If only team building were as simple as getting a bunch of people together in a room and telling them, “You’re a team now.”
But it’s not. In reality, team building is about managing many moving parts, defining goals, communicating around those goals and doing the thousand little things necessary to keep morale up and projects moving ahead.
As a leader, here are five things you need to keep in mind about team building.
- Look in the mirror first. A team can’t be a team without a common sense of purpose. That means you, as the leader, must put yourself in your team members’ shoes and identify what they need in terms of resources, communication and inspiration to be successful. Start with the walk-away messages you want your team to internalize. Then work backward to the messaging needed to drive home the walk-away points and motivate the team to turn those points into actions.
- Get emotional. Much of team building is centered on emotional engagement. Get to know your team members and their personalities to help you define roles and discover how to best motivate your team. For instance, an aggressive, energetic salesperson needs to-the-point instructions and an open door, not hours consumed in sit-down brainstorming sessions.
- Try something different. Is your team stagnating and losing focus? Get team members out of the office by scheduling a service project for charity, organizing a team activity or having a lunch at a restaurant. However you do it, get your people out of the office and away from the work environment to get them interacting on a more personal, less formal level.
- Get up for downtime. Don’t confuse downtime with nonproductive time. Some of the best team building happens off the clock. This is especially true at multiday conferences, where scheduling every minute of every day is often counterproductive. Whether it’s dinner, drinks or just sitting around in a lounge, downtime gives your team members a chance to decompress and relate to each other in a relaxed setting. It’s a great opportunity to put the daytime stress on hold and bond as a team.
- Reinforce the message. You have 90 days to reinforce your initial team-building efforts before the effects start to dissipate. Without frequent reinforcement of your messages and the team goals, the team atmosphere will wither. Reinforcement can come in the form of activities, or even media presentations such as video and PowerPoint packages — anything that gets your team refocused and motivated around the end goals. You only get so many opportunities to reinforce the message, so take advantage of them.
Pete Honsberger is the director of client services at CultureShoc. If you need assistance on how to build better teams, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.