Team building exercises have their time and place. For example, once a year and at a “fun” location where everyone can forget titles and salary brackets and focus on getting to know and trust their colleagues as human beings. They’re a good way to regroup and reconnect outside of the daily grind. However, you can’t simply throw one of these events and think teamwork will automatically follow.
Teamwork takes time and effort
True teamwork isn’t something that happens overnight (or over six hours during a day you’ve all agreed to spend away from the office). Instead, it happens slowly over time with a lot of hard work, input, and collaboration. It is something that’s constructed through every month-end team-only meeting in the conference room, at the hourly office rental space you’ve booked in London for that creative boost, in every problem-solving strategy meeting and in every one-on-one face-to-face you have. It’s something that’s worked on and reworked every time that your team is working together, which should be every working day.
Team building manufactures goodwill amongst your staff. It’s a once-off hit of niceties that your staff members can enjoy together. And that’s not a bad thing. But it’s not something that you can do every day. You need to focus on the things that you can do regularly to bring about trustworthiness, empathy and collective work ethic that your team relies upon to be successful.
So, what can you do on a regular basis to bring about better teamwork?
Encourage a team mindset
For starters, to encourage a mindset that encourages teamwork, make an effort to address issues, successes, and failures as a team. When you’re having problems in the day-to-day business, get everyone together to troubleshoot ways to improve on the issues you’re facing. When a project goes off without a hitch, celebrate as a team. And when a mistake has been made, work together as a team to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Find a way forward as a team, instead of looking for ways to improve one person’s actions or behaviour. This way, you’ll foster a sense of togetherness with regard to each person’s actions. In other words, your team members will feel accountable to their teammates instead of simply feeling accountable to you.
Deal with disputes in a productive manner
When two or more team members are having a dispute, find a way for them to move forward and work better together in the future. Anytime a dispute needs to be settled, don’t let it devolve into a blame game between your team members. Rather, insist that everyone speaks with the future in mind instead of the past. This means that they should talk about how they would like things to happen going forward and not get stuck on what has happened in the past.
For example, someone would say “In future, you need to follow the necessary processes so that mistakes like this don’t happen” instead of “You didn’t follow the necessary process and that’s why we’re in this mess.” This automatically reminds all parties involved that they will continue to work as a team and need to improve on their teamwork in order to be successful.
Touch base on a regular basis
Often, team members work independently of one another by doing their part on their own. For example, a web designer will work on the look and feel of a website while the content writer will focus on the tone and actual words used. They both need to be aware of what the other is doing to ensure that all work is on-brand. However, for the most part, they’re doing two very different jobs. This is why you should organize regular team meetings, whether it’s a formal affair at a rented office space or an informal chat during Happy Hour at a popular restaurant.
It may seem like you’re taking your team away from doing their actual jobs, but it’s important that everyone is on the same page when they’re essentially collaborating on the same project. Don’t make it a meeting where only two people speak. Instead, give everyone two to five minutes to tell everyone how their side of the job is going. They can present to the team about any problems they’re facing or any successes they’ve experienced. And, at the end of the meeting, encourage everyone to talk about how they feel the project is going.
At the end of the day, you need to prioritize teamwork over team building
Team building is important and necessary. But it’s not the be-all and end-all of creating an environment conducive to consistent teamwork. Ensuring efficient and productive teamwork requires you to encourage a team mindset, deal with disputes in a pragmatic manner, and touch base regularly as a team.