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Team Building for the Long Term

There are hosts of benefits for companies that develop their teams, including better communication, increased productivity and improved morale. However, as noted in last week’s blog article, many employees have had bad experiences with team building activities, or companies do something once a year and expect this to result in well bonded teams immediately. So what do companies need to do to realize the long term benefits of team building without giving employees bad memories?

First off, as with all improvement efforts – whether they are team building, lean initiatives, or creating a positive company culture – one shot will never be enough. Just like learning to play the guitar, it will take many practice sessions, experiments with different learning styles, etc. to get you where you want to go. So don’t take on team building as something to “check off.” Make it a company initiative that you will invest in for the long run.

Off-site team building exercises/events can be a great way to kick off a program, and develop some team bonding. However, realize that much of what is happening at these events is socializing – not team building. Certainly socializing with coworkers has positive benefits, but if you want your team’s collaboration to improve in a work-relevant way, the team building should be built around developing skills they’ll need in their workplace.

Off-site events need to be followed up with consistent frequent in-house activities that the team should probably be doing anyway. Some ways to best facilitate teamwork development include:

• Lectures – Teams are given information on how to improve teamwork
• Interactive Workshops – Teams take part in activities and discussions, such as the team’s purpose or goals
• Simulations – Practice teamwork skills, such as communication and coordination, that mimic real department tasks
• Ongoing Team Reviews – Teams monitor/review the quality of their own teamwork on an ongoing basis

However, research suggests that just lecturing, in which team members passively learn, is not an effective way of improving teamwork. Teamwork training should incorporate experiential activities that provide participants with more active ways of learning and practicing teamwork, in addition to just passing along information.

Lastly, make sure to avoid these pitfalls – whether the activities are off-site or in-house:

Don’t make people embarrassed and uncomfortable – Activities that are irrelevant to their role, require physical aptitude, etc. can make people feel exposed and vulnerable. People who already feel ostracized, may feel even more so. Consider all types of personalities and body types when planning activities.

Don’t reinforce cliques or divisions – Especially at off-site events, people spend most of the day with only a few of their coworkers – the ones they already know and like. In addition, if you give people group challenges with little facilitation, it will often reinforce roles – strong characters become stronger, and quiet characters get quieter. Make sure that activities are planned in such a way that attendees will work with a variety of coworkers and that there is training on how to get input from ALL team members, not just the loudest ones.

Understand Your Team – If there are personal conflicts within the team, planning competitions pitting coworkers against each other may increase the hostility, rather than eliminate it. It is better to focus on collaborative group exercises, rather than competitive ones. Plan activities knowing what personal undercurrents may be present, so you can avoid conflict and work on ways to build team trust.

All of these activities and considerations may seem overwhelming, but if undertaken on a regular basis and in bite-sized chunks it is very doable, and will make your workplace more enjoyable and ultimately more productive.

By Ann Condon, Marketing Manager

Ann Condon has been with Dion for 17 years, working in Dion’s Marketing and Business Development Department. Although this was her first position with a jewelry manufacturer, she has learned a lot over the years. Ann enjoys getting involved in “All Things Dion” from volunteering at the Dion Golf Tournament to being a part of the Dion Diamonds Relay for Life Team. She has quite a number of Dion event t-shirts to show for it!


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