The Case For Team Building Efforts Is Stronger When The Times Are Tougher

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It is one of the strange anomalies and, frankly, naiveté of businesses today: in the sporting world, where the stakes, competition and money have increased beyond all recognition in the past 20 years, teamwork and team building is treated with the utmost criticality in producing a high-performing unit. In the expedition world, too, true teamwork is the key factor in achieving a major goal –and, indeed, often staying alive– and I give my teams weekly "team building" training and awareness in the months leading up to an expedition and whilst on it.


Yet, in our corporate world, where the stakes, competition and money have risen equally as dramatically, team development languishes in the dark ages. In the first instance, 90% of our companies will do either no formal team building training or resort to a once a year fun based "team building day" in the naïve belief that this will create a high performing corporate team. And secondly, when times are hard, any team development training will usually be scaled down or even cut. All of this is naïve, dangerous and, frankly, bunk.

A "team building day" such as a treasure hunt, building a raft to cross a swimming pool or embarking on a high ropes course will bring fun, enjoyment and camaraderie. All good things to have in a corporate calendar- and if you can't have some fun alongside the relentless pressure of sales targets, profit targets and growth, then a company isn't putting its employees first. But that day won't discover or resolve communication blockages in a team, silo mentality, misunderstandings, the support each team member needs, individual and team values, its strengths and weaknesses, feedback and acknowledgement and many, many more factors that go into creating a high performing team.

And it is easy to have a relatively well gelled team when times are good, sales are flowing in and profits are trebling every year– the periods when companies will feel they can spend money on personal, leadership and team development. Yet in recessions, challenging times and periods of uncertainty, this is the time when this development is needed more than ever.

Related: Eight Steps To Build Teams That Last

A team building activity conducted by Adrian Hayes
Source: Adrian Hayes

For the simple fact is that, no matter what bonuses an individual employee is on, the quality and effectiveness of a team working seamlessly together is one of the key factors that will result in a company overcoming major challenges– or achieving success. For there are very few employees in any organization in the world who work in a vacuum. So much of what we do is utterly dependent on a shared vision, objectives and goals; true listening, understanding and support; and commitment, camaraderie and cohesion of a team we are part of.

Real team coaching and team development, as opposed to "team building days" provides this. A structured program of awareness, training and development over the course of a few months or a year, whose benefits will far outweigh lost time emptying our inboxes. In some cases, a leader has the skills to provide this awareness, training and change. However, there are so many models, mantras, lessons, examples, exercises, experiential work, tools and techniques in the world of the real personal, leadership and team development that it often requires the support of experts.

That is why top sporting teams enlist the skills of an entire group of coaches, psychologists and development gurus to enable every sportsperson and their team to reach their fullest potential. Companies need to have the same mindset, if not the same scale of resources. In a program that should run over the course of a year, it is impossible to give all you need to know in a 1000-word single article. But here are five tips:

> See formal team coaching/ team development as essential, a part of a company's monthly or quarterly program, as its sales targets.

> Have clear agreements on the need for honest, transparency and openness in any team. Without this in place, any development program will simply not work.

> As a starter session, ask the non-judgmental question, "How are we doing as a team?" If the agreements of the earlier point are in place, it will open a rich channel of communication that will likely have been submerged for months or years.

> Have a discovery session of what team members' individual values, goals and objectives are. Everyone has a different DNA and are motivated by different objectives. Contrary to common belief, money is not the key factor in most people's leaving of a company.

> Enlist a professional team coach. They have skills, tools and techniques that most managers and leaders simply do not have either the awareness or time to deliver. Real teamwork, team development and team coaching is too critical to be left to the "nice to haves" or a once-a-year "team building days." It will largely determine your company's success or failure and nowhere more vital than in challenging times. Give it the importance it –and your teams– deserve.

Related: Invigorate Your Team In 10 Steps