Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - When Team Building Doesn't Work: Six Ways to Improve Your Efforts

When Team Building Doesn't Work: Six Ways to Improve Your Efforts

You've tried it all. You have gotten the team together for a company field day, set up lunch and learns, and even facilitated team collaboration brainstorm sessions. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be positively impacting your team or encouraging teamwork.

Many articles are touting the importance of team building, and encouraging business leaders to make it a priority. However, what happens when team building doesn't work? What do you do if that initiative isn't bringing the results you wanted?

Fortunately, all is not lost. Your team building strategies may need to be revamped to prove successful. So, what can you do to improve your team building efforts? Stay tuned to what you need to do when team building doesn't work.

Identify and Fix Any Lingering Work Conflicts

Managing conflict in the workplace is unfortunately common. According to a study by CPP Global, 85 percent of workers around the world deal with conflict to some degree. If disagreements have become personal, and if the work environment is toxic, then a catered lunch event is only a Band-Aid on a more significant problem. It doesn't matter which type of team building method you use; the original issues have to be addressed.

Work with your HR team to sit down with all involved staff to get to the root of the issue. Find out about the original source of the conflict, be a mediator for the two parties, and inform them of any disciplinary consequences for extreme antagonistic behavior. When you have a setting where various types of individuals with differing personalities are coming together, conflict is inevitable. Nevertheless, your job is to ensure it doesn't become toxic.

Remember Why You are Doing This

Do you remember what you are hoping to achieve with team building activities? If not, go back to the drawing board. You may find that the type of activities your team is engaged in do not line up with what you are seeking. For example, if you want to encourage more brainstorming and collaboration that produces quantifiable results, you would want them to engage in activities that give them practice in strategizing. So, events that promote the sharing of hobbies or even socialization may not produce the results you need. To counteract this issue, always go back to the reason you are making the act of team building a priority.

Inform the Team of What You are Hoping to Achieve

The fact that you are using team building as a way to improve how your staff works together doesn't need to be a secret. Be honest with them about what you are hoping to achieve. One of the best ways to refocus your efforts when team building doesn't work is to ensure your team members are on the same page. Have a meeting with your managers and employees to discuss why you are setting up these events and activities. Bring them into the fold by informing them of why you feel team building is important and how their participation will improve their work and their relationships with others at the company. If they understand what your reasons are for incorporating these activities into their workday, they have a higher chance of being open to improvement.

Set Goals for Team Building

However, before you can communicate your hopes for team building to your staff, you first need to determine what your actual goals and objectives are. You may have some qualitative results that you want. Nevertheless, it helps to have some quantifiable measurements associated with team building. A study by psychologist, Gail Matthews found that those who wrote down their goals accomplished more than those who did not. For example, you may have just had your team participate in a ropes course. Ultimately, you want to find out if this helped your team collaborate.

There are a few ways you can measure this. One is productivity. Has their output increased? The second and third could be a reduction in work errors or an increase in employee satisfaction. You want to have some metric for measuring whether your team building activities are worth the time and effort. Doing this will ensure you have the information you need to convince your employees that their participation is crucial to helping the company meet its goals.

Let Employees Be Involved in the Process

Not only should you inform employees of your intentions for team building, but you should also involve them in the team building process itself. Examples of ways to do this are to allow them to suggest team building activities, discuss their hobbies, and even help lead team building events. When team building doesn't work, it could be traced back to apathy and a lack of engagement from your employees. Allowing them to be involved in the process can help you avoid these obstacles. In fact, having them be a part of the logistics surrounding the team building process can be a team building activity itself.

You don't want your employees to feel as if they are just a cog in the wheel. It helps if they have some say in how they participate in team building. A report by Salesforce found that employees who feel their voice is heard at work are almost five times more likely to perform their best work. So, make a point to conduct surveys, ask team members directly for their advice on activities, and even allow them to plan their own. When employees feel as if they are a part of the process, they feel a sense of ownership. As a result, they are much more invested and engaged in operations that they own.

Don't Be Afraid to Let Go of What Isn't Working

This step may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to let go of a process that we thought was going to work. This concept is especially true if you put a lot of time and energy into developing an initiative. As business professionals, we have to be agile. Today's customers and employees require the companies they engage with to be nimble. This agility requires professionals to be able to let go of things that are not working.

Now, it is crucial also to acknowledge that real change can take a while to develop. Nothing will happen overnight. Nevertheless, this reason is why it is vital to set up benchmarks for knowing if a team building activity or program is producing the results you want. Metrics are not only about setting up quantifiable data to monitor, but it also requires the establishment of time to observe these criteria. As a result, it is crucial to work with your team to establish periods to track the progress. Ultimately, this should help you to decide whether a team building activity is worth keeping or discarding.

When Team Building Doesn't Work – Set a New Course

Not everything you do will work the way you thought. Accepting this is the first step to team building success. Ultimately, the broad goal of any teamwork or team building activity is to cultivate increased engagement, which leads to even more exceptional performance among your staff.

The human capital that is on your team is likely the most significant asset that your company has. When you make team building a priority, you acknowledge their importance and put the focus on further developing their skills and dedication to work together.

We accomplish more together than we do alone, and team building makes this possible. Nevertheless, not all of your efforts will be successful, and that is okay. Your team building ideas are not all going to lead to increased productivity, performance, and employee satisfaction. The goal is to remember that each activity will lead you to a greater knowledge of what works and what doesn't

So, if team building is not working at the moment, don't give up. Keep experimenting, measuring, and innovating. Before you know it, you will have developed a team building program that will be a model for promoting teamwork and collaboration.


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