Team Building Takes Work
“There is no ‘I’ in team.” I couldn’t start a column about the importance of team building without this often-repeated phrase.
As a leadership consultant, I can think of no better way to support a leader to be their best self than seeing them in action with their team. As you can imagine, what leaders believe they are saying or doing for their teams is not always what the team experiences.
- The leader wants to support team building but only through activities and events the leader enjoys. I cannot tell you how many golfing trips I have attended as a corporate employee where the vast majority of team members were not at all interested in golf.
- The leader believes the best way to encourage decision making in the team is to “get out of the way”—but has not shared this philosophy with the team. What the team truly needs first is the leader’s support defining parameters for decision making.
Working on team effectiveness is not just for the teams that appear broken or dysfunctional; it’s not just for new teams or large teams or big company teams or teams located in the same office or complex. In today’s world, many of you work on or lead teams that are geographically dispersed. Whatever the case, spending time building relationships within teams is absolutely essential. Taking the time and care to get to know each team member as an individual and establish (or evolve) how the team works together can result in increased productivity, engagement, retention—and, of course, achievement of business goals.
Here are some of my tried-and-true techniques for team building:
- Host team activities. Get your team members together and have some fun (although make sure it’s something most of the team—not just the leader—considers fun). Activities can range from volunteering to sports or arts activities. I encourage teams to select the activity that fits the culture of the company or the spirit of the team. Keep it safe. Keep it easy. If your team is remote, look for activities you can do via Zoom (Google is your friend) or in small groups at the company’s various locations. The small groups can share their adventures with the larger group.
- Establish team working principles. It may sound simple, but setting some basics on how you will operate as a team will help you avoid common team pitfalls. For example: starting and ending meetings on time, sending out materials to read before meetings, and/or establishing clear decision-making principles. I cannot think of a single company I have worked with that did not need to spend some time discussing meeting management or decision making (either could be the topic of its own column).
- Conduct annual “team wellness check” meetings. I strongly encourage organizations to bring their team members together in person at least once per year to build relationships, set priorities, and discuss critical issues. I know budgets can be tight, but there is something powerful about being in the same physical space. These meetings can be an opportunity to strengthen relationships and revise or set team working norms before you dive into setting annual priorities or goals.
- Develop each team member. Individual development coupled with team development is like the one-two punch to achieve business goals: You have to do both. Individuals have separate development needs; addressing those needs allows them to come to the team stronger, faster, and clearer on how they impact the team and thus the business.
- Celebrate success—team and individual. Your team members (and you) are working hard! Everyone is putting in long hours, making big decisions, and getting things done. Take the time to recognize the work of your team and its members. Celebrate the actions and results of those team members who are representing the values you support as a company.
Your team is critical to the success of your business, so make sure you take the time to nurture your greatest resource. Select what works for your organization, make a commitment to do it, and then watch the magic happen. Happy teaming!
Have an HR concern you’d like to raise confidentially with an expert? Ask Stephanie. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Ask HR” in the subject line. It may be addressed in an upcoming column.
Stephanie Pierce is founder of KJP Consulting, a leadership development firm, and stephpierce.com, a community of diverse women inspiring each other to do the work they love. She co-hosts the podcast Her Next Chapter.