This latest post is from my good friend and consultant, Carter Campbell. Carter is an active member of the church I serve. His organization, C2ROI Facilitated Solutions, has helped thousands of leaders and their organizations. To contact Carter about his services, check out his website c2roi.com.
Team building, the term automatically conjures up ropes courses, people falling backward into the arms of their colleagues, blindfolds and the like. These techniques don’t actually create teamwork; they point out the importance of trust in teams. Techniques practiced in seminar-land are useless unless the participants begin to act on the lessons learned. But, as with many programs, managers are looking for a quick fix day to correct the greater underlying monster of mistrust that is driven by the behaviors that remain in the workplace.
“Making promises generates hope, keeping promises generates trust.” – Blaine Lee
Trust is the foundation of building any team. Trust is built in many ways, but at its most basic, it simply means keeping the promises we make to each other. It means you will follow through on items that support the work your team members are trying to get done. Use honest straightforward communication. Very rarely when I work with groups on trust and teamwork is the leader’s character questioned. When it is, and I dig deeper, the issue usually is described by statements that start like this: “She never…” “I asked and he didn’t…” You get the picture. Lack of follow through. Leaders can’t meet every need, and if you can’t, you need to approach your team with honesty, saying “I can’t do that because…” This is one time when bad news is better than no news.
Sometimes you have to kick someone off the team.
Team mistrust isn’t always the fault of the team leader. Team members with hidden agendas or misguided expectations can also be a factor. People get cranky at work for more reasons than we can consider in this brief article. Suffice it to say, it happens and should be confronted in a coaching manner. Sometimes people don’t even realize that their behavior has become disruptive. It can sometimes be a symptom of an unmet need, but if you grease a squeaky wheel and it continues to be a problem, you should replace it.
Some “watch outs” for team building
Don’t sacrifice the organization to make yourself look good in front of your crew. Remember that the “they” you are talking about is YOU if you are in management.
Be careful that you are not focusing so much on a team member’s individual needs that you don’t get the work of your unit done.
True teamwork comes from accountability. Some people mistake the absence of discipline as a means of building a team when in fact it’s the lack of accountability that destroys the team.
Team Building “Dos”
Where you can, Involve your team in decision making regarding department process and procedure, activities. Solicit participation and celebrate contribution often.
Follow through on the requests that you take on, even if it means simply reporting back “no” to a request.
Be “loyal to the absent,” a term from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Don’t talk about other team members who are not present with the team members who are. If you do, they’ll wonder what you say about them when they aren’t around.
Pitch in. Never be too big or too busy to every once in a while step into the day-to-day work of your unit and work with your team.
Set people up for success. If you empower your staff or give someone a project, monitor the progress and be a barrier buster for things that may be getting in their way. Make sure they are set up to be successful and celebrate their achievement as a team.
Praise in public, coach in private.
These are just a few tips for team building. As you can see, it’s not about an exercise or a retreat. Those may be helpful in getting things started, but the real key to team building is your actions. They speak so much louder than your words.
How is your follow through?
What will you do today to actively build trust?
Is there behavior on your team that you should confront?
List the action steps you will take this week to improve teamwork