The Relevance of Facilitated Team-Building in the 21st Century Business

A corporation’s staff of employees, i.e., corporate team, can sometimes literally make or break its business. The “right” corporate team for an entity cannot be purchased in a store, or at auction via eBay, as an effective corporate team doesn’t simply just happen–its creation is typically both purposeful and highly strategic to the particular entity. Designing the “right”, i.e., effective, corporate team generally requires the assembly of a group of people who are willing to, a) work together, sans individual agendas; and, b) be creative and non-judgmental. After the “right” corporate team has been selected, one of the quickest and most effective ways to foster the quality, seamless, superlative development often required of said team is through tailored, team-building sessions conducted by a trained, experienced, and truly neutral, third-party Facilitator.

Facilitated Team-Building

A team-building Facilitator is essentially skilled in the art and science of group dynamics. Such a Facilitator, in actual team-building exercises, is essentially the process expert in the particular session(s), whilst the corporate team members of the entity client are the content experts in said sessions. E.g., a trained, team-building Facilitator can typically create, employ, and manage exercises designed to foster the effective, cooperative development of new ideas. For instance, if the corporate client’s goal is to develop a new snack food for kids, the typical Facilitator can construct, implement, and manage sessions designed to inspire cooperative, efficient creativity amongst the subject-knowledgeable corporate team members–often through the lens of particularized effective communication and problem-solving techniques–that would ideally produce the new food product for their employer.

A team-building Facilitator essentially, like the combination of a sports organization and a referee, creates the rules, and oversees and corrects the team interactions-inclusive of ensuring that team members are:

a) not harming one another, or, the objective;
b) are playing on the correct field; and,
c) adhering to the requisite time-frames, until the overall objective of the exercise is achieved.

Additionally, a team-building Facilitator assists that “right” corporate team in learning how to creatively use any interpersonal friction toward the common entity goal–essentially merging the varied experiential levels, knowledge, and energies for a common purpose. A few important duties typically conducted by a neutral, facilitative, team-building Professional include the following:

o Gathering Appropriate Background Data:
E.g., Determining,
o What the current opportunity or problem is;
o Who is involved;
o How long the opportunity or problem has been occurring;
o What has been tried before;
o When a solution is needed; and,
o How success will be measured;

o Designing Well:
E.g. Understanding that,
o Good process doesn’t just happen, it is designed; and,
o A dynamic design takes into account desired outcomes, people involved, culture and climate of the organization, and the strengths and weaknesses of available problem-solving processes;

o Setting and Communicating the Agenda and the Big Picture:
E.g., For each meeting,
o Reviewing the situation background both in general and specific, current terms;
o Expressing what is expected to be accomplished at a particular session; and,
o Providing a big picture view of the context, purpose and desired outcome of the entire project;

o Setting and/or Assisting The Generation of Team Rules:

E.g., Employing and managing meeting ground rules, such as,
o The turning off of cell phones and other meeting-intrusive devices;
o Attendance and timeliness;
o A Two-Minute Rule for verbal participation (i.e., if any one person speaks for more than two consecutive minutes, it is likely that s/he is getting off-track and may therefore need to yield the floor);
o Holding one conversation at a time;
o Deferring judgment when generating ideas; and,
o Judging affirmatively when evaluating ideas;

o Supporting The Team in the Management of Group Dynamics:
E.g.,
o Managing conflict;
o Supporting team member honesty and openness;
o Valuing everyone’s opinion; and,
o Being transparent in discussions.

Climate Changes for Optimal Team-Building Collaboration

Facilitated team-building can occur, e.g., at the client’s corporate site. However, often, a climate, i.e., setting/staging change can quickly establish a fresher, more novel tone for team collaboration. In newly formed, as well as established, teams it is often necessary to shake things up a bit in order to avoid habitual, ritualistic performance. Namely, a climate change can provide new perspective amongst team members, toward existing, reoccurring, or currently unimagined, opportunities. Such can be obtained by something as simple as, e.g., sitting in a different chair during the next meeting, or as seemingly complex, as, e.g., meeting in a different location. Atmospheric variation can particularly be achieved by meeting at the offices of a strategic partner. For example, an air ambulance service could consider holding a series of team-building sessions at a local hospital for which it provides services, in order to achieve the desired novel, brain-storming effect of its corporate team.

Typical off-site choices for climate variation have included, e.g., hotel conference rooms, specialized retreat venues, resort areas. More contemporary off-site options for climate variation have included, e.g., rock climbing, adventure treks, sailing, erecting dwellings for the economically challenged, and even meal preparation. When rock climbing/trekking, building a house for the poor, or engineering a new pasta dish, the unknown, e.g., the possibility of encountering a wild animal, experiencing a hammer-smashed thumb, or discovering a strange spice forces the team members to use all of their senses, to be more mentally and physically prepared, and to, a) rely on the strengths, and, b) understand the weaknesses, of themselves and their teammates. Essentially, climate-changed, facilitated team members often quickly learn to merge their own individual points of light–into a blinding bolt of energy that can streak past any competitor.

Virtual Facilitated Team-Building

Optimally, facilitated team-building occurs in face-to-face settings. However, increasingly, employees are finding themselves physically distanced from their counterparts. Electronic team-building facilitation, as conducted via the Internet, can restore higher levels of communication, responsibility, and productivity among, especially, distance-challenged teammates.

Virtual team-building facilitation can be, similar to face-to-face facilitated team-building, targeted toward discreet meetings, continuous projects, and/or strategic planning. Numerous Internet-based tools are available for any need or budget. Some popular search engines, in fact, offer free virtual meeting space. Providers of more complex virtual tools typically charge a fee for their offerings. However, when compared to e.g., the costs of airfare, hotel rooms and incidental expenses required to produce some face-to-face facilitated team-building sessions, virtual facilitation fees are in hindsight, relatively nominal.

The advantages of facilitated, virtual team-building include the practical facilitation of large groups/teams, automatic documentation and updates, uniform use of various tools, file-sharing, and the ability to generate, evaluate, and develop action plans. Input to virtual team projects can be parallel or asynchronous depending upon the collaboration product selected. In addition, anonymity is available if needed. The potential drawbacks to facilitated, virtual team-building are: the requirement of computer literacy, the elimination/reduction of sometimes critical face-to-face social interaction, data overload, and any requisite user fees. Overall, however, facilitated team-building success, whether virtual or face-to-face, is dependent upon quality input and the strategic follow-up of the session participants.

Investment

Facilitated team-building sessions can be designed for almost any budget. One beauty of using a skilled, team-building Facilitator is time efficiency. An experienced team-building Facilitator may be able to reduce the time needed to move from problem/opportunity awareness to solution in a mere matter of hours. Therefore, a focused eye should be toward value as opposed to costs. Generally, team-building Facilitators may be hired by the hour, half or full day, or on a total project basis. Often, team-building Facilitators have set fees for typical sessions, and are willing to negotiate fees for long-term projects. Expect to cover additional costs if the team-building Facilitator is requested to secure a venue and/or audiovisual or other specialized equipment.

Conclusion

Generally, corporate teams that participate in quality, tailored sessions with an experienced, neutral, team-building Facilitator-regardless of the venue–tend to be more focused, goal-oriented, task-invested, responsible, tolerant, and duly satisfied with their ultimate objective outcomes. Facilitated teams also tend to collaborate more, provide higher levels of commitment, and. tend to be less constrained by habitual behavior–resulting in more satisfactory outcomes. A team-building Facilitator can streamline corporate team interactions, thus reducing time and the costs necessary to complete projects. Effective team-building, therefore, is a crucial process that can result in a measurable, competitive edge for the contemporary business.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes and therefore intended to convey the opinion of the author only, and not intended to convey statistical information or advice. Further, the opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Publisher. Each state and/or locality may have specific guidelines and/or laws governing the above subject matter(s). Be advised to consult a relevant professional for guidance regarding the guidelines and/or laws regarding the subject matter(s) in your state and/or locality.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What Are Team Building Exercises And What Is Their Purpose?

Team building can be pursued through a variety of activities, ranging from the simple and basic, such as one off bonding exercises before or during meetings, to complex, multi-day simulations, trainings or retreats carefully organised by professional associations or companies specialising in such programmes. These latter full scale team building exercises or less intensive variations thereof may include seminars, workshops or conferences. Many team build ideas fall somewhere within this range and can also include an internally planned day out doing active outdoor pursuits such as paintball, rope courses or orienteering. Team building can also be achieved through healthy competition, such as baseball or soccer games organised against other companies or organisations; or through events such as community service projects, held for good socially worthy causes.

Teambuilding is now widely recognised and accepted as being a significant and workable variable in many, if not most, group environments where performance is dependent on how well the group unit works together. The focus of most team building endeavours is to bring out the best within the team so as to ensure positive communication, good leadership skills, development and progress both for the individuals within the group and for the group as a whole. In addition, the ability to work cohesively and closely together as a team to achieve a specified goal, reach a set target or to solve issues and problems is enhanced.

Though used in many settings, such as classrooms, to teach school aged children the value of working well with other children and to impart valuable social and group setting skills to these children, the value of team building exercises is most pronounced in business and corporate settings. This is because work environments generally tend to focus heavy just on individuals and their personal goals in accordance with their roles within the organisation. Rewards and recognition often single out individual employees and their own achievements, rather than recognising the interdependent workers as a whole unit. Creating effective teams, or building a good team as it were, with an emphasis on larger organisational aims rather than just individual accomplishment, is therefore a challenge in many companies.

It is therefore not sufficient to gather a team together and just organise a day of fun and revelry for the company or for team member without clear goals. Nor is it just enough to conduct a few ice breaker games and leave it at that. There needs to be a greater and more in-depth focus on the team as a whole unit. For teams to come together cohesively and for these exercises to work properly, team members themselves must also be individually convinced that these exercises will benefit them too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Foundations of Executive Team Development – Thoughts for Challenging Team Building Exercises

Having held officer level positions in a few industries: airline, leisure travel, internet, convention, and defense oriented industries, I have participated in and hired consultants to help conduct “team building” exercises; the operative word is-exercises. There are a lot of moving parts to any successful team building exercise.

Let’s take a look at Executive Team Building as a subset of the generic team building exercise. Officer level managers require a whole different approach to Executive Team Building. Here are some thoughts on why senior manager team building is difficult. I have found officer level managers arrive at their positions for three reasons: they are part of a family business; their persona and experiences match a corporate leadership culture (often characterized also as-who you know); and/or, they have skills (achieved through education or former positions) that are needed to fix a problem such as a manufacturing problem. Point being, everyone arrives at the officer level by different and sometimes circuitous methods. By this point-in-time, people’s management styles and personality traits are developed and tested: what you see is what you get. Even this perspective is sliced a little thinner by the way we are wired. For example, engineers approach management from a different perspective than a marketing person. Junior members of a company are much more malleable in shaping their views and are motivated to demonstrate that they are team players.

The title structure of a company may be Senior VP, Executive VP, President, etc., depending on the size of the company. Whatever the hierarchy, the pointy end of the pyramid is very competitive and therefore has far reaching effects on shaping each manager’s attitudes toward their peers. Additionally, senior managers develop a persona within their respective industries that can last a career lifetime. The projection of an industry persona becomes important should a manager feel their career is becoming stagnant and they want to explore career changes.

The point here is that Executive Team Building is really Executive Team Meeting. At senior levels in an executive’s career, he/she has traits that a CEO must recognize and manage through “performance evaluation” tools and not Executive Team Building/Meetings. Team Building is not about shaping relationships between peers. When there is a small cadre of senior manager’s, personality types are evident to all. The politics in these environments can be exacerbated to a level that makes “passive aggression” becomes an art form and Team Meetings are not a cure.

Here is a short case study to illustrate my point of reference.

A few years ago I was part of a growing company in a very dynamic industry. All the officers were A-type personalities and very ambitious to achieve recognition within the industry and by the corporate owner. All were hard driving, creative, highly educated. The senior management ran the age gambit from very young to more experienced and were both male and female. Because this was a very young company, the “charter members” of the senior management team resented new senior manager’s coming into their ranks having not “paid their dues” and fitting into the culture. Most of these managers would minimize a peer on the team rather than let them excel in their respective position (if that someone were competing for the next CEO position).

To solve the problem an organizational psychologist was brought in to get the team working together. The team took a battery of tests and did personal interviews with the psychologist. The results of the tests were reviewed individually with the participants and a team meeting was held to discuss the dynamics at play within the team. Bottom line, it was not a success; probably for the same reasons General’s Patton, Bradley and Montgomery were always at odds-a group of over-achievers with juxtaposed ego’s and the next promotion.

But not all is for naught. Even personal animus within a team may be addressed as long as it is not addressed in a manner that is in the category of “manipulation”. Executive Team Building is not training; rather it is communicating.

Not all meeting or team building programs are for large companies. Most companies in the US fall into the category of family owned or small businesses and they have team building requirements. Further, Team Building is part of a total event. The dynamics of a small group of senior managers is different in purpose and form versus larger groups.

So I can make a point, let’s assume some or all of the above comments are correct.

Every leader knows, events must be well defined and that also applies Executive Team Building exercise as part of the overall meeting objectives. Simply said, lay out the objectives of a Team Building exercise in succinct language. Not in an esoteric manner.

Executive Team Building meetings fill a threefold purpose: 1. communicate high level corporate issues to the executive team, 2. address relationship issues within the team, and 3. work on leadership messaging at target the rank and file employee. Executive Team Building should also be customer focused. Customers and vendors always have input in management speaking with a team voice. A positive corporate culture will always impress the customer.

Executive Team Building should not be looked upon as a mind game or an effort by the CEO/President to create a “can’t we all just get along” executive camp out. At the least it should provide clear goals, agreement of effectively communicating to the company and impart confidence to the organization.

In a small organization with a dynamic senior management cadre, it is the CEO who must keep check on executives who could bring more liabilities than credits to the desired performance of the company. As a company changes due to: the economy, competition, maturity of the market, changes in management, or simply because of new corporate structure, the CEO who must look at his charges and make sure they are all pulling in the right direction.

Uncertain times seems to dictate that very small companies should pay attention to the workings of the executive team and use the Executive Team Building exercise as a “sanity check”. I prefer to use the term-Executive Team Meet: A time to sync-up, renew the relationships, discuss and re-enforce. Remember, Tem Building for executives should not be over used…so make each one special.

Here is where a meeting manager/consultant comes to the forefront-amplifying the experience from the head to the heart. What kinds of activities are available in any venue to support the objectives of the Executive Team Meeting? Recognize that Wine Country is the focus? Think beyond the traditional golf events, or dinners. You can take advantage of hot air ballooning, wine blending for a corporate holiday customer gift, cave dinners, a painting experience, culinary exercises, high profile guest speakers, etc.

Executive Team Building/Meeting is about communication, formatting the message to the employees, unifying the strengths of the team and most importantly, presenting a vital company persona to vendors and customers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Real Team Building – Why Is It So Important And Valuable For You?

TEAM-BUILDING – With so many companies now doing, or considering, some kind of team-building, what’s the best route to consider? Team-building, as it’s commonly called, varies from blithe, frivolous group entertainment and motivation like; Quad-biking, soccer, cooking, shooting, mini-golf, foozeball, ballooning, etc… all the way through to what we term… TRANSFORMATIVE Team-Building – Real Team-Building that impacts people on a Head, Heart & Soul level and has long-lasting efficacy.

It’s a well know fact that stuff like motivational talks don’t last or add any real value – so why then do people waste their money paying anything up to R15,000 for a 1 hour motivational talk? Motivation is like manipulation!

And who wants to be manipulated right now? If you were to invest in your team building, would you not want to get the best value you could for your investment of time, money and people resources? Any intelligent person would want the best return (ROI) on their corporate team-building expenditure.

So, imagine for a moment a scale from 0 to 10. The zero side is “light group entertainment” or motivational stuff. On the other side – 10 is HERO a “transform-your-people-and-your-team” process that impacts Heads, Hearts and Souls, lasts a life-time – and enhances performance, productivity, resilience, relationships and your workplace. Now make an intelligent decision…What level of results would you choose if you were to embark on a team-building?

Whats the best way to blend your team cultures into a cohesive whole?

Group Entertainment – NOT Real Team Building! If we consider, what is thought to be, a typical team building event; people go on some planned outing for a day, somewhere offsite. They may get a little revved up, wear colored arm-bands or shirts, paint faces, play some games, shoot arrows, walk planks, laugh a little or a lot, have a free meal or braai, a few drinks and then go home…klaar!

On the day, what we don’t see, just under the surface, is that the office politics and people issues are still alive and well. People still fear; appearing useless, being uncomfortable or making a fool of themselves. Staff accumulate in their usual clans, and the office-clown is again, thoughtlessly, even more mordant with their jabs and jousts. Often greater barriers to real team-building and a friendlier, more productive workplace, are created.

Intollerence prevails – and never the cultures shall blend!

All in all, when Monday comes around, the old dynamics, office politics and factions remain as before. The people are as jaded as ever, if not more so now! And the “TEAM” is just a pretense. Life goes on just the same as it did before the group outing.

People know nothing new about each other or their cultures. So what was it all really about? This is treating the symptom – not the foundation or real causes. So why even do it? Why would you spend money on something that does not solve your problem or deliver real value?

Lack of; relationships, inclusion, trust, truth, engagement and inspiration is a problem – A real problem for your team-building and your improved results delivery in a diverse multi-cultural reality we call our Rainbow Nation.

Alternative – The HERO side…An Uncommon but REAL Team Build Process. Imagine a team-building process that would remove barriers and change your office energy, work environment, attitudes, trust levels and team-spirit forever.

Consider…What’s the best way to really build your team. What aspects would need to be addressed to ensure long-term impact and profoundly positive results? In a real team-building process the following core aspect must be addressed in order to build a sustainable and strong workplace foundation that fosters optimal team effectiveness.

TRUST! – #1 issue to be addressed is TRUST. True authentic trust and communication between the people, as well as the team and management is critical. If you have no trust your team could bust! Trust is the anchor-stone of success. It’s a proven fact that trust makes or breaks relationships.

Trust’s the business lubricant, just like the super lubricant Teflon I hear you think…is TRUST really more important than our great systems, policies and organisational structure? Absolutely Yes! A low trust workplace and mistrusting culture can, and will, sabotage and disrupt any system. Just look at the number of CRM (Customer Rel Mngmt) initiatives that fail – IT’s the people who make it happen from a Head, Heart and Soul level. No/low trust and engagement = no real team, not really sustainable in a human manner.

Is TRUST really more important than our great Vision & espoused Values?

Absolutely Yes! I don’t care how impressive your vision is or what your Values are, the drag of a low trust workplace will hold you back you from truly attaining that vision and walking those values – authentically and fully. Values are for everyone, all of the time, not some of the time and some of the people. TRUST is a MUST to thrive.

Is TRUST really more important than a good strategy? Absolutely Yes! All strategies have to be executed. Efficient and optimal execution is built on high trust and high levels of certainty. High trust cannot transform poor strategy, but it can make it better. Give me a team of fools on fire vs a group of indifferent, mistrusting, disengaged rocket-scientists, any day!

Is TRUST really more important than COMPETENCIES and skills?

Again absolutely Yes! Skills and competencies are a head-based issue. No matter how skilled a person or team/group, the “drag” or friction of a low-trust workplace will ensure that those skills are not optimally, if ever, fully applied. Trust is a heart AND head based issue. And let’s be real here…nothing will deter real talent like a dictatorial-high-control, low-trust, low-engagement workplace.

If you consider what is impacted in a team-building event, it behooves us to make optimal use of the time, efforts, expense and team-building opportunity by really growing your people. That’s why our Life Masters team-building is designed as a powerful, unique, transformational process…and not just a light event. Our Team building is designed to change lives and workplaces on a long-term basis. You can do the light fun, group entertainment stuff, but we’d favor adding real value and results to your business and your team-building / blending efforts. Trust is the “must” of the 21st century.

Aspects Vital to a True Team Building Process

In order to truly build a strong team and foundation, the following core areas offer valuable results when addressed…trust levels, truth, attitudes, anger, limiting beliefs, misunderstandings, disappointments, judgments, personal politics, unresolved issues, honesty, constructive feedback, interpersonal relationships, satisfaction levels, self-awareness, self-esteem, confidence and confidentiality, resilience / Adversity Intelligence (AQ), engagement levels, caring, Emotional Intelligence, hidden agendas, outdated

management-styles, transgressions kept secret, blockages, cultural intolerance, conflict, consciousness & energy levels.

REAL Team Building Is Predicated Upon These Perspectives

” …that all people are precious, valuable and can be your greatest assets if developed effectively;

” …that work is a platform for people to enjoy, grow, love; and to experience higher levels of self-worth, self-esteem, value and happiness;

” …that work is an opportunity for people to make a positive contribution whilst making a profit for the shareholders;

” …that you spend more time awake with co-workers than the ones you apparently love – why not also love your co-workers? Keep your mind clean here please!

” …that people bring their Heads, Hearts and Souls to work – So for optimal engagement grow and build your people on a Head, Heart & Soul level. Discover and support their CAUSES to gain maximum commitment and participation.

Whilst it’s true that profit is the “lifeblood” of your business, consider that it shouldn’t be the only purpose and aim of your business. You don’t get too much engagement from people when the only reason for them working is survival, and to make the shareholders and bosses wealthier – That’s GREEDERship, not LEADERship! No Soul in that goal!

REAL Team-Building Follows A Clear & Systematic Process.

” Research the environment, the people, the issues and the desired outcomes and intentions of the team build. We use: EQ, Resilience, Higher Ground Leadership, C.A.S.T.L.E. workplace scan, Human Energy Levels Project, team fitness, stress & JQ20 Engagement

” Build Trust and truth between the facilitators and the participants.

” Explore what people would really love to have in their workplace and what’s currently working well.

” Reveal what their current workplace really has in existence right now – The good, the bad and the ugly!

” Examine the GAP between desire/ ideal and current reality

” Design an encounter that is confidential, powerful, fun, engaging, transformational and life long last in results.

” Deliver the processes designed to build trust, address the issues, resolves the conflicts, opens communications remove barriers, builds and renews relationships based upon a “clean slate” with a joint vision and destiny.

” Follow-up with coaching, feedback, email tips and gatherings to celebrate and strengthen relationships, trust, truth, engagement and results.

Imagine the difference in your workplace on Monday after a real team-building

encounter where people actually like, respect, understand, trust and care for

each other. Work becomes enjoyable, and your workplace can become a WowPlace.

It’s hard to not have a great team after that.

Some comments we’ve heard from people after our special custom created team-transformation encounters…

” “Awesome!!… improved my self-confidence and my commitment to clear goals” – Helen
” “life changing. …was mind and life changing”- Bosman
” “My expectations were totally surpassed” – Jenny
” “ABSOLUTELY AWESOME are the only 2 words I can use to describe the feelings, thoughts and energy experiences that I experienced today” – Darryl
” “In every possible way it touched every point in my life. 0 out of 10.
Workshop leader was awesome” – Zelda
” “I never expected to get out what I did. EVERYBODY in business should do this. I call it Lifeline!!! Tony is amazing. I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for what he taught me – Thuli
” “Thanks for your workshop, support and input which have changed my life at home and work. No problem or challenge is to big to overcome in my life. Nothing will get me down!!!!” Regards Chris
” “There is only one word to describe the team building session at Bakabung – “POSITIVE”. My team and I are committed and honest. What I said at Bakabung I will do – I am doing, and so are my team members. My experience is that we (team) are far more relaxed and open as before. I see my team totally different (positive) than before. I see SUPPORT, TRUST, HONESTY, HUMOUR & SPIRIT in my team. I had a super experience at the team building and I seriously think we need to escalate it down to our subordinates” – Cassie
” “The experience has been totally unlike any other team building in the sense that it has affected me (powerfully) at a personal level. It certainly forced me to look at what is really important” – Anita
” “I must admit – my team IS genuine and the change is INCREDIBLE. The support, openness, love and “warm fuzzies” are definitely there. The experience of the team building session was worth every cent. You did wonders and thanks to my team” – C
” “Tony, what a positive influence you have had on my life. I am not sure how you thank someone for something so significant, so I am sending you warm fuzzies for now. I am paying it forward!” Namaste’ – K
” “I release my past hurts and distrust of whites and commit to moving forward, together, as a real team” – TF

People in genuine encouraging teams are happier, healthier, more supportive, more resilient, honest, truthful, more energetic, more engaged, have more fun, earn more and are more satisfied with themselves and their lives.

If you are considering revamping your productivity, going on a team-building session or wanting to inspire your staff, ensure that the impact and effectiveness deliver real lasting value. Make your decision on VALUE not on PRICE!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Team Building – A Process For Increasing Work Group Effectiveness

Too often team building is one of those vague, misused terms managers call into play as a panacea for sluggish work unit performance. The rise in the popularity and use of team building has paralleled the growing perception of work as the output of teams of workers rather than as compartmentalized tasks on an assembly line. Field Research Findings, such as the ones carried out by the American Productivity & Quality Center during their white-collar productivity improvement, multi-organizational field research efforts clearly demonstrate the importance of effective team structures to the overall performance effectiveness of the knowledge/service worker.

The building of a team requires a great deal more effort than simply recognizing the interdependence among workers and work units. It requires, instead, several carefully managed steps and is an ongoing cyclical process. The team-building process presented in this article offers the members of a work group a way to observe and analyze behaviors and activities that hinder their effectiveness and to develop and implement courses of action that overcome recurring problems.

While the underlying purpose of team building is to develop a more effective work group, the specific purposes of the process will depend largely upon the assessment of information gathered during the initial data collection phase. Typically, team building will seek to resolve at least one of the following three issues:

1. A lack of clear goals and expected performance outcomes: Frequently, interview data from work group members reveal that their performance is generally directed by their individual (and often conflicting) performance goals. In that situation, the team-building model can be directed at establishing overall work group goals, which affect both individual and group effort and behavior, and, ultimately, the performance outcomes at both the individual, as well as the group level.

2. Interpersonal conflict and distrust: A lack of trust, supportiveness and communication not only slows down the day-to-day ability of a group to get work done, but also stands in the way of resolving the conflicts that naturally arise as the group makes decisions about its future efforts.

One way to overcome this is to focus on the work problems and improved interpersonal skills necessary for the team to work inter-dependently and more effectively to accomplish the task. In other words, the interpersonal data would be derived from the work context itself rather than from evaluations directed at individual personalities within the group. It is a concerted effort to uncover mutual needs and desired outcomes … a Win-Win approach.

3. A lack of clear roles and leadership: Obviously, duplications of effort result in sub-optimum levels of productivity. But when initial interviews with work unit members suggest confusion over roles, the issues that surface may go well beyond task-specific problems. They may raise questions about who is providing leadership to the group, who feels empowered to act, what sources of power are being wielded and what interpersonal and inter-group relations underlie the group’s effectiveness. When these issues arise, the team-building model uses group meetings to discuss and clarify members’ roles and responsibilities – both prescribed and discretionary

Who are the “players” in the team building process?

On the surface, a “team” suggests a group of interchangeable individuals of equal status. But in reality, most workplace teams have a supervisor or manager charged with leadership and accountability for the group’s performance. Consequently, the team leader plays an important and somewhat different role than do other members in a successful team building effort. Support from the leader is vital because if he or she does not recognize and accept the need for team building, it is unlikely that other members of the work team will be very receptive to the idea.

The Value and Role of a Facilitator-Coach.

In addition to the leader and other team members, successful team building calls for a third party participant in the process – a Facilitator-Coach, a professional with knowledge and experience in the field of applied behavioral science, but who is not a regular member of the team. This person may be an internal resource person in the organization or be someone from outside the parent company/organization..

There are several roles, which this Facilitator-Coach may perform in team building. Perhaps the most common and critical is that of third-party facilitator, a “gate-keeper.” The Facilitator-Coach also trains and coaches the team in becoming more skillful in understanding, identifying, diagnosing and solving its performance problems. To do this, the Facilitator-Coach gathers data needed for the team to conduct its own self- appraisal and structures a “safe” environment that encourages team collaboration and consensus building. As a change agent, the Facilitator-Coach also serves as a catalyst to help bring about a greater degree of openness and trust and increased communication effectiveness.

Another role of the Facilitator-Coach is that of a knowledge resource person, assisting team members to learn more about group dynamics, individual behavior and the skills needed to become more effective as a team and as individuals.

The Facilitator-Coach should generally avoid assuming the role of the “expert.” That is, the Facilitator-Coach’s major function is not to directly resolve the team’s problems, but to help the team learn how to cope with its own problems and become more self-sufficient. If the Facilitator-Coach becomes the controlling force responsible for resolving the group’s difficulties, he or she has denied the team the opportunity to grow by facing and resolving problems confronting them.

What are the steps in the team-building process?

At the core of the process will be a a well-defined process that is made up of a series of structured experiences and events, ones that will be repeated over time, that have been designed to help the group build and sustain a cohesive, effective, and ultimately, a high-performing work team. This process requires carefully laid groundwork as well as long- term follow up and re-evaluation. And further, team building, to be successful in developing and sustaining high performance, must be viewed and accepted as being a “continuous” and on-going process, not an “event” driven activity.

Team building, from a systems perspective, requires several carefully thought out and managed steps and is clearly understood to be an ongoing cyclical process. The team-building process offers members of a work group a way to observe and analyze behaviors and activities that hinder their effectiveness and to develop and implement courses of action that overcome recurring problems. If successfully implemented, the team building process is integrated into the work team’s day-to-day operations.

Assuming work group manager-leader and team members, after having an opportunity to become aware of what the team building process has to offer and requires of them, have indicated and voiced their support for the team building process, the first preparatory step is the introduction of the Facilitator-Coach to the team. Often this is done by the team leader during a regular staff meeting at which the Facilitator-Coach is introduced to the group. The role of the Facilitator-Coach is discussed as well as the process and potential benefits of team building.

In preparation for the kick-off of the team-building process, the Facilitator-Coach will then take responsibility for the next step – the gathering of data from each team member about the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of the team and barriers to effective team performance. This diagnostic phase will typically make use of questionnaires and/or interviews.

he use of personal interviews has several advantages. First, interviews provide the Facilitator-Coach a better understanding of the team, its functions and its problems. Second, interviews enable the Facilitator-Coach to develop rapport with team members and to begin to establish a relationship of openness and trust. Third, interviews provide the opportunity for each individual team member to participate in the identification of the work group’s strengths and weaknesses. Finally, personal interviews are flexible. On the other hand, the less flexible questionnaire approach ensures that common areas will be covered by all team members.

After conducting the interviews or surveys, the Facilitator-Coach summarizes the information, which is to be fed back to the group during the team-building meeting. A useful way of presenting the comments is according to the frequency with which the items were
mentioned or accorded to major problem areas.

During the actual team-building meeting, the data feedback session becomes a springboard for the rest of the session’s activities. With the assistance and support of the Facilitator-Coach, the group then formulates an agenda and decides on the priorities of the issues raised by the diagnostic phase.

Before the team-building meeting ends, action plans are developed which specify the steps the group will take in attempting to resolve specific problems.

What factors influence the success of team building?

Because effective team building is not a one-shot affair, a schedule of future team- building efforts needs to be established. For lasting change to take place, subsequent meetings will need to review the implementation of action plans and investigate additional problem areas.

As mentioned earlier, the support and commitment of the formal team leader (Work Group Manager) are critical to successful team building. His or her attitude toward the process has an obvious impact upon other team members. Furthermore, because discussion sometimes centers on the team leader’s behavior, he or she has to be open to constructive criticism.

The leader must also fully understand team building, its time requirements and implications. The leader’s own personality and leadership style influence the probability of the success of tear-n building. If the team manager is not comfortable with a participative style of leadership, team development simply will not work.

The other team members should also want to become involved in the effort and believe in its relevance. Otherwise, team building may be viewed as a ploy by the leader to pacify the team or simply as a substitute for effective management. Each individual within the group should be part of the effort and feel personally secure to participate in the process.

Since the team-building efforts may create a change in the relationship between the team and the organization, the support of executive management is also vital. The chances for a successful team-building effort are improved if the team has knowledge of any organizational constraints on the options for making changes within the team.

The timing of team building is another critical factor. If the team is experiencing turmoil or confusion over its direction (mission, goals, purpose, objectives, leadership, changes, etc.), the time could be ripe for team-building efforts to begin because the members may feel a need to establish what is expected of them. Thus, their receptivity to the process is often increased under such destabilizing conditions.

Finally, team building requires adequate time for the activities to take effect. Relatively large blocks of time and even changes in the work setting are sometimes needed for team building. Separation from the workplace during the initial team meeting phase of the process is frequently needed to avoid work pressures and interruptions and to help generate greater commitment and increased concentration from team members.

What are the results of successful team building?

The team-building process may affect several levels within the organization. First, the individuals in the team may become more sensitive to the impact of their behavior on the effective functioning of the team. More self-awareness may also lead to changed behavior patterns. For example, recognition by the team leader that he or she does not share leadership and decision making with others may provide the impetus to adopt a more participative style.

Second, team building may help team members realize that different and better approaches exist to the way the team operates and performs its work. Third, team building may affect the relation- ship of the group to the rest of the organization. For example, a team member may stop using other parts of the organization as scapegoats to hide his or her own inefficient operations. Ultimately, greater harmony among organizational units could well result.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off