Do you have any interest in team sports? What about professional team sports? If so, imagine your favorite team of the moment. Now, imagine them hitting the field, court, ice or whatever surface they’ll play on, without a moment’s practice. Even if that team is comprised of the sport’s best players ever, without that practice it is unlikely they’ll get the same results as if they dedicated many hours each week practicing.
This is why team building is such an essential component of teamwork, and success.
Good leadership understands the incredible significance of team building, but for more than the bottom line outcomes. Yes, practice makes perfect and that perfection creates growth, but let’s return to the sports analogies again for a moment. Even perfection and excellent outcomes don’t keep the best players on that team for an entire career run. This is because the nature of team sports creates fluctuations, tension and also fails to recognize the evolution of individual players.
You don’t want that in your organization. One season of success, after all, does not make a great career or team. So, as a leader, it behooves you to look at teamwork and team building and recognize how these lead to long term engagement.
Where Things Go Astray
As someone in leadership, you might already understand that hiring is a huge focal point. You create detailed job descriptions, you scout out the right skill sets and you look for people that seem to be the ideal fit to the culture or goals. Yet, integrating teams is not such a simple or direct affair. After all, employees are never “plug and play”. There can be a tremendous amount of change generated by the integration of even one new player, and it can take months to recalibrate the entire team and get them back up to the pre-hire pace.
It is not the new hire’s fault, or the fault of the team. It is the absence of a system of effective team building that can cause this misalignment to occur. Even if you do have a fantastic system in place, almost everything needs adjustment. New machines, for example, rarely kick off their years of use without some initial tweaks, and if your teams are looked at like machines, you have to allow for some adjustments. Team building is the perfect way to make some adjustments.
Team Building as Employer Engagement
Before you sigh and think that this is another article emphasizing morale building experiences and mandatory company activities, just give it a moment. While it is true that we advocate for team building activities that put a spotlight on delegation, communication and even focusing on goals, there is more to it than some “out of the box” exercises or games.
Let’s first look at employee engagement and why it is so crucial and then three different team building paths that can make engagement more potent than ever.
Employee engagement is defined as an emotional tie that your employee will have to the organization as well as the organizational goals. In essence, it means that each of your players actually cares about the organization and the work they do within it. Obviously, if you can create this, it is going to make for a very dynamic company.
You can begin with team building in the area of communication.
Communication in Your Teams
If you read our article about clarity and leadership, you already know that leadership paradigms have to take social and individual interpretations into consideration. Everyone on a team or in an organization has their social needs and brings unique but individual understandings to every area of their work. This is precisely why communication rates as the number one priority in your team building exercises.
Rather than working on “how” your employees or teams communicate, i.e. through vocabulary building games or interpersonal exchanges in which people reiterate what they’ve been told, take it wider. For example, as a leader consider how the individuals receiving any information receive it from you, and how they might perceive that information against the company’s goals or even their own careers.
How else are you ever going to communicate essential ideas that players can interpret, unless you are doing so in ways that they can take and use effectively? Rather than challenging their communication skills and methods, create team building exercises that emphasize that there are open lines of communication. Begin this by noting each player’s individual strengths, emphasize them and then use the team building to learn more about these individual competencies.
Grow and Develop
After that, it becomes easier than ever to start enhancing engagement through team building that creates opportunities for growth. Opening lines of communication lets you be certain that everyone has clearly defined roles.
The next step is to work to create attainable goals for the team, but which uses or exploits individual strengths to reach that goal. No one will be able to claim responsibility on an individual basis, and this also provides individuals with a clear path to growth and development. Never focus strictly on advancement or growth in terms of management. Not all players want this role. Instead, create team building around individual skills that use talents and demonstrate paths for further development of a skill set.
By structuring this into a team building format, it allows the entire team to recognize each player’s unique aptitudes and the entire team will remember this as they work together in the future.
Continually Offer New Goals
A team doesn’t want to succeed on a major push just once and then never use what they’ve just done again. Instead, good leadership looks at team building as a channel towards overall goal accomplishment.
It means choosing the results you require and creating targeted goals for the teams. You have already held them accountable individually and as a group, so go ahead and start to establish more challenging goals, but those that are well defined, realistic and attainable, too.
Try to keep that old “SMART” system in mind (this is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). It may feel outdated, but it is a fantastic model on which to begin using team building exercises to strengthen teamwork capabilities. Align the goals you have set and use those benchmarks to ensure the entire team is able to participate. There are many instances of individuals who become confused by the many details of a group or team focused project. This has the potential for stunting growth.
Instead, let the entire team follow the clear cut and easily articulated points in that SMART model. They can all agree how to reach the target, from beginning to end, by setting the specific goals, and so on.
It is the job of leadership to look at their teams and know how to support them in reaching established goals. Good leadership ensures that individuals and teams know all about the resources available to them in order to succeed, and it is a huge oversight if you do not point out that colleagues are some of the best resources. Develop skills, make sure key players recognize the skills of others, and use team building to enhance teamwork and you’ll see greater success.
Want more information?
I specialize in enabling people to commit to implementing meaningful, positive change and achieving goals through alignment. Why not explore what this might look like for you, your team, or your organization? For more information on my coaching and consulting services, call me today at (+81) 80-8034-4023.