Whether you’re a manager, entrepreneur, school teacher, or mother of four, team building skills are essential for every aspect of life. Possessing basic team building skills can determine the outcome of any task or project. As you can probably imagine, many projects fail each and everyday, simply because of lacking teamwork and togetherness. This is especially true in regard to corporate organizations and businesses.
Many people would agree that working together as part of a team can be extremely challenging, especially when you have a wide range of personalities, goals, and work ethics among everybody. Because of this, many businesses do not operate as successful teams, as they are lacking in the teamwork-practicing department. Sure, co-workers may talk to each other on lunch breaks and may be working to get similar jobs completed, but overall, these people work as individuals on a daily basis. This is very unfortunate, as many experts in today’s business world believe that teamwork is critical to corporate productivity and profitability.
What do the terms ‘team-building’ and ‘teamwork’ really mean?
According to Shawn Dunning, director of the corporate team-building firm Adventure Associates Inc. in El Cerrito, California, “A team-building activity is any positive, shared experience that reinforces positive, team skills. It has to have some form of structure and someone who has put it together with clearly defined goals.”
In terms of teamwork, there are several rather typical characteristics seen among productive teams. Here are five of the extremely important characteristics that can be found among teams who utilize successful teamwork:
Overall, similarly productive teams generally share these five characteristics. Each member is committed to a specific purpose, while still working together and staying involved until the objective is completed; the members care about each other and are concerned about how their actions and attitudes affect others; they listen to each other and are sensitive and respectful of all ideas and points-of-view; and their leaders encourage everyone's participation and involvement in decision-making.
Why is teamwork so important?
Seriously, though… why is it? Why can’t we all just do our own work in the office and then go home at the end of the day, knowing that we did what we were supposed to do? Afterall, tomorrow is going to be the exact same thing right? Well, yes, if this is your attitude, it probably will be the exact same thing every single day.
Believe it or not, in actuality, belonging to a team sets you up for greater effectiveness and success than you could ever accomplish on your own. In other words, great teamwork makes things happen more than anything else does within an organization. Evidence shows that organizations and groups that promote teamwork create environments that lead to greater productivity, creativity, and overall enjoyment.
Furthermore, these types of environments provide team members with a rightfully deserved feeling of accomplishment and empowerment; and empowered teams typically receive the best results. Empowering people is all about attitude and behavior, rather than simply processes and tools; It is about respect, encouragement, care, and enthusiasm, rather than exploitation or dictation.
Typically, there are three major benefits of successful teamwork:
Beyond these major business benefits, there are also a number of benefits of teamwork that greatly enhance the workplace:
When people work together in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere filled with trust, reliability, and accountability, it is easier to put aside or overlook any personal issues that may exist. Rather, co-workers are able to overcome barriers to identify new opportunities and to simply focus on the tasks that need to be completed. If a business fails to have a sense of teamwork among its employees, there will be no shared performance goals, no joint work efforts, and no mutual accountability. This will, in effect, decrease overall productivity for the business.
So why do some common team-building exercises not work?
Facilitating a team-building exercise for your company can be a challenging task, as these occasions have come to develop a tainted reputation for being either too boring to too extreme to even be effective. Managers these days are really struggling to make their team-building events positive, enjoyable, and meaningful for their employees. Before we discuss ways to improve or increase teamwork in an effective way, let’s first take a look at some of the things companies are doing wrong in terms of corporate team-building.
How can we strengthen and increase teamwork?
Luckily, there are tons of ways to practice teamwork and strengthen business teams that don’t include paintball guns or making a drunken fool of yourself.
First, it is important to recognize what exactly your purpose is in facilitating a team-building event. For example, are you aiming to improve overall employee relations, or are you simply trying to help your staff develop a new skill? Target your specific goal and then go from here.
Next, let your team have a say in the team-building event. In order to do this, you’ll have to explain your end goal to them, and then ask them what sorts of activities they enjoy and what they would prefer to engage in as a team in order to reach this end goal. For example, would they like to play games, or would they rather partake in a skills workshop? It has been evidenced in the past that people are best motivated when they are involved in the deciding, planning, and designing of the project or activity.
Furthermore, involving your team in the planning will not only be empowering and motivating for them, but it will also be helpful for you as well, as it will lighten your workload and management responsibilities.
If you get more than one suggestion from your team - which is likely among a large group of people - consider combining the suggestions into one activity, if possible. If there is no way to do this with all of the different suggestions, you may even consider hosting an all-day event, with a collection of activities for your employees to engage in on a rotating basis throughout the day.
No matter what activity or event you plan to use, remember that it is important for your employees to recognize the relationship between the activity and the workplace. As a reference, keep in mind that if your team takes what they did or learned back to the workplace with them, then the team-building event was a success. In addition, it is important for them to be appropriately challenged, as learning typically happens most effectively when one steps outside of one’s comfort zone.
Taking things a bit further, here is a list of several basic factors to keep in mind when facilitating an effective team-building exercise:
Need some team-building event ideas?
If you feel like you don’t have the time, energy, or creativity to organize your own team-building activity, the organization mentioned above, Adventure Associates Inc., specializes in facilitating nationwide team-building events for others. Many of the events that Adventure Associates Inc. hosts are fun, physical activities, such as indoor rock climbing, geocaching, and scavenger hunts. Despite these being physical activities, nothing is considered to be too strenuous for those who are not as athletic as others.
Another organization, called TrivWorks, facilitates live trivia events for team-building purposes. TrivWorks believes that a little good-natured competition is a crucial component of effective team-building. This may be another appropriate option for you and your team.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to facilitate your own team-building event, there is an endless list of activities you can try. One unique idea is to include something about personality types and how this affects work teams, learning styles, styles of management required, and the like.
Another one-of-a-kind idea is a real-life puzzle, or escape room, such as Room to Escape, in which the team members must use all of the different teamwork skills - leadership, cooperation, communication, planning, time-management, etc. - to solve the puzzle or escape the room.
There are also more traditional, outdoor games such as cricket, relay races, tough rugby, and the like, that are great for demonstrating team various dynamics. In addition, these types of activities are excellent for releasing endorphins and relieving stress.
On an end note, if you decide to go with one of the easier, more conventional team building activities, here are some basic tips to keep in mind: