Team building when done right, can greatly increase team performance, help team members to important master skills, and foster an atmosphere of trust, respect, and encouragement.
Unfortunately, this rarely occurs because most organizations look at team building as an event when it should be looked at as a continual process that doesn’t stop once a meeting or workshop is over.
Here, are five key elements with practical suggestions of how to implements them during your team building sessions.
Teams are formed to achieve specific goals that require teamwork, collaboration, and a complex set of several competencies. Most importantly, teams can only perform well if goals are clear and measurable and if they have been arrived at collaboratively. Thus one of the key reasons for team building is to help identify and set the purpose of the team. When the focus of team building is to clarify goals and roles, you should be aware of some of the pitfalls that can occur: Do ensure that all team members are involved in the goal-setting process.
Studies have shown that when team members are encouraged to take part in the setting and measuring of their goals, higher levels of commitment and motivation are seen because the team members have a mutual understanding that these goals are best achieved through collaborative efforts. Be careful to avoid setting too many goals, and do be sure to prioritize those goals and to set appropriate timelines for their completion. It also best to allow the team to figure out just how they wish to achieve those goals and not micro-manage their efforts.
A practical tool for goal-setting: S.M.A.R.T goals
SMART is an acronym standing for:
Specific (make the goal specific)
Measurable (make the goal measurable)
Attainable (make the goal attainable so that you do not frustrate
Defining goals by these criteria helps the team to focus their efforts, to stay motivated, to meet the determined deadlines, to have control fo their tasks, and to be able to prioritize those tasks.
To build an effective and high-performing team, members need to see how they can contribute their knowledge, skills, and competencies to the team’s goals. Therefore, be sure to dedicate some time to assigning the appropriate people to specific tasks according to their abilities, and to discussing the different roles team members are going to take up in order to make the team successful. Having clear roles promotes individual accountability and fosters ownership of one’s work toward accomplishing the team’s goals.
Furthermore, team members should hold each other mutually accountable for their assignments and performance. This approach encourages the team to perform regular performance check-ups and can greatly increase the standards of performance and the completion of tasks.
A practical tool for role clarification and accountability is the RACI matrix
RACI is again an acronym that stands for:
This one helps to identify the different roles within the team in accordance with the goals and tasks needing to be completed in order to achieve those goals and fulfil the project. By creating this visual matrix members can easily check who is in charge of what and ask the right person for support.
Employ Clear, Honest, Open communication
Clear, open and honest communication plays a critical role in a team’s success. We can argue that if a team is able to communicate clearly and openly they have already done half of the job. Team leaders or facilitators play a big role in educating the team on the importance of utilizing this key skill. In the early phase of team development, it is especially helpful if leaders or facilitators initiate exercises using communication skills so that the team can practise expressing ideas and opinions, giving feedback and making sure that they are understanding each other.
A specific kind of communication is giving feedback. Mastering the art of constructive feedback is essential throughout a team’s life cycle. It is best if some rules of giving and receiving feedback are set during team building or early on in the team formation cycle. For instance, giving feedback only when it is asked for or necessary instead of giving it when unsolicited. For example, use “My suggestion to you would be to check the facts again on Greg’s report” instead of “These facts are wrong, why can’t you just do your job properly?! Go and check them again!” If the second approach is used the person, in the future, will likely cover up any mistakes that are made and that in itself can be very problematic. The first approach is much softer and will likely get you much better results.
There comes a time for every team when conflicts arise and different perspectives clash with each other. Although conflicts are usually viewed negatively, they are a vital part of the team development process.
Most conflict originates from unmet or misunderstood expectations from members of the team. Normally, every person has their idea about what should be done, who should do it, and how it should be done.
However these sets of assumptions are implicit, thus easily violated by processes, tasks, and people. When negative feelings start to arise, teams should be able to openly discuss and deal with them in a manner that allows for a respectful and positive outcome.
Conflicts represent a divergence of ideas, opinions, or judgements on a given topic. During team formation, they often appear in 2 aspects: the realization of the difference between the current reality vs. the expected goal of the team and the roles each team member would play in the team.
Conflicts are normal, and what has to be properly managed are the destructive side effects that fester from unexpressed negative feelings surrounding a conflict. Consistent processes must be used to defuse and work through the conflict so that bad feelings are not continuing to fester and affect how the team relates to one another.
When looking to raise team awareness of constructive conflict management, create a goal so that nobody feels threatened by the conflict and that the conflict is viewed as a normal aspect of teamwork.
A practical tool for conflict management: Conflict Responses
This approach helps members to identify conflicts that they handled well in the past and build upon those experiences in order to set effective resolution techniques for future conflicts.
The bad news is, no matter how well you apply any or all of the methods mentioned above, if by the end of the team-building process the members do not trust each other (and do not model trustworthiness) you will have failed.
The primary aim of team building is to create an atmosphere of trust and encouragement where members are encouraged to improve their skills and competencies. If goal-setting, communication, and conflict management are parts of the process, then trust will be the outcome. Trust enhances collaboration, creativity, member well-being, and ultimately performance.
To assess the current level of trust in a team you can use some of these questions:
- What is the current level of trust in the team?
- What specific steps should be taken to increase trustworthiness?
- What should be the process for regaining trust in the team and team members?
And remember: Team members don’t have to like each other or be friends to work together, but they do need to trust each other under any circumstances.
A practical tool to enhance trust in the team: Who and Why?
Who and Why identifies several behaviours, experiences, and characteristics that contribute to being trustworthy. By listing and discussing these factors the team can determine rules and actions to increase the level of trustworthiness between themselves. It is exceedingly difficult to become a successful high-performing team without establishing a high level of trust, respect, and rapport with everyone.
If you follow the suggestions offered above, you will be much more likely to enjoy successful team building sessions that will result in great achievements when the team works collaboratively to accomplish their goals and complete their projects.