21 years of facilitation and still the question gets asked – Does team building work?
It is a great question and an important one to answer before any team decides to embark on a team building initiative or intervention. Before I, as a facilitator of such initiatives, can answer such an important question, I have to make a distinction between:
- Team building initiatives
- Team entertaining initiatives
Are you merely entertaining your team?
Entertaining your team and building your team, in my experience, are different. I have seen, however, companies using entertainment as a means to build and vice versa. Tenpin Bowling, River Rafting and Action Cricket entertain. When your team is in need of an opportunity to let their hair down all at the same time, then embark on an entertainment strategy. ‘High-fiveing’ each other after a great shot will not address customer service complaints. Surviving a rapid without capsizing will not develop a clear and sustainable strategy.
Teams must have fun and be productive and there should be time for both. It can be argued that a team that has had fun together will approach things differently due to the personal relationships that have formed. If this is what is required and you believe the entertainment will give you the outcome you seek, proceed and play together.
Building a team is a different story
When you want to build a team – you need them to develop a greater sense of urgency, higher levels of personal ownership of business goals, participate and contribute in meaningful meetings, communicate without fear, tackle issues without begging, etc. then you should concentrate your efforts on finding a way to build your team.
Previous articles published on our blog lay the foundation for the serious side of team development. “Maturity first”, as an example, dealt with the notion that people with increased levels of EQ work better in team’s. Can EQ be developed? … Yes!
The reality when embarking on facilitating team building is that it unfortunately takes time because you literally compete against hundreds of current limiting thoughts and attitudes. Can’t, won’t, but, not confident to, failed before, no time, too much work, too busy, only when, blame, accepting of mediocrity, poor leadership, wrong people, habits, fears, bad apples, victim mentality, zero initiative, lacking follow-through …………………..
Another challenge is that everyone in a team is at a different point of personal development. In my experience though most people gain from working through a well-designed and relevant programme. Even if they have mastered certain techniques there is always another level to take it to or a new context in which it can be applied.
The 5 fundamental checklist items
Like any situation where success can be enhanced through the use of a checklist, team building is enhanced with ticking off fundamental checklist items.
Here are five as a start:
- Does the facilitator have the required track record?
- Do you know what you want to achieve?
- Is top management fully engaged in ensuring the desired outcomes are reached?
- Can the facilitator develop receptiveness, especially when skepticism is high?
- Are you prepared to drive the building process between team building sessions?
So let me now answer the question. Does team building work?
Team building alone does not work but it can, if you are prepared to do the work. It can work if you find a facilitator who can get you to own the process and who understands and facilitates the process effectively and efficiently.
By Louis Gerke
Development Facilitator – The Ripple Effect
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