Team building will not succeed unless conflicts and problems can be brought out into the open and dealt with properly. A climate of blame, defensiveness, and a lack of capability to deal with conflict does not allow teams to give and receive constructive feedback in a safe environment.
There are times when an outside consultant may be required. While an outside consultant may also bring specialized skills that are lacking within the organization, the most important reason for using one is that the “outsider” has no history or connection with the organization, no preconceptions, and may enjoy more credibility than someone who is perceived as having his/her own agenda.
Deciding to hire an outside consultant to help out can really make a difference. However, the team should not become too dependent on the consultant. Eventually, the team has to develop the ability to improve on its own.
You need to steer clear of these mistakes while deciding to lead any team-building activities, or hiring someone to facilitate team building. Unimpressive team building is worse than doing nothing. Inadequately thought out efforts are likely to increase negativity, reduce effective team functioning, and decrease management credibility. Your own personal credibility as a manager depends a lot on your making effective team building decisions from day one. This will also impact the degree to which your employees have confidence in you.
At the end of one team-building initiative, I heard the HR Head of the company with tears in her eyes saying to me. “I am crying because for the first time in my career somebody has appreciated the efforts made by the HR department.”
Why most of the HR leaders in high performing organizations request outside consultants to run team building interventions for them. Reason is simple. HR hires people, transfers them, plans promotions, and decides on pay-raises and so on. And if the same people are running a team-building exercise, the participants become a little uncomfortable, wondering if there is a hidden agenda. Are their job skills being assessed? Is there anything they don’t know yet? Even if people don’t express their apprehensions, they harbor these feelings inside.
On the other hand, if you bring in somebody from outside, they start with a clean slate. An outsider can ask questions – even the dumbest, most obvious questions are perceived as objective. It is also amazing to see what employees will tell them and what they will share.
There’s also no fear of any hidden agenda. People don’t know the outsider consultants; they don’t know how to react to them; it’s a different situation. There’s no history, for example, with an outside facilitator.
No Team Evaluation
Once we start a team development initiative, we often optimistically assume that things are improving without going to the trouble of putting in place a mechanism for regular evaluation of team functioning. If you believe that team building is a long-term process, then you (and the team members) need to know whether it is succeeding or not. How are you progressing? What is team’s reaction to the ongoing support from you?
You need to understand that the team improvement process is rarely smooth. There are invariably glitches. You must be able to identify obstacles so that the team can work to eliminate them. It is strongly recommended that you plan regular evaluation of team progress.
Faulty Team Building Model
We often make the mistake of focusing only on a single aspect of team functioning. Somehow we completely ignore many other elements that are critical to team success and effectiveness. Team building is just not that simple. You will agree with me that a team, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest component.
It is rare indeed that a team will benefit by focusing on only one aspect of team development. In fact, what may happen is that the one-dimensional team building process may actually increase frustration and destroy the credibility of the process.
In case we forget the multi-dimensional nature of team-building dynamics, we must not ignore the importance of creating a model of how teams function. This helps us focus also on the areas that cause a decline in the team’s effectiveness.
It is essential to know what an effective team requires. We must ensure that the goals and mission are clearly stated and commonly understood. The talents and skills required to meet those goals properly identified. And an understanding of procedures, norms and interpersonal decorum fully accepted. It is equally important to put in place a system of reinforcement and celebration, with a clear perception of the team’s contribution to the organizational philosophy.