If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time. – Patrick Lencioni
Recently I was explaining my views on team-building to a group. They didn’t get the explanation they were looking for, so I gave them a personal illustration.
Several years ago, I took over a small team that had been without leadership for several months. The key employee, a veteran administrative assistant, suggested to me when I arrived that the group take a cooking class together, or perhaps steal away for an all-day harbor cruise.
“We need some team building,” she claimed.
I agreed, but suggested something else.
“You know what I think really builds a team, really draws everyone together and ignites their passion?”
“An office party?”
“No, achievement. Nothing builds a team quite like success.”
A team cannot achieve success without hard work; and people will only work hard if they believe they are working toward an important goal.
What the team needs is a strong mission, challenging objectives, and people who are committed to both.
Team activities work best with a team. When you only have a group of people, most activities just don’t quite work the same. And, by the way, I’m not convinced some team building exercises are all that effective, especially with high functioning teams.
So when do team building exercises work? When you have:
- A strong mission that is the loud and universally understood rally cry of your organization.
- Challenging goals that stretch individuals and demand their reliance on others.
- Members who are fiercely committed to the mission and goals.
Team building exercises work best when
they enhance a team’s ability to fulfill its mission.
A team can always learn how to be more effective and efficient. For example, my wife recently told me about her work-team cooking experience, and why it was an effective team exercise.
It was several years ago in her first management position at HP. She, along with the rest of the management team, was invited to the boss’s house for an all-day strategic planning session – followed by a dinner that was to be prepared by the team.
After a long day of hard work, the team was expected to plan, prepare, and ultimately eat the meal together. She explained how they, even after working so well together on work-related issues, learned even more about one another while cooking. They had fun, laughed, and playfully teased each other (yep, a small food fight in the boss’ kitchen – only at HP). At the end of the evening, the meal was over and they knew more than ever that they were a team, a really strong team.
The cooking experience enhanced their commitment to the team and its mission. It helped them learn more about, and appreciate, one another in ways not possible within the typical work environment. They now knew each other differently, better, more personally. They were more relational, understanding, and more trusting.
Clearly, this team experience enhanced the team members’ commitment to one another and ultimately the HP way.
Good leaders build a team with a strong mission, hard work, and dedicated people. They enhance the team with experiences that create new awareness, appreciation, and understanding among their team members.