During a conversation over coffee with my friend Steve Morris, founder of Catylator, we had an interesting discussion on some common techniques for team building and why they fall short of the goal. One thing we both agreed on was that some techniques for team building, while fun, don’t actually achieve any objectives of team building. Steve has a unique, interesting and effective method for team building and problem solving. If you think you could use his help or want to learn more, I encourage you to check out his website. This week I am going to share some ideas and misconceptions of team building.
Most of us agree that working on a cohesive team improves productivity, engagement, and business outcomes. The terms “team” and “teamwork” are ramped in job descriptions and prospects inevitably boast about being team player or team leader. Many organizations I know will attempt team building through some social activity as a way to get to know each other outside of work. They might invite teams to a happy hour, lunch outing, or bowling. Is this the best way to build a team?
While these activities are fun, and can help build friendships, they don’t always build teams. I mean think about it, how is bowling or a beer going to help you be more productive at work? Personally, I prefer to have a beer or go bowling (actually golfing) AFTER I’ve established a relationship with someone.
For a team to be highly functioning, they have to have a common purpose. Sports is the best and simplest example of this. The common purpose of any sports team, at least the good ones, is to win a game or championship. That’s it. Everyone in the organization from the owner, to the GM to the rookie that just signed this morning, all have the same goal. To win games.
In the business world, the common purpose could be a project completion, customer satisfaction score, or sales goals. The best teams I’ve ever worked with was when we were ALL focused on the same goal. The team was diligently working to complete a task. The team leaders were actively removing obstacles that impeded progress. Everyone knew what success looked like, everyone was keeping score, and everyone participated in achieving results. I’m actually getting excited just remembering these successes!
Being part of a team, is more than just having a role to fill. Being part of a team was a sense of belonging. I’ve been coaching little league baseball for several years now. One of the most exciting days for the boys are when I hand out the uniforms. Actually, from the first day of practice I generally have someone asking when we’ll be getting uniforms. Why? Because when we all have our uniforms on, we feel like we’re part of something. I make sure the coaching staff is always dressed like part of the team as well. Again, we ALL belong and it makes a difference.
When someone belongs to something, they recognize they are part of something bigger. Being part of something bigger tends to help us be less concerned about “me” as we are about “we”. When we’re concerned about “we” then we can help each other and the team improve.
Trust is a foundational aspect of any team. I need to trust that the other members of my team will be there when I need them. Going to back to my hobby of coaching little league. Sometimes my pitchers get focused on getting a strike out, and will get frustrated when players get a hit. When this happens, I’ll remind them that it’s OK, and there are 8 other players on the field that are there to make a play. Actually, the other players are hoping the batter hits the ball so they have something to do!
Trust is essential to everything in business and in life. My kids trust that someone will pick them up from school each day. My wife and I trust each other to uphold our responsibilities in the family. I trust my employees to do the jobs they say they are going to do. When the trust breaks down, the team breaks down and sooner or later you stop winning. Once trust is broken it is very hard to repair.
This Week’s Challenge
I want you to think about what you do to build a team at your company. Does it help you work towards a common goal? Does it foster a sense of belonging? And, does it help build trust?
If you would like to discuss more ways to help your business grow or if you feel you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, please reach out to me.