Building a cohesive team

by Dr. Glen Jones
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We have all been to ‘those’ teambuilding activities or events. They are usually a meal or activities planned for the team to gather and have fun together. If you think back, there are some individuals who mostly spend time together, while they avoid others whom they have not gotten along with at work. It is just like parties back in high school. People gravitate to those with whom they have previously developed a relationship.

Teambuilding is more than just having fun together. It is intended to help the team come together. To create bonds where gaps previously existed. Although spending time together in a more social setting provides an opportunity to get to know your teammates better, this is not the best method for building a team.

To build a cohesive team, you must develop the trust between team members. You must also foster a sense of caring for one another, and provide them with the common goal. Therefore, teambuilding events should be structured to meet these goals. Building trust means that each member of the team knows that other members will do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Trust ensures that when everyone performs their part, no holes will form and the goals will be met.

Since the world always changes, it’s impacted by decisions and by the environment, the team needs to trust that other members have their back. This level of trust includes caring for each other. When you care for each other, you will pull together to help when someone falls short, or when something abnormal occurs. After completing your work, you step in to help.

Think of a family. Everyone has a job: mother, father, son, and daughter. Chores are assigned within the family, and everyone contributes. This is an example of the trust component. However, when something occurs, such as illness, let’s say in this case, mom is bedridden, the remainder of the family pitch in to take care of her chores. They also pitch in to take care of her so she can get better. This is an example of caring for each other.

Think if your project team, or department, performed this selflessly to ensure the organization’s goals were met. They can, if you properly build your team on these components, trust, caring, and a common goal. Trust is built when a group is challenged. The challenge must be difficult and require that all to contribute. To build trust with your leaders, it helps to have them be included as a team member in the challenge. Service opportunities also help to build trust, as they are an opportunity to change the environment, and to bring out new skills in members. The focus on providing service also changes the team dynamic.

Teambuilding events should provide for the needs of the team and its leaders, which may differ slightly. Team members need to develop trust and care for teammates and leaders so that they are all focused on the success of the team. Additionally, leaders also need to get to know their team members on a deeper level than they might during the normal course of work to better organize them to meet team goals. Challenges bring out the natural leaders in the team and bring to the forefront skills that are not core to each members’ job description. The extra knowledge of team members may help the leader position every member for success. It may also identify gaps in knowledge or overlaps that can be used to enhance performance.

The next time you are planning team-building activities, don’t forget to keep these goals in mind. Along with your social activity, include a tough challenge or a service project. These will help develop the bonds that are the purpose of team building. The final piece is to provide the team with common goals. Have you verified that your team knows the goals of the team, how they fit into the goals of the organization, and how they are expected to behave?

Teambuilding activities provide the perfect opportunity to ensure the team is aware of these goals. Have your team set some time to review the company’s core values, so they know the expected behaviors. Discuss what they think they mean and make sure everyone ends up with the same understanding. Review the strategic plan, identifying how each member contributes. Again, discuss their understanding of the strategy and their concerns. Review the project charter and discuss how it supports the company strategy. This is an opportunity to get everyone on the same page and bought into the goals.

Teambuilding should focus on building trust, caring, and a common goal. By incorporating all of these aspects into your team-building activities, you can truly build a high-performing team.


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