Teambuilding

by Gwyn Williams and Bruce Milroy

Why build a team?

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 a task of this nature, you are creating a work team, responsible for the delivery of a common goal or objective. It makes sense that, since each individual will bring their own unique attitude, set of skills and set of behaviours to the team, the team can create more than the sum of its parts. Collectively, the team can create an environment that allows a sharing of diverse views, ideas and skills that ultimately results in an output that is stronger, better and more coherent than any one individual member of the team could have produced.

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.

Most of us can recount a time when we have worked within a team that just seemed to ‘fit’ together and achieved remarkable things against all odds. Many of us can also recount a time when the team just didn’t seem to gel, for whatever reason, even when it seemed as though it couldn’t possibly fail.

Organisations need their teams to achieve high performance in a short space of time and to be self-managed, motivated and adaptive. This is the ideal, but it can be difficult to achieve when teams are changing so fast and have such demanding agendas, and also if individuals have to adapt to being members of different teams at the same time, each team working to achieve different objectives and priorities. All the more reason to understand how to help team members get to know each other and become an effective unit as quickly as possible.

Top tip

Getting to know your teammates at a level that goes beyond the immediate task is a simple and highly effective way of beginning to create a sense of ‘team’. High-performing teams build strong relationships through shared experiences – they spend time together discussing issues that are not related directly to the task in hand, and they often socialise together too.

Activity

Ask your team colleagues to take time in your next meeting to share something about themselves:

  • What they do in their spare time?
  • What’s most important in their life?
  • How would their partner at home describe them and why?
  • Is there something they have done that they are proud of?

Productivity and process

Productivity is related to the team’s task, in other words what the team is trying to achieve. Process is related to interpersonal behaviour or how the team is working together and how the team will achieve its task.

When people work in teams, two quite separate issues are involved. The first is the task and the problems involved in getting the job done. Frequently this is the only issue that the team considers. The second is the process of the teamwork itself: the mechanisms by which the team acts as a unit and not as a loose collection of individuals.

Without due attention to team process, the value of the team can be diminished or even destroyed. Teams are like relationships – you have to work at them. Focused management of the process can enhance the ability of the team to be greater than the sum of its parts. It is this synergy and the resulting increased effectiveness that makes teamwork attractive in corporate life.

For optimum results, two things need to happen:

  • The functioning of the team itself should be viewed as an important resource whose maintenance must be managed just like any other resource
  • This management should be undertaken by the team itself, so that it forms a normal part of team activities.

It is the leader’s responsibility to create an environment in which the team assumes this accountability and has the capability to self-manage its development.

In simple terms, the focus on process leads to an agreed way of working – how we do things around here – in which there is a spirit of cooperation, coordination and commonly-understood set of behaviours and procedures. If this is present within a team of people, then their performance will be enhanced.

Benefits of a team

Two men working as a team will produce more than three men working as individuals.

Charles P McCormick

So what are the benefits of building a team?

  • Being a part of a team creates a sense of belonging to something worthwhile, one of the basic needs we all have as human beings.
  • It creates a sense of ‘home’ – a place where you can go and let your hair down, be yourself, and share your thoughts about what’s really going on in the world.
  • It establishes a ‘quality standard’ for team practices and processes.
  • It establishes team style and identity – the way we do business around here.
  • It provides a discussion forum to share ideas, discuss options and make effective decisions.
  • It keeps everyone focused by aligning team objectives to organisational goals and strategy.
  • Individual and collective strengths and areas for improvement are identified and understood.
  • It provides a development framework for issues relating to facilitation, information management, time management, team role, functions, leadership style, development and training.
  • Team building increases motivation, engagement, participation, skill development, performance, productivity, leadership and communication.