company and its employees can actually get. Such a delusion can lead to the organization of a team building event or training, which instead of helping with something real and concrete, will be an unnecessary expense and a net loss of money for the company.

Here are some typical misconceptions about team building in our country that I have encountered:

“Team building is a wonderful experience in nature. We get to know each other and make friends. ”
"Team building makes us more cohesive and strengthens feelings of mutual respect and understanding."
"Let's go to team building, do you remember how well we had the last time? We played sports, laughed, ate and drank. ”
“Do you offer team building? What games is he playing? ”
I agree that team building is an "experience" and that it can "unite" and "strengthen mutual respect and understanding". For this purpose, however, it is necessary to have a bright, specific and aware of all the reason for this.

Here is just one example.

The management team of a production company conducts its operations regularly. Problems at work are usually discussed at them. It turns out, however, that if one of the problems gets its solution, then another arises in its place. The managers who take part in the operatives are not able to handle all this well enough. The manager of the company, who heads the management team, is not satisfied with the work and the results.

In such a situation, is there a reason to organize team building? And how to define this occasion, in particular?

There may be a reason for team building. But to define it like that, "by eye", I could not.

Let's see what the world's team building experts have to say about team building.

Katzenbach, Smith, Nelson, Blanchard and many others make it very clear that team building is a management technique, ie. Managers decide to use it when:

The already created team needs to improve internal processes (communication, decision making, goal setting, motivation, etc.) or to clarify the team roles of the participants, to involve the team in goal setting, to improve the effectiveness of the team. Work;
The company needs to improve the cooperation between the departments in order to fulfill a specific goal that the company has.
Team specialist Rech notes the following:

“Its not enough to take the team out and get them to play a few games.

There is so little teamwork when there is a lack of motivation to be a team.

But this situation can be overcome if we want the group of people to work not as a group, but as a team.”

Rech recommends starting the team building event or training by clarifying two issues:

What will be the overall team goal?
How will the remuneration system change if the group starts working as a team on the team goal (s) in question?
Expert Hatfield is of the opinion that team building can have different goals, which unfortunately are often confused:

“Many seminars, meetings, workshops fail because managers fail to determine what it is that they want to achieve through team building.

Developing a common team spirit is something other than building an effective and goal-oriented team.”

If you have already participated in a team building event or teamwork training, remember if it started with the inspired speech of a manager in the company, in which the manager says, for example:

“Colleagues, things are not going very well with us.

You know that our team goal is to make us gain a market share of Y% within the next X years.

We need to rethink the way we make decisions on our team and the way we work together.

That’s why we are here today.”

These are just sample words, but still think about them. If you have already taken part in a team building activity or training, remember whether it started with clearly defined problems (cases) in the work and with the call of your direct supervisor. A call in which it becomes clear to all employees that in addition to individually (by virtue of the job description of each) you also have to work as a team to achieve a specific common goal.

If you do not have such memories from your team building, it is most likely that you participated in a friendly meeting between colleagues (with eating and drinking), sponsored by your company.

Let me clarify that there is nothing wrong with friendly meetings! But the essence of team building is quite different - to overcome existing challenges in teamwork.

If you are a manager or work in “Human Resources” and you are about to make a decision to organize (purchase) a team building program, consider:

What exactly is the reason for team building in your organization? Say it out loud if you have to, but you have to make sure that this is an occasion related to the effectiveness of the team’s work.
What are the facts you have to claim that you have a reason for team building? For example, how do you assess that employees do not communicate well and do not understand each other well? What exactly is the result of their poor communication? Is this related to achieving any common team goal?
What is the state of work efficiency in the specific team? What are the facts? Has any analysis or audit of team performance been conducted? By what methodology?
When does team building not work?
Thus, it became clear above that the capabilities of the team building program are focused mainly on team efficiency or to improve cooperation between departments (in case the company has no teams, but departments).

It should be noted that team building is a management technique with limitations and cannot be expected to bring results and benefits in the following few cases:

1. When there is no teamwork in the company. When the management has no serious intentions and no plan to introduce teamwork. When there is no need to improve cooperation and coordination between people and departments.

Think about why people need to change their work habits, ie. their previous individual work, and work in a team?

Why should they cooperate when in their job descriptions their tasks and responsibilities are defined as “individual” and not as “team”

Why should they work as a team, when their remuneration is given for the performance of individual and not team tasks?

2. When managers are not aware of the state of effectiveness of their teams.

Team effectiveness is the degree to which the team achieves concrete and measurable results that are pre-defined and known by the team.

Team effectiveness can be monitored and measured. For more than 30 years, management theory, and in particular teamwork, has offered four concepts of team effectiveness.

What do managers think about this when they participate in team building? What is the scheme by which they assess the level of efficiency of their teams?

3. When team building training is perceived as an isolated event from the set of appropriate actions to make a change in teamwork.

This case is very common in practice. A team building event or training is ordered and after its end the thinking is in the style of “Come on now, work as a team! Didn’t you pull ropes, didn’t you climb rocks, didn’t you eat, drink and dance until dawn? It’s time to cooperate, help, coordinate!”

No, that’s not how it works.

Team building is not an event, but a process. To look at team building as an isolated and one-off event, after which some miracles will happen, is a disastrous attitude to the return on investment from the team building in question.

Team building is not an event, but a process. This process lasts much longer than one or two days in the training hall, or in the hut in the mountains, or around the table with eating and drinking.

The process of team building and team attitude to work is long, often full of difficulties and problems. It involves overcoming a number of obstacles, including challenging and rethinking work habits established so far. A large percentage of working people are accustomed only to carry out orders, without wanting or being able to take responsibility, to share, to communicate, to create.

4. When the people who order team building programs are not aware of the essence of team building and choose a company to conduct the event or training only on the photos of the landscapes in sites and catalogs.

Yes, the photos are always great and attractive. But team building is not a trip in nature, but an important event or training related to teamwork. People involved in team building are expected to change their behavior in the direction of something good after its end.

5. When the team building program is offered as a program in which several team meetings are absent.

As mentioned above, in team building programs, people in the team need discussions on efficiency issues, and their best format is a workshop. Then the whole event will have a greater effect.

6. When the team manager is not interested in the proposed ideas and does not have the will to make the necessary changes.

I have witnessed such behavior - there is team building training, there are discussions, people offer ideas. Then nothing follows. The manager does not take action to implement at least some of the good ideas.

If the team has such a manager, employees will not want to change the effectiveness of their teamwork. They will keep the status quo because their own manager obviously wants it.

What are the real benefits of team building?
The results and benefits of a team building event or training are embedded in the management context of team building. When a team building program is designed and implemented as a management technique, it brings concrete results and benefits.

It all starts with the concept of teamwork efficiency.

If the reason for organizing team building is the state of effectiveness of a particular team, then within this event the participants should be aware of the current problems and be stimulated to eliminate them. Participants need to understand that current problems are an obstacle to achieving the team’s goal.

All fun games on the topic of “pulling a rope”, “climbing rocks and walls”, “building a home with the tools at hand”, “orientation in an unfamiliar environment”, etc. should be preceded and followed by discussions on “What hinders us from progressing towards our team goal?”

And now, please pay attention.

Conventional (traditional) notions of team building are related to the understanding that improving intra-team processes (communication, decision-making, goal fulfillment, leadership) is enough to improve team efficiency.

That is why the conventional team building training programs are focused mainly on the internal team processes (communication, decision making, goal fulfillment, leadership).

Yes, it is possible that after team building training, the team will begin to cope better with communication, decision-making, or achieving their goal and internal leadership. Most often, however, this will only have a temporary effect.

In addition to communication, decisions, leadership and performance, the effectiveness of teamwork depends on several important factors. These are: dealing with conflict, “motivation of team members”, “opportunities for professional and personal development”, “the process of determining the team goal”, “cooperation”, “criticism”, “team atmosphere”.

However, one more thing must be kept in mind.

It is important what are the participants in the team as a characteristic behavior (roles). Are there people in the team, representatives of the thinking team roles? The roles? The sentimental roles? Is the team balanced in terms of these team roles? Do people know what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are? Do they know the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues?

And there's something else."

Judging by our practice, there are teams that are relatively well balanced, but their effectiveness is not very high. This happens mostly when the team’s goals are not tied to the company’s goals.

Or, the team guesses that by working effectively, it will achieve its goal, but it will not make much sense and will be underestimated by senior management or other colleagues, other units or departments.

Therefore, the team building event or training should produce the following interrelated results:

To highlight the critical areas in team effectiveness, ie. to show clearly to all participants which of the main factors of team effectiveness are in poor condition and how this affects the effectiveness of teamwork. To this end, the team building program leader should show the picture of team effectiveness, which means that an analysis of the state of team effectiveness should be made in advance. Not “by eye”, of course.
To show whether the team has the necessary behavior to work as a team in terms of interdependence and complementarity. This can be obtained with the help of a reliable and valid team audit system. It highlights the strong and weak roles of the participants and the balance of roles typical of the specific team.
To show to what extent the environment (organizational goals, structure, culture, management systems) is appropriate and stimulates team rather than individual work. A reliable and valid analysis can highlight gaps and critical areas in the environment.
In this sense, all fun games and entertainment events during the team building event are just a “tool” and “tool”, not the main focus of the event in nature or in the hall.

I myself am a supporter of a variety of techniques, but as long as they are preceded and followed by an in-depth analysis of the state of team effectiveness and possible adjustments in the work of the team.

If the team building program offers the achievement of the above three results, the benefits of team building training are several:

For the team itself. It is able to increase the efficiency with which it works.
For the team leader. He is able to purposefully manage (rather than autopilot) the process of improving team performance.
About the company There is a favorable opportunity for the company to get a goal achieved by this team and specific improvements in organizational efficiency and competitiveness.
For all others who have an interest in the effectiveness of the team - business owners, customers of the company, etc.

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