Team Building Tips: Take Your Team From Great to Extraordinary

Whether you’re an organization or a professional responsible for facilitating the team-building process of a team or group, the following tips are guaranteed to give you some fresh ideas on how to speed up your team-building initiatives:

1. Create a common vision

A common vision for all team members is essential for team building and organizational success. Spend time visualizing as a team: what you want to create and where you want to go. This viewing time should also allow you to celebrate your current successes!

Ask yourself: How clear is our vision? Do all team members have the same vision?

2. Develop common goals

Make sure all team members understand and support your organization/project and program goals. All team members need to understand how their efforts contribute to the larger goals.

Ask yourself: Do all team members know what role they play in supporting the larger goals of our team/organization? Is everyone clear on what those goals are?

3. Clarify roles and responsibilities

One of the main challenges for organizations and groups to move towards where they really want to be is due to a lack of clarity about individual roles and responsibilities. Clarifying these roles can help support and achieve your common vision and goals.

Ask yourself, “How clear are our staff in understanding their specific roles? Their specific responsibilities? Where do roles and responsibilities overlap between individual team members? Where do roles and responsibilities overlap with other departments?”

4. Ensure management support

Supervisors and managers play a key role in “keeping learning alive.” Make sure supervisors, managers and owners follow up with staff regarding what their needs are and how team building efforts can be improved. Managers also play a key role in ensuring that learning from team building initiatives is brought back to the office.

Ask yourself: What systems do we currently have to ensure that learning is sustained? Can we discuss this at staff meetings? Do we have a training program in place?

5. Use engaging exercises

Team building can be fun and challenging as it helps teams reach their full potential. Make sure the participants are engaged and challenged throughout the process. Consider bringing in an experienced outside facilitator to support your efforts, and even running a train-the-trainer program with your staff.

Ask yourself: What types of activities or exercises would work best for our team members? What are the issues of relevance to them?

6. Get him out of the office

Holding team building sessions in the office can be disruptive and distracting. The appeal of email, voicemail, and time-sensitive items often take precedence over the experience of an entire team in the office. Reduce daily distractions by hosting team building sessions outside of the office.

Ask yourself: What kind of environment would our staff team benefit from? Some organizations prefer a more “corporate” formal team building session, while others embrace nature and the great outdoors.

7. Create an action plan

Create an action plan to make team building a part of your work or everyday life. Often retreat days or team building programs have few ties to day-to-day business or organizational goals. Make sure that when designing the program you create links to the organization or to everyday life so that the participants can “bring the learning home”. This can be done by building a formal action planning time into the schedule and having managers follow up during regular staff meetings. Coaching can be leveraged to keep “learning alive” after team building events. Research whether individual, team, or group coaching will work best for your organization.

Ask yourself: What can we do to support and sustain individual and team action planning? What current systems do we have for reviewing action plans? Some examples may include staff meetings, manager check-ins, internal/external training.

8. Spend time learning what your team members need

Creating a group or organizational context where communication is open and individual team members feel comfortable raising their needs will make team building efforts more focused and productive.

Find out exactly what team members are looking for to improve their work and efforts before the team building event. This can be done by the facilitator and/or team building committee, through email questionnaires, focus groups, or one-on-one meetings.

One of the most common pitfalls of team building initiatives is that they don’t fit the needs of the team. Be sure to spend enough time before the event itself to assess what the team members really want.

Ask yourself: What are the top three priorities for our team members? What is the best way to find this out from individual members?

9. Keep it Regular

Once a year team building programs can do a lot to boost morale in the short term, but ask yourself, “What would it be like if we did something more often?” Imagine the results!

Using the same facilitator in successive programs can often add momentum to the event. The trust and understanding of the team is usually greater at each successive event, when the same facilitator is used.

Ask yourself: How much time can we devote to team building efforts in our organization this year? What will that look like?

10. Have fun!

Most importantly, team building initiatives should be fun and engaging for all staff members. They must be relevant and meaningful to the team. Work out with the facilitator(s) what structure and themes will give your team the most influence.

Ask yourself: What would fun look like for us, given our organizational culture and philosophy?

Look to integrate some of these ideas and systems into your next team-building initiative, whether it’s a retreat, team training, or workshop, to create a more extraordinary, sustained, and productive team.

Copyright 2007 – Jennifer Britton. All rights reserved.

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