The term ‘team building’ generally produces a few eye rolls – some might see it as an act of forcing people together into some sort of awkward scenario. But research cited in Small Group Research
, a peer-reviewed academic journal specialising in social psychology and organisational behaviour, suggests team building has a positive moderate effect across all team outcomes. The article ‘Does team building work?
’ analyses data from 103 studies conducted between 1950 and 2007.
Experts suggest that the way to create employee engagement with team building activities is to avoid situations that feel invasive, awkward or forced, such as role-playing. Instead, professional conferences or workshops give teams the opportunity to stay up to date with their subject area and develop professional relationships in new settings without the embarrassment of having to play games.
Dealing with conflict
Conflict within teams can arise from opposing positions, competitiveness, power struggles, ego, jealousy, performance discrepancies or just someone having a bad day. A good member of a team, or a leader of the team, will address this as follows.
1. Define what is acceptable behaviour
If you do this, it should be clear when someone steps out of line.
2. Approach the conflict head on
Arrange a time to speak privately with the person in question. Don’t make the conversation personal. Instead of focusing on personality, focus on behaviour and events. So, for example, describe a specific incident clearly, using “when this happens” rather than “when you do this”.
Avoid interrupting and make sure you clarify all points being made so that there is no confusion.
4. Come up with a solution
Agree on practical, objective steps to avoid the conflict arising again. For example, if the conflict is occurring because one colleague is speaking over another in meetings, agree that the interrupter will maintain more eye contact with their teammate in meetings so that they are aware of when they’ve finished speaking.
However, team building doesn’t stop once you get back to the office. It’s an ongoing process that helps groups evolve into cohesive units, and team leaders have an essential role to play in driving this evolution. No sector knows this better than sports, which is why club managers and coaches have become so revered.
There are plenty of practical ways that team leaders can build efficient, successful teams on a daily basis.
Encourage team members to mentor each other
Encourage employees with a particular strength to mentor teammates with a corresponding weakness. Not only will this help to boost the skills of the team as a whole, members will feel valued because they are either being singled out for career development or being celebrated for their particular talent.
Have a clear team goal
Whether a firm wants to increase its profitability by 25% in the next two quarters or reduce its non-recyclable waste for the year, a clear aim that is mutually agreed by a team is easier to get to than a team leader having an idea and not communicating this to the rest of the troops. Each team member should have a specific role in delivering the strategy and feel personally invested in it, rather than working towards a goal that has clearly just been set for their manager to reach. This will ultimately make each individual feel valued.
Create opportunities to socialise
Teams that work well together enjoy each other’s company and will often continue to build their relationships outside of work. Creating opportunities for them to do this – a team lunch, for example – can make for a much more relaxed, trusting and loyal team culture and environment.
Leave your door open
As previously reported in The Review,
an open door policy encourages interaction between a team leader and the rest of the team. It effectively removes ‘barriers’, encouraging individuals to share their thoughts, ideas and feedback. This reduces the risk of crossed wires and misunderstandings, and enables a time to broaden its knowledge and improve performance.
Like any relationship, trust, loyalty and communication are essential for good team dynamics. But this doesn't mean you have to group hug or overshare in forced scenarios. Team building activities that everyone is comfortable with will help to promote a cohesive team that enjoys turning up to work.
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