Building a Team Beyond The Weekend

The drive behind attending a team building event should be to introduce, reinforce and reward your team members, not to single-handedly forge a group of coworkers into a team. If it’s used to replace the work your company (or you as a manager) should be doing every day, then you’re missing out on some vital points – and the major benefits of dragging everyone out of the office for a weekend of exhilarating and challenging activities.

Somewhere in the world right now, a group of office friends are strapping on safety equipment and preparing to scale the side of a cliff together. Somewhere else, another group of friends is engaged in a retreat designed to foster their sense of teamwork. And yet, somewhere else it’s late at night in another town, six men who usually compete in the office,  are cooperating on building a robot. Although they are all in different locations, what do they have in common?

The phrase is team building, and it has come to represent a way of doing business that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of each member within the  workgroup. The basic concept of a team building weekend is to bring a group of coworkers together and, by subjecting them to various hardships, events and activities, cement them into a team that supports each other and works together toward a common goal.

The only problem with that scenario is that all too often, it doesn’t work. Once the group is back at the office, everyone reverts back to what they were doing,  and  the  team building weekend is no more than a fond memory. The problem is not in the theory of team building, but in the impression that it can be accomplished in a weekend, no matter what that weekend entails. It’s not that team building weekends are a bad idea – it’s that they’re expected to do a job that should be undertaken in your office, every workday of the year.

So how do you create the bonds of a team if you don’t treat them to a weekend of team building seminars? In simple terms, you can’t just talk the talk – you have to walk the walk. If you want your staff to believe they’re a team and function as a team, then you have to treat them as a team – and yourself as an important member of it.

  • Communication is significant to build a team.

The single biggest mistake that ‘management’ makes is failure to communicate. Your company doesn’t have to be an open book to all employees, but sharing goals and intentions gives employees a sense that they are a part of a larger team working toward a specific purpose.

  • Build teamwork into the work flow.

In order to work as a team, people need to be treated as one. Start each project with a team conference to define and refine goals. Create a central ‘lounge’ area where team members are comfortable grabbing coffee in the morning – and taking a few moments to catch up on things together. Hold regular team meetings where team members can report progress and delays so that no one feel lie they are out of the loop.

  • Make acknowledging  achievement a priority.

Recognizing achievement is important to reinforcing the team feeling. It is not necessary to make the formal recognition. Informal and unexpected recognition can be very powerful. A “good job”  in passing , a moment share  praise from a client over a hot cup of coffee, a casual “great work on that proposal”,  at the end of the workday all play a part of the teamwork frame.

  • Make time to be a part of the team.

Whether it’s attending a softball team with your team members , or playing in a bowling league or a semi-annual weekend where the team members can really stretch their wings, teams work best when they have something in common besides their work. A trek up a snowy mountainside builds shared memories that help cement the bonds that have formed throughout the year.

Remember that a team involves everyone, even the team leader. If the top is missing then the the team is not complete.

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