I once had a boss who thought going to a health club was a waste of time. He believed that if people wanted to be physically fit, there were more practical ways of accomplishing this goal.
His theory involved achieving fitness in conjunction with another goal. “Why make it a separate activity?” he would say. His prescribed workout included cutting the grass, shoveling snow, and splitting firewood. His best advice was ditch digging. I did quibble with that suggestion, as I argued the opportunities were limited.
He had a point. Physical fitness did not have to take extra time and money. Opportunities to achieve it were readily available in everyday life.
Team fitness can be achieved in the same manner. Companies regularly request team building. They usually want to do an all-day, off-site session in which participants engage in experiential learning activities. In other words, they want to take the group to the “team building health club.”
While a day of team building might be an effective solution, it often is not an efficient one. There are better ways of achieving the goal.
Ask yourself, “What should this team be able to do that it isn’t able to do now?” When you arrive at the first answer, ask yourself “Why do I want them to be able to do that.” Keep pushing yourself along this line of questioning until you get to a problem that matters.
For example, when I first discuss team building with a potential client, the conversation often goes something like this:
“Why do you want to do team building,” I inquire.
“So that people get along better” comes the usual response.
“And why do you want people to get along?”
“So that they communicate more” I am told.
I probe further by asking “Well why is communication important in your department?”
“Because stuff falls through the cracks and customers get angry.”
It’s at this point that we found something that matters. We’ve discovered our ditch that needs digging. I suggest, “Well then let’s work together on solving the hand-off problems in the department and then see how that addresses your other reasons for doing team building.”
Team building done as a stand-alone activity may or may not solve the real problem. In either case, there is a better way of accomplishing the goal. Address the real issues, and let the team building occur naturally.
Image Credit: ILMS DCC