Beyond Teambuilding

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Teambuilding Under the Microscope

I read a good article by Michael (the other) Jackson relating to what he has learned from his involvement in 2700 conferences. The feedback is all very on point and inciteful to all those who are involved in conferencing.

As the CEO of an Eventing, Training and Team Development Group I am particularly interested in such feedback, and in this instance, honed in on his negative reference to “teambuilding”.

Teambuilding never does what it offers in the title

“The thought of a teambuilding session merely induces near panic amongst conference delegates. Quite frankly no-one wants to run through a wet forest, fire-walk, build rafts next to a lake or paint meaningless images. Often built in as an add-on, and intended to fire up the troops, such miserable attempts at generating camaraderie and teamwork regularly fall flat on their faces. It is far better to endeavour to build real dialogue, through conversation and engagement in an adult manner, using the strengths of the people in the room; yet this too seldom occurs.”

I can see that Michael is looking at this through a “cynic’s eyes” and I agree, but not to the extent of NEVER DOES, as this is a very definitive statement and clearly can be disproved even if only one team build intervention has contributed to the successful building of a team. However, this is not the real point.

The challenge for us “teambuilders” is to break from the poor perception that the Market and the Michaels  (M&Ms) have witnessed over the years.

Firstly, as the ones in the industry, we need to own up to the poor reputation we have created, and ask why. Secondly, I would hope that we are constantly and collectively working on trying to improve the situation.

Beyond Teambuilding pride ourselves in creating events, activities and challenges that push any team past mediocrity, allowing them to express themselves in a way that unleashes a team synergy that is often lying dormant. Our teambuilding is done in two definitive ways; formal and informal. Both have merit and are used to create the specific objectives of your particular team’s needs.

Please indulge my thinking on this subject.

The first obstacle we face is our denial, and that is not a river in Egypt, it’s a lot murkier than that.

Secondly, the customers themselves often feel they can order a team build from a brochure or product list conveniently found on Google or in their in-tray.

The third problem is that we agree!  It is so easy to say yes, take the client’s money and move on. It is a road to nowhere and eventually leads to the scenario that Michael has correctly mentioned above.

However, that very same client will most probably never come back, will be disappointed, and possibly badmouth your business and the industry…and all because you did not take time to do what a proper sales consultant should do.

You sold what your customer thought they wanted and you did not help your customer BUY what they needed!

Here lie the challenge and opportunity, all in one. Clients are generally not experts in your field, you are! So get out there and prove it. Take the time to ask the right leading questions that will lead you to find the magical WHY, namely:

  • Why do you think the team needs a “team build?” This question should be answered meaningfully; if not, keep probing. If they answer, “to have fun” keep probing as to why they need to have fun? Don’t they have fun at work? Why don’t they have fun at work?
  • If they say “to get motivated” then ask why do they think the team is demotivated, as this will lead you to the golden thread as to what is required in this team build.
  • The real answers should normally relate to a behavioural issue, an internal discipline issue, a compliance problem, or a cultural problem, all of which either happens due to poor structures or bad management.
  • The next step is to ask if they would like that particular problem sorted out?
  • They will hopefully stay on course and agree, and this is your invitation to unleash your years of pent-up knowledge and competency as a business psychologist and human behavioural scientist!
  • Whatever you put forward can still be fun, but it must solve the real problem or the cause of that problem. If not, then recommend someone else who can, and do not commit yourself to something you cannot deliver upon.
  • Any team building activity can be used to help demonstrate a team dynamic or behaviour. If you cannot help your client understand it through the activity, then outsource a competent facilitator to add this value to the program. You will look good, and your client will be impressed.

E.g. What can a team learn from walking on hot coals?

  • How to make informed decisions
  • Understanding consequence
  • Understanding the power of choice and the consequences of bad ones
  • How to communicate concerns
  • How to overcome perception
  • How to get out of Group Think mode
  • Self-trust issues
  • How to say no and not give in to group pressures
  • Situational leadership principles

Teambuilding is probably an overused word, and I prefer to use team development although it can be argued that one is splitting hairs.  The bottom line is that all teams are vulnerable and need constant refining to be effective, efficient and productive. It can be enhanced with training (good training), consistent management interventions (good management) and teambuilding interventions (using reputable facilitation techniques and processes).

John Ingram, Director and Head Facilitator Hiside Group

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