4 Ways to Make Your Team Building a Success

Lisa Nichols 12-17

Somewhere this afternoon, a group of employees are strapping on safety equipment and preparing to scale the side of a cliff. In another city, another group is busy at a retreat designed to nurture their sense of teamwork. Yet in another town there is another group, who usually compete in the office, together cooking out with plans of watching fireworks for the 4th of July. The question is what do they all have in common?

All of these groups of people are team building. Team building has come to represent a way of doing business that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of each member of a workgroup. The basic concept of team building weekends is to bring a group of coworkers together and, by subjecting them to various hardships, events and activities, cement them into a team that supports each other and works together toward a common goal.

The only problem with that scenario is that sometimes, it doesn’t work. Once the group is back at the office, they fall back into the old ways of working and the team building weekend is no more than a memory. The problem is not in the concept of team building, but in the perception that it can be accomplished in just a weekend, no matter what that weekend involves. It is not that team building weekends are a bad idea … it’s that they are expected to do a job that should be done in your office on a daily basis. The purpose of a team building event should be to bring together, strengthen and reward your team, not to single-handedly force a group of coworkers into a team, nor is it used to replace the work your company, or a manager, should be doing every day. If this is your purpose, then you’re missing out on some important points as well as the major benefits of getting everyone together for a weekend.

So how do you improve the bonds of your team? In simple terms, you can’t just talk the talk … you have to walk the walk. If you want your staff to believe they are a team and work together as a team, then you have to treat them as such, with you as one of its important members. Here are four things to remember when planning your next team building weekend:

  1. Communication is the key. The single biggest mistake often made is the failure to communicate. Your company doesn’t have to be an open book but sharing goals and intentions gives employees a sense that they’re a part of a larger team working toward a specific purpose.
  2. Build teamwork into the work flow. In order to work as a team, people need to be treated as one. Start each project with a team conference to define and refine goals. Create a lounge area where team members are comfortable getting coffee in the morning – and taking a few moments to catch up on things together. Hold regular project team meetings where team members can report progress and delays so that no one feels left out of the loop.
  3. Recognize achievement. Recognizing achievement should be a priority. It is important to reinforcing the team feeling. It doesn’t need to be formal – in fact, informal and unexpected recognition can be very powerful. A word in passing in the hallway, a moment taken to pass on praise from a client while having a cup of coffee, a casual “great work on that proposal, guys” at the end of a meeting are all part of the teamwork frame.
  4. Make time to be a team outside of work. It can be the team playing a softball team, or going bowling together. It can be a semi-annual weekend where the team members can really stretch their wings, teams work best when they have something in common besides their work. A trek up a snowy mountainside builds shared memories that help cement the bonds that have formed throughout the year.

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