Teambuilding

by Gwyn Williams and Bruce Milroy

Common questions

  1. What’s the first thing I should do with my new team?
  2. What’s the benefit of teambuilding – is it really important?
  3. How do I deal with the cynics in the team?
  4. I have a team that is not all in one place. We communicate by email and phone. What can I do to try and get them to feel more like a team?
  5. We are not achieving as much as we ought to as a team. What can I do?

 

1. What’s the first thing I should do with my new team?

The first step is to take the time to introduce yourself to each of the team members. Tell them a little about yourself and what you’d like to achieve with the team. Ask them for their views on how they like to work, and what they’d like to get out of being a member of this team in the next six to 12 months.

When you introduce yourself as the new team leader, tell them

  • Your background and experience
  • What really excites you
  • What really annoys you
  • What you expect from a good team member

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2. What’s the benefit of teambuilding – is it really important?

Teams make a difference. They make a difference because they only come about when the task at hand is too large (scale) or difficult (complexity) for one person to complete alone. When you involve more than one person in the task, you are creating a work team, responsible for the delivery of a common goal or objective. It makes sense that, since the team is made up of individuals, each person will bring a different attitude, set of skills and set of behaviours to the team. That’s why a team can create more than the sum of its parts. Because each person has a different view and unique set of skills, the team can collectively create an environment that allows the sharing of diverse views and ideas that ultimately create an output that is stronger, better and more coherent than any one individual member of the team could have done.

Teambuilding is a way to accelerate the performance of a team. By spending time together, having common experiences, and clearly understanding the strengths and weaknesses that individuals bring to the team, you can take the team to a higher level of performance. Spending time on teambuilding is all about improving performance, and that means thinking about the task (that’s what you do), and thinking about the process (that’s how you do it) as well. It makes sense that the more you know about each other, the better you’ll be able to maximise on the strengths you collectively have as a team.

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3. How do I deal with the cynics in the team?

At the storming stage, you are most likely to encounter and have to deal with cynicism. People can be cynical for a whole range of understandable reasons. Common among these is the fact that they may have seen change happen in the past, and not work very effectively.

If you are taking over as their new team leader, you may find that they have seen new team leaders come and go, making promises that weren’t kept. They may have even applied for the role of team leader themselves and been unsuccessful.

In all of these cases, it’s important to take the time to listen to their concerns and understand why they feel the way they do.

Involving them at a very early stage in planning a project can help to bring them on board quickly. If they are sceptical about team meetings or team awaydays, involve them in the planning. Ask them what they would like to see happen that would improve the situation for them and the team. You can also ask them for advice on what you should and shouldn’t do as team leader to avoid any of the pitfalls experienced with previous leaders.

The technique of involving someone early in a process can create an emotional engagement and make them feel more valued and appreciated; as a result, the person often feels more able to contribute positively to the team.

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4. I have a team that is not all in one place. We communicate by email and phone. What can I do to try and get them to feel more like a team?

At a simple level, make sure they all have accurate and up-to-date contact numbers for each other; it’s surprising how often people let communication slip because someone has moved office and changed phone numbers or email accounts.

Providing a structure for regular communication can be a big help for remote teams. A weekly teleconference is a good idea, as it can build up a habit of regular communication in the team.

Here are some other methods of improving communication:

  • Ask the team how they would like to communicate
  • Ask them to consider the value they could get from regular communication with their colleagues
  • Make it fun! In your weekly conference calls add in a ‘Movie Review’ section, or a ‘Best Night Out’ section, to encourage people to participate
  • Identify whether communication is something that the team want to value (if people see communication as a valuable commodity, it’s easier for them to engage with it)

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5. We are not achieving as much as we ought to as a team. What can I do?

It’s often the case that you can see that your team could do more, but it’s not obvious what’s wrong. The problem is often to do with people having different views or perspectives on the situation. People may have different ideas about their role, or what the team is trying to achieve, and you can go a long way towards improving performance by clarifying any misunderstandings around those areas.

Try bringing the team together to discuss and clarify what the team is aiming for, and the part everyone plays in delivering against that aim. This is a great way to start a different kind of conversation with the team – it gives you space to talk about what’s really on people’s minds, rather than talking about last week’s or last month’s performance figures.

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