Does Teambuilding Work? Part 2

In last week’s post, I outlined the approaches to teambuilding that don’t work. This week I will discuss those that do.

One note: I’m talking here about teambuilding for an already established team. Some of the available kumbaya or fun activities I’ve criticized may work better if the team is just forming. Though maybe not….

So what does work?

  • An assessment must precede the teambuilding. You can’t fix a team if you don’t know what’s needed or broken. Needs and problems are often multi-layered: they can involve personalities, management, organizational systems, training, the nature of the work, and so on. The assessment can be done by someone in-house, though it may be more effective to bring in someone from outside who can view things with a more objective eye. Assessment tools include interviews, surveys, 360-degree instruments, testing, etc. Often, interviews are enough.
  • It’s important to determine which issues are amenable to a teambuilding approach. Some will require personal attention, e.g., behavior and performance problems. These cannot be solved via a group effort.
  • The program needs to focus on the issues found in the assessment. Sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying. If the teambuilding doesn’t seek to address what’s really going on, it will be a waste of time and money. It may even make things worse.
  • Sufficient time, energy, and resources must be devoted to the teambuilding. This means there probably will need to be more than one meeting. It means that management must be visibly committed to the process.  It means that the facilitator must be skilled and have a good understanding of the issues set out in the assessment. (I’ll talk about what makes a good facilitator in another post.) It often works well to have the same person do the assessment and the teambuilding since that person will have a deeper understanding of the players and the issues.
  • The teambuilding should lead to agreement on future do’s and don’ts. It’s not enough for everyone to just speak frankly and get along during the sessions. It’s important that a concrete action plan of some sort be agreed upon.  Ideally the action plan will include some sort of “enforcement” mechanisms, i.e., tools that employees can use to keep their teammates (and management) on the right path.
  • Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. One session or even a series of sessions won’t work if there is no follow up. Such follow up may include check-ins by management, subsequent meetings, or a follow up assessment. Management needs to ensure that employees adhere to whatever “agreements” were made and mechanisms created at the teambuilding sessions.

Any other ideas on effective teambuilding? ~Amy Stephson

One response to “Does Teambuilding Work? Part 2

  1. I couldn’t agree more – and want to add that you’ll know the teambuilding effort was effective when the outcomes (agreements, learnings, whatever) become an interwoven part of the teams functioning – which they will only do if they are reinforced again and again and again….

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