Team building is a combination of interventions you make to inspire, equip, and enable a team to succeed.
It is not an event, a collection of games, or an intellectual concept. Team building initiatives fail when organizers focus on rituals but ignore reasons, are obsessed with activities and ignore applications, when they think of games and forget goals.
You do not build the team the same way. You can do that with machines, but not with people. Those who use a cookie-cutter approach to team building do not understand the purposes of team building.
Purpose #1: Individual Development.
When professionals apply for jobs, they look forward to the opportunities to shine, be on top, and be above others.
They have their dreams and aspirations long before they join teams. They hold values that are likely different from each other.
Team building initiatives must speed up individual and professional growth. Many team-building programs emphasize that there is no “I” in teamwork.
That is very wrong.
Team building does not erase the individual ambitions from the equation. Individuals should not disappear in a team. You can only have a high performing team when you have a high performing member.
Give attention to individual career growth. Provide capable coaches and mentors. Help them achieve their dreams.
Allow uber-achievers to find their teams rather than keeping them to a team where there is no space for them to grow.
Purpose #2: Relationship Building.
The second purpose is relationship building. Experiences have shown that grouping together high performing individuals does not make high performing teams. Often, the product is less than the sum of its parts.
High performing individuals do not perform well when they work with people they do not trust and respect. They do not share knowledge and information with others who are threats to their success. They do not give their best shot when they know that others, not they, would be rewarded for their achievements.
Team building must build relationships. It must convince members that each one plays an important role and they must complement each other. Demonstrate that by helping each other, one who works with the team can do more than working alone.
Give attention to team competencies that build relationships. These are interpersonal communication, diversity, and participative leadership.
Consider team attitudes like accountability, responsibility, respect, and trust.
Purpose # 3: Help the Organization Succeed.
Organizations build teams as a strategy to achieve their goals. Team building increases the team’s chances to succeed.
Team building programs run for the sake of fun are not funny. Team building exercises that emphasize the value of teamwork but do not contribute to team goals are a waste of time, money, energy, and opportunities.
Make your team building simple and powerful.