What Top Managers Wish They Knew About Team Building When They Were Starting Out
Interviews / Opinions

What Top Managers Wish They Knew About Team Building When They Were Starting Out

Automobiles. Whether sleek and expensive, large and hardy, or small and convenient, cars have become an undeniable element of everyday living across most parts of the world. But cars were not the product of one man’s genius alone.

No. In the words of Henry Ford himself, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Mr. Ford recognized the business value of transforming a group of individuals into a well-coordinated, collaborative and high-functioning team.

And he’s not the only one. You’ve heard the old adage, two hands are better than one. Or, there is no I in “team”. These words have endured, and are still commonly heard today, for one simple reason. Teamwork is still necessary and is still difficult to get right.

A challenge experienced by most organizations (and managers) today is overcoming group dynamics in exchange for team dynamics. While a group is having many heads around the table, a team is having many diverse and talented heads around the table. Heads that challenge, compliment, and assist each other in achieving a more profound and impactful goal than what any head could achieve on its own.

And team building, well, plays nothing short of a pivotal role in creating a high-functioning team.

Teaming Up Toward Organizational Objectives

Imagine this. A team of rocket scientists working to launch a space shuttle to Mars. Organizational objective: Get space shuttle safely to Mars, and home again. Now imagine that the team leader is rewarding the top performing engineer with a double paycheck at the end of the project.

Each engineer continues with their responsibilities, without ever assisting or asking for help from their fellow engineers. All consciously fearful of their teammates (and rivals) beating them to that tasty reward. Competition is rife. Self-promotion is rife, too.

Finally, imagine the astronaut’s confidence in the safety of his ride, knowing that the team of engineers who built the shuttle was working against, rather than with, each other.

Granted, space agencies have been criticized more for groupthink than for working in silos. But many managers, in many organizations, still make the fundamental error of encouraging a competitive work environment. Rewards structures are based on individual performance, and employees become motivated to run each other over in the race to recognition.

The unfortunate result of a culture of competition is that key intelligence is held secret to each employee, constructive debates and healthy conflict have no place, and team and organizational performance is stunted.

Conflicts that turn personal, delays to projects, bottlenecks to processes, and a generally unhappy workplace – all characteristics of an organization of employees working in different directions. An organization of groups, rather than an organization of teams.

What managers should be striving toward is an organizational culture that promotes collaboration, shared knowledge, and ideas, one that can streamline team processes.

And while each team member may contribute their own specialized skills, cross-functionalization is made possible to enable intra-team support.

Of course, there is also the risk of a team becoming overly cohesive. Groupthink is a real challenge in these cases and can lead to poor decisions and low-quality products. But this just reinforces the need for a team culture of constructive debate, rather than passive agreement.

In corporate team building ideas, the ‘war room’ is often used as a safe space for teams to argue, debate, question and challenge each other’s thoughts and ideas. This creates a proactive, participatory relationship between team members, where multiple perspectives lead to innovation, creativity, and improved team outcomes.

Once you, as a manager, have secured top talent and successfully created a culture of teamwork, you are more likely to see your teams working toward the broader organizational objectives. A force of integrated and coordinated expertise dashing towards strategic goals.

5 Core Benefits of Team Building Activities

Now, we may have mentioned this before, but it’s worth reiterating. Team building activities for work, when done right, are an important way of developing that high-functioning team culture we should all be striving for.

While there are many benefits to team building, we will outline five of the core benefits for your team and your organization.

1. Interpersonal skills

Have you ever heard the words “I hate that idea” or “You must be joking, right?”. For your sake, hopefully not.

But responses like these are not uncommon in team brainstorming and problem-solving sessions because team members lack the interpersonal skills necessary for providing constructive feedback. Criticism, when delivered destructively, can obliterate the ‘safe space’ for ideas, creativity, and open-minded conversation.

Effective corporate team building activities that focus on emotional intelligence and awareness in feedback go a long way toward developing interpersonal skills and constructive team interactions.

2. Mutual understanding

As you well know, no two people are the same. Experiences, personalities, skills and previous training make every person just a little (or a lot) different from the next. In a workplace, this can either be an obstacle or an opportunity, depending on how accepting team members are of other’s differences.

A team consists of diversified skills and expertise which can be leveraged for increased creativity, productivity, and other positive gains; but only when team members understand each other.

For example, you might work best under pressure, but need to sympathize with those teammates who feel more comfortable with an early start. Maybe you’re not very good at creative tasks but one of your team members has a successful track record of artful designs.

Recognition and support for each other’s differences and similarities, strengths and weaknesses, can be carefully developed through team building exercises.

3. Innovation and problem-solving

Today’s competitive landscape is brutal. As organizations battle it out in the age of information, the most innovative and proactive thinker is usually the one in the lead.But only for as long as they remain ‘the most innovative and proactive thinker’.

This means that now, more than ever, teams are under pressure to identify and solve problems in the most creative ways. However, creativity can be a messy process.

Team building activities assist your team in effectively channeling diverse inputs in order to problem-solve quickly, while still arriving at the most innovative solution.

4. Streamlining and efficiency

Teams are not indefinitely centered around an operational function. More often, they are expected to adapt to a variety of projects and processes according to the needs of the organization. But change is an innate human fear and can be disruptive to team productivity and effectivity.

A strong team is able to reevaluate their processes, team roles and responsibilities, and interdependencies in order to quickly adjust to a new team project or goal. Team building activities prepare them with effective strategies to do just this.

5. Motivation and morale

Nobody said teams can’t have a little fun. In fact, team building activities are often the birthplace of the ‘inside joke’.

Team building exercises can (and should) be designed to be engaging, interesting, and quite simply, fun. Distancing the team from the high-pressure work environment, and toward a physical or mental space of learning and growth can make a world of difference to morale.

Providing a fresh perspective, a laugh or two, and some good old-fashioned happy hormones could move your team to a whole new level of motivation to achieve.

Taking Corporate Team Building Online

No question, team building is an opportunity for high-impact learning. But when it comes to corporations, coordinating team building between many, interdependent teams can feel like an impossible feat.

You might be managing vertical teams, within teams, within teams. Or employees located around the globe, and overlapping horizontal teams. Team structures are naturally larger and more complex.

Then there’s also the fact that employees are all super busy, and don’t always have time to take a full two or three days off for training.

This is why corporations are looking increasingly to eLearning for team building activities. Pure online or blended training methods are making it easier to train teams in dispersed locations, and in a more flexible mode of delivery.

Interactive tools, instructional design, and collaborative spaces make it possible to achieve the same training outcomes, and more, in an online learning environment than you could in traditional, classroom-based training.

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