Genuine team building goes beyond the occasional bonding activity or retreat to establishing a culture that encourages and rewards collaboration and teaches everyone in your workplace how to build and participate in cohesive teams. Here are five ideas to keep in mind as you begin creating a culture of team building in your organization:
- Team building flows from the top. Leaders who practice self-awareness set a positive example of how to behave in the workplace. They show employees the organization is genuinely interested in building healthy teams by actively setting up and participating in an ongoing program.
- Team building is a company value. You get to choose what your organization values and what it doesn’t and whether people in the organization work against each other or collaborate. You decide what behaviors are acceptable and encouraged in your workplace.
- Train the trainer. Set aside the time and resources to train people at all levels of the organizations who then train their particular departments until all employees have the knowledge to practice effective team building.
- Schedule regular time for team building activities. You show your employees that team building is a priority by establishing a weekly stand-alone activity that doesn’t have to share space with other meetings and is attended by people at all levels.
- Team building is about celebrating your employees. Design team building activities where leaders and employees can connect on a deeper level, build meaningful relationships and praise each other in public.
As a leader, you decide what kind of work environment you create and whether you commit long-term to making it easier for your employees to come together and work collaboratively. What will you do to support a culture of team building in your organization?
A lot of leaders and organizations talk about improving team building or how important it is for everyone to work together and then create workplaces where people are discouraged from collaborating or helping one another. It takes self-awareness and commitment to design a workplace where team building is practiced and celebrated. Here are five ways that team building is routinely discouraged in the workplace:
- Creating a competitive work environment. People are encouraged to compete on their own behalf instead of as a team. This creates a workplace where people look out for their own interests before thinking about working with others.
- Lack of effective communication. People only communicate on a superficial level and only about approved topics. Very little attention is paid to listening to what others say and creating two-way sharing of information.
- Missing emotional depth. People aren’t encouraged to understand and welcome emotions in the workplace and how they can bring people together. Displays of emotion are limited to one or two officially sanctioned ones such as fake happiness and anger.
- The boss’ ego. The boss can’t let go long enough to let people work collaboratively because it would take away from his (or her) vision of how things should be done. The organization runs according to his personal needs and issues rather than with everyone in mind.
- Lack of commitment. Leaders and organizations invest in one team building session per year instead of an ongoing program that teaches people practical skills.
In many organizations, team building is an abstract concept that people talk about or pretend is happening. You can move from wishing it would happen to making it a reality by implementing a program that teaches people skills on an ongoing basis. The idea is to create a workplace environment where people are actively being trained in how to work each other and given opportunities to practice the new skills they’re learning. What will you do to encourage team building in your organization?
A lot of team building focuses on superficial interactions and activities that make people temporarily happy but overlook the underlying thoughts and behaviors that bring people together. Meaningful team building encourages people to empathize with others and collaborate well. Here are some ideas to help you design a program that goes below the surface:
- People examine their own behaviors and how they impact others.
- Each individual talks about what’s meaningful to him or her.
- Everyone listens to others without interruptions or comments.
- Each person is given the time and space to share meaningfully.
- The environment is safe and conducive to deeper sharing.
- People are encouraged to practice empathy and compassion.
- Participants praise each other.
- Everyone is invited to let his or her guard down.
- The process is ongoing and becomes part of the company culture.
- Leadership demonstrates commitment to the program by participating actively and allocating time and resources.
Try these ideas and you’ll help people come together by building self-awareness, connecting on a deeper level and understanding each other beyond pleasantries. What will you do to practice deeper team building?
A lot of team building is fun and helps people bond and have a good time together. The missing ingredient is the stuff that’s below the surface: how people think and behave long-term. When you’re looking to implement deeper team building in your workplace it helps to think about what really brings people together and how you can maintain positive momentum. Here are some practical ideas to help you build a meaningful program.
Look at People’s Thinking
Individuals’ thought processes can significantly affect how successful your team building activities are. Imagine a leader who doesn’t really believe in bringing people together or enjoys power differentials or giving orders. Think about the employee who believes that nobody will ever listen to him or her so why bother trying to collaborate. Consider the staff member who remembers the team building activities in the past that didn’t lead to anything. The key to building team cohesiveness is to introduce a new way of thinking and behaving that supports group interaction and collaboration. Imagine how your workplace would run if people genuinely believed they could work together, create a level playing field, share information freely, communicate well and solve problems.
Focus on Behaviors
The way people behave determines how productive your workplace is and how well people collaborate. Take some time to help people get rid of behaviors that don’t work (gossip, personal issues, power struggles, competition) and replace them with approaches that do such as: listening, asking open-ended questions or problem-solving.
Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive
The standard way of doing business is to react to what people say or do. These reactions often have nothing to do with work, as when a leader works out some personal issue on his employees. The key to building more successful teams is to implement ongoing training that helps employees deal with any challenge that comes their way and creates a culture where positive interaction is valued. People are much more proactive when they know how to stop reacting to people and events.
Try these ideas and you’ll shift your focus from superficial interactions to more meaningful ones. The key in effective team building is to move away from encouraging superficial relationships to diving into the thoughts and behaviors that are under the surface. What will you do to promote deeper team building?
Many leaders and organizations try to implement team building in one or two sessions only to find that their employees quickly revert to old behaviors. It takes time and commitment for team building to take root and grow in any organization. It’s nearly impossible to move away from the behaviors you’ve built up over time and replace them with new, more effective ones without sustained effort. Here are ten practical tips to help you get the most out of your team building program.
- Make sure leadership is fully involved and sets a positive tone.
- Team building is offered to employees at every level.
- A one-hour time block per week is set aside for team building activities.
- Refrain from changing the team building schedule or combining it with other meetings.
- No interruptions during sessions, including people using phones, texting or being called out of the activities.
- Leave egos and agendas at the door, everyone is treated equally.
- Use an experienced, positive and neutral facilitator for activities.
- Focus on activities that build deeper interactions and relationships.
- Practice new behaviors over time.
- Evaluate how you’re doing after six months and make adjustments if necessary.
The key to successful team building is to participate in activities that bring people together on a deeper level and help them acquire skills to keep moving forward. Practice team building over time so that everyone gets used to doing it. Once people are comfortable with your new approach, it becomes second nature and your workplace shifts to one where collaboration and shared purpose are the norm. How will you promote long-term team building in your organization?
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Team Building Carnival. This is a collection of articles by team building experts who share insights and ideas to help leaders and organizations build kind, creative, supportive and productive workplace teams.
Thank you to the talented experts who have taken the time to share their team building knowledge. Here are their thoughtful articles.
I facilitate many team building workshops and the participants sometimes get confused when they realize they aren’t going to be climbing a tree or catching each other as they fall backward. It’s a natural reaction because a lot of what is presented as team building might actually be team bonding. Here’s the difference:
- Focuses on behaviors and their effect on workplace functioning.
- Helps people learn how to work with each other and get along well.
- Builds skills like communication, planning, problem-solving and conflict resolution.
- Builds empathy and compassion.
- Encourages long-term behavior change.
- Helps people build genuine connections.
- Is practiced over time.
- Encourages deeper discussion and processing.
- Focus on fun activities.
- Brings people together by encouraging collaboration and teamwork.
- Helps people see each other in a different light.
- Allows people to connect in a different setting.
- Usually a one-time activity.
- Helps people get out of the workplace and relax.
- Encourages people to have fun together.
- Sometimes asks people to think about the implications of the activities on their workplace.
Both approaches are valid and have their strengths. The major difference is that team building is a long-term process that creates behavioral change while team bonding tends to be a short-term, fun experience. If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up then team bonding is your thing. If you’re looking at foundation building and long-term change then team building will help you get there.
As a leader, you get to choose what kind of workplace you create. I’ve found that highly successful (and happy) organizations commit to a long-term team building approach that helps people think and behave in ways that benefit them and their work environment. Learning effective team building takes time and effort but it creates lasting success and a company culture that encourages positive behaviors. What will you do to practice effective team building in your organization?