Of All the Team Building Objectives, This One Matters Most
When team leaders contact me about facilitating a team building workshop, I start by asking about their desired outcomes. We talk about what they hope will be different about the team after the workshop. Whenever possible, I also interview or survey members of the team to get their perspective, too, on what the desired outcomes are. With these team building objectives in mind, I then build the agenda and conduct the workshop. In these pre-workshop conversations, I consistently find the following.
Oftentimes, the team building objectives are inconsistent. Or, sometimes, the urgency and priority is viewed differently by some.
When there are multiple or conflicting team building objectives, I like to dig a little deeper. Why do some members of the team want to work on collaboration, for example, when others see a more urgent need for getting clarity on roles and responsibilities? Or what's causing some members of the team to say building trust is essential while others think the team should prioritize how they handle conflict?
Peeling back the layers almost always reveals a common gap.
That gap isn't unique to teams who disagree on what their team building objectives should be. I see the same gap when teams unanimously agree on the work they need to do to become stronger as team. More precisely, the team members themselves see this same gap over and over again -- some recognize it for what it is while others talk more about the symptoms of this underlying problem.
Before I give you that #1 most important team building objective, I'd like to encourage you to read the stories that revealed this.
Their stories come from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Nigeria, the U.K. and the U.S. They describe teams of young people and teams in retirement homes... teams in battle zones, teams on deadline, teams playing for high stakes, and teams working in to make the day-to-day grind easier for everyone.
The #1 Most Important of All Team Building Objectives Is...
Good, old-fashioned communication. Gaps in communication show up in various ways, including:
- Some members of the team don't feel they can speak up. They don't believe their thoughts and opinions are valued, so they hold back.
- Information is hoarded or withheld. It may be a result of moving too fast, or it could be happening because of "turf protection."
- Limited cross-functional business acumen makes it impossible to understand what's being shared.
- The team is hyper-focused on results and action, so they downplay the importance of discussion.
- Team members prioritize group harmony over getting the best answers. They avoid candid communication, feedback and conflict.
- Assumptions are made. Misunderstandings abound. Finger pointing gets in the way of the healthy dialogue that would get the team back on track.
- Team members haven't spent enough time together. Without regular interaction, there isn't sufficient communication to build bonds.
If you're working on a team building initiative, keep this in mind. Communication is almost always a good place to start.