Making Teambuilding More Than Just Fun

By Tying Teambuilding To Company Objectives, Everyone Wins.

By Steve Schumacher

Early in my career, I was working with a group of people on a major project that required us all to get along well and keep our commitments to each other. It was a long project and involved a lot of detail work to build a foundation.

One of the people on our team was responsible for working with me to build a two-day training program, along with the workbooks and leader’s guide. I had been conducting this workshop for years without a leader’s guide, but the head of our team wanted to build one so other people could conduct the workshop also. The person I was assigned to work with was a very detail-oriented person and, quite frankly, just the opposite of me. She would ask me to put a lot of detail on paper and give it to her regularly in chapters. I balked at having to do all of that detail work but she insisted.

The friction between she and I grew worse and the work was not getting done. I would avoid her and she would send me very direct emails and copy my boss. It was getting ugly when the head of the team brought the whole team together for a teambuilding activity. It involved learning our own personal styles of working, along with learning the working styles of our colleagues.

When we got through with the activity, my colleague and I looked at each other and said “Now, I know you much better!” The project took off from there and was successful. She and I worked beautifully together and became good friends. All because the teambuilding activity was tied directly to the outcomes of the department. The activity was fun and I learned a lot, but the big picture was that something had to be done to meet the big picture objectives.

The following are some things to consider when it comes to teambuilding activities for your employees:

  • Tie it to company/department objectives.

Take a look at where your company or department is headed and what are some of the current challenges. Is quality slipping? Are deadlines being met? Are you getting enough product out the door? Are costs getting out-of-line? Get your people together and design an activity that addresses the key issues facing you today.

There are plenty of activities to be found online that show you how to set up scenarios that put your people in imaginary situations involving problems that they have to figure out as a team. Sometimes working through a non-threatening situation as a group that is not real will make it easier to apply the lessons learned to the real situations they face at work.

  • Fit the activity to the style of the participants.

Analyze the participants and their primary style. If you have done assessments like Myers-Briggs or DiSC, it will help. If your team is made up of engineers, have them build something. If they are numbers-oriented, have them do a business analysis. Operations people like to be hands-on and work with things first hand. Take them out to a plant and figure things out together. Being together figuring out problems can be an incredible teambuilder.

  • Don’t wait for an annual meeting.

I have worked with a lot of companies that perceive teambuilding as something you do at the annual event only. Look for small activities to do once a week in your staff meetings. If you have a monthly safety meeting, put a quick teambuilding activity on the agenda. People that feel like they are part of a team will work more safely.

  • Involve other departments.

It certainly is important that everyone in your individual department works well together. It is just as important that everyone works well together cross-functionally. See the other departments as partners and include them. If you do that, you will find that you will get more support from others when you need it most.

  • Use a facilitator.

Teambuilding is a process. An outside facilitator is objective and has the ability to look at it that way. Insiders have a tough time seeing the forest for the trees.

Work with the facilitator to determine your objectives for the teambuilding, to keep you on track, and ensure that the activity is tied to the company objectives.

In summary, teambuilding is more than a boondoggle if you plan and carry it out correctly.

Just like any other activity in business, it should have a purpose that benefits both the participants and the company.

Four Concepts Define Key Leadership Responsibilities

Managers learn the rules that define their basic responsibilities by responding to this question: “What’s wrong, and what specific steps do I need to take to fix it?” So, when senior management passes down mandates, timelines and goals, the manager’s job is to work within the prescribed corporate framework to produce results.

Leaders, on the other hand, self-direct, craft a vision, make plans, achieve goals, build cohesiveness and inspire others while holding themselves personally accountable for their area of the company. The question they respond to is: “What’s possible here, and who cares?”

Management and leadership responsibilities often overlap, but leadership is defined in a completely different context. Leaders’ responsibilities lie in four key areas: self-direction, goal achievement, flexibility and inspiring greatness in others. Leaders recognize that these responsibilities are taken care of through the four actions below.

Gain the Cooperation of Others.
Listen and Learn Well.
Put the Needs of Others First.
Perform Consistently.

– Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].


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