Team Building – what it really looks like!

Most of us will have experienced forced fun ‘team building’ activities – which typically tend to look like this (with lots of mandated high fives) …

In my experience I don’ think I have genuinely come across anyone who really enjoys these activities with work colleagues – it is normally a bit cringe! I have also observed that these types of events are actually quite exclusive. They isolate team members who are not particularly athletic, who are quiet and find social situations like this uncomfortable.

I have also noticed that people struggle to see how doing say, orienteering in the pouring rain, leading someone blindfolded through a wire maze or falling backwards into a colleagues arms, has anything to do with their day job, making them better at it or indeed helping them to work better with team members.

These team building activities are also pretty expensive and are a significant investment for organisations, so team building is typically constrained to once a year… if that!

You would think that for the sums of money these team building activities cost, the return on investment would be quite high. Whilst they make great promotional pictures, what you tend to find is when the team gets back into the workplace, there are a few funny stories but very little has been done to build trusting relationships, change ways of working to meet the challenges ahead and people go back to exactly how they always worked before.

Don’t get me wrong there is a place for these types of activities, having fun together is important. It is great to get to know people outside of the workplace setting and there is a ton of research around how sharing food together is a fantastic way of breaking down barriers and getting to know people. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am very guilty of historically organising many a cheesy team building event and activities!

However, my eyes have been opened to a different and more effective way. Over the last 18 months I have found building great teams actually looks like this….

C4S Search leadership team hard at work solving a strategic business challenge

“Oh no… It looks like another boring meeting I hear you cry” – this is not just any type of meeting, this is team coaching. More specifically, this is what action learning looks like.

Research by a number of people such as Marquart, Senge and Cauwelier has shown that working together on a real and urgent business challenge that the team has autonomy to solve and take action to resolve is where the magic lies in building great teams. The process creates a space where psychological safety can develop, a learning mindset is encouraged and effective relationships are built.

The approach is also inclusive, ensuring all voices are heard and diversity of thought is encouraged and celebrated.

This approach is very cost effective, with a great return on investment. I have observed first hand how the learning transfers into ways of working back into day to day work. The team develop the skills and ability to use the methods with each other. This leads to a more effective team and further strengthens relationships and trust. The result of which is higher performing individuals, teams and ultimately organisation.

At DBKT coaching we work with leaders and teams to develop essential skills for the changing world of work.

Building and developing great teams is our passion, as we believe for organisations to achieve their purpose and deliver great results the power of great teams makes you unstoppable. The future of work is not about ‘super chickens’ – it’s all about the team! (check out Margaret Heffernan’s you tube video ‘why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work’)

If your interest has been piqued, get in touch as I would be more than happy to talk further with you about this!

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