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Team Building Best Practices

April 1, 2009 by Jill Geddes, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

A popular buzzword phrase these days is best practices. We often have people inquire what are the best practices for team building? Before I start to answer that question, I first want to define what I mean by team building best practices. It refers to the winning strategies and practical processes that produce high performing teams.

What Are Team Building Best Practices?

The following is a list of the top five best practices, according to Trillium Teams, for an organization to consider when hosting a business related team building event.

  1. Integrating a New Manager
  2. Addressing Communication Challenges
  3. Increasing Team Visibility
  4. Building a Team Charter
  5. Helping Teams Make Decisions

Integrating a New Manager

It is natural and expected for employees to have mixed feelings about a new manager joining the team. Expectations range from enthusiasm for new knowledge and expertise, to hesitation about change and proving oneself again. There is also the question of fit, and the time it takes in getting to know the work and communication style pf teammates to be able to really function as a productive team.

Within the first two weeks on the job is the ideal time to hold a business-results focused team building workshop. We recommend to new managers that they reserve at least a half day, preferably a full day, to allow the team to get started off on the right foot, set expectations and establish a way of dealing with issues before they arise. The focus should be on clarifying roles and responsibilities, discussing the purpose and process of team meetings, agreeing on team norms, and getting a better sense of the different styles on the team.

Addressing Communication Challenges

One of the most common team challenges is communication. Sometimes an entire team has problems communicating, but quite often it can be between one or two people, which can then throw off the balance of the team. With the merging of individuals working together, it is natural to come up against communication challenges that hinder team progress.

To begin the process of solving communication challenges on a team requires asking difficult questions to understand the different perspectives, this is very difficult without the aid of an outside perspective. Frequently managers are taken aback to find out that the communication challenges from their assessment of the situation are quite different from those perceived by the team. In other cases, the manager has made an accurate assessment of the communication problems, but they are at a loss of how to begin to address them.

Walking the team through a proven process of identifying and addressing their challenges, can unveil the differences in work and communication styles and allow the team to discover practical solutions that will work for them.

Increasing Team Visibility

There are always the teams that work very well together and would not necessarily see themselves as having many challenges. Together they feel well-oiled, but they keep hearing from others within the organization what does your team even do? or we never hear a peep out of your team. These teams do not spend a lot of time promoting themselves to other departments across the organization and feel that they are at a disadvantage because of this.

A team can easily increase their visibility within their organization through a team building process. First, it starts by creating a vision together of how they would like others in their organization to view their team, and by when. After coming to a consensus on this the team can move towards a discussion on how and start to set a concrete plan in motion of how best to accomplish this.

Building a Team Charter

Many managers hear the term team chartert and believe that their team may benefit from this, but are not sure what is involved in the process, where to start or how to achieve this. First of all, a team charter is a document that articulates how a team will work together. The process of creating this document builds team spirit and enthusiasm for the team goals, enabling every member to see the bigger picture and suggest ways to apply it to their everyday work.

The charter also serves as a useful document to share with new team members, as well as other teams. This charter will make it easier for new team members to get up and running faster by explaining processes and communication team norms which are usually not written down and would take time to figure out. As for other teams in the organization, sharing a team charter will give a quick and easy overview of what a team does, who is responsible for what area and how the team operates. To find out more about building a team charter, please refer to the article Building A Team Charter.

Helping Teams Make Decisions

Everyone has strong convictions about how decisions should be made on their team. A team can make decisions in various ways, depending on what decision needs to be made, who is impacted, and the style of the manager. Some managers encourage a participative climate, where they support everyone to give their feedback and they ultimately make the final decision. Other managers prefer to make decisions through consensus building with the team. Others come to the team with the decision already set and allow for discussions with the end goal being to get everyone on the same page. Whatever the decision making process may be on your team, the question should be is everyone aware and in agreement with the process being used to make these decisions?

Conclusion

Team building best practices are the winning strategies and practical processes that produce high performing teams. Integrating team members to come together as an effective unit and finding practical solutions for their current work situation takes time and commitment from everyone involved. This process can certainly be simplified by implementing some of these principles with a neutral third party to help a team navigate through a best practice best suiting their needs.