Team Building

Team building requires managers to follow a systematic planning and implementation process to assess whether teams can improve the organization's goal attainment; to remove barriers to team building; and to build effective teams through training, empowerment, and feedback. Managers must also decide on team size and member roles to gain the maximum contribution for all members.

To create effective teams, managers need to avoid the following six deadly sins of team building:

Lack of a model. A team leader often focuses on a single aspect of team functioning, such as communication practices. But many other elements are critical to team success and effectiveness, and a team is only as strong as its weakest component. A single‐dimensional team‐building process may cause frustration and destroy the credibility of the process.

Fix: A model of how teams function is needed to address all the factors that result in reduced team effectiveness. At a minimum, the following must be considered for team effectiveness:

  • Clearly stated and commonly held vision and goals
  • Talent and skills required to meet the goals
  • Clear understanding of team members' roles and functions
  • Efficient and shared understanding of procedures and norms
  • Effective and skilled interpersonal relations
  • A system of reinforcement and celebration
  • Clear understanding of the team's relationship to the organization

Lack of diagnosis. Each team has distinct strengths and weaknesses, which team building must take into account. The team leader must be aware of these strengths and weaknesses.

Fix: The leader must assess his team's strength and weaknesses. Although assessment and diagnostic instruments can be purchased, hiring an outside consultant to complete a thorough team assessment is advisable.

Short‐term intervention. Some managers think that a one‐day retreat or team‐building exercise will resolve issues causing tension and frustration. One day, no matter how good it is, is not going to make much of a change in the norms, culture, or practices of a team. A one‐day retreat may bring to light issues that cannot be solved during that day and are left to fester, resulting in team members mistrusting the process.

Fix: Plan a long‐term strategy for team building. One year is a good time frame for this plan.

No evaluation of progress. Because team building is a long‐term process, both management and team members need to know whether it is succeeding. A mechanism for regular evaluation of team functioning needs to be in place so that the team leader can identify barriers and eliminate them.

Fix: Plan regular evaluations of team progress. The diagnostic instrument used initially can be used at regular intervals to gauge progress.

Leadership detachment. The detached manager looks at team development as something that will help others change so that the team will function more effectively. However, the most influential person in most teams is the formal leader or manager who sets the tone for the team, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Fix: A manager must be willing to hear from employees about how his or her behavior impacts the team, whether negatively or positively. The worst thing that an organization can do is to start the process and refuse to acknowledge that a manager is a key player in the process.

Addressing all problems internally. Team building cannot succeed unless conflicts and problems are brought into the open and dealt with properly. Poorly functioning teams are characterized by climates of blame, defensiveness, and a lack of ability to deal with conflict. These teams cannot improve themselves.

Fix: Consider hiring an outside consultant to help if a team is very negative or has unresolved conflicts. The most important reason for using an outside consultant is that an “outsider” has no preconceptions or agenda.

Remember that poor team building is worse than doing nothing. Poorly thought‐out efforts are likely to increase negativity, reduce team functioning, and reduce management credibility. A manager's personal reputation and the degree to which employees have confidence in him or her are at stake.