Recently I had the pleasure of conducting an Experiential Learning training program for a Marketing company with a fresh outlook. (Training Story)
The founder of this company who is still very young strongly believes in promoting from within.
In fact his growth model is based on the premise that his managers would intentionally mentor and develop their team members as future managers.
They are benchmarked and rewarded based on the number of leaders they develop.
This results in huge growth; growth for the team members who qualify to lead new teams and develop new branches, growth for the managers who are promoted to overlook entire regions, and of course exponential revenue growth for the company.
Focus and leadership
Team building programs are useless unless they help the participants connect their new-found awareness to results. The same applies at the team level. Team members may find it interesting to learn more about team members, but there is a need to connect learning to action plans which result in tangible and measurable outcomes for the company.
In great teams, leaders spend time clarifying goals, cultivating their own leadership skills and collectively identifying new ways and solutions to achieve great results. An effective leader will check make sure the organization’s goals and strategies remain clear and achievable for every team member. At the same time, they help build capability of individual team members versus always taking on the work of the team themselves.
Simply developing productive and constructive communication to a greater degree will help leaders increase their effectiveness and their teams function most effectively. Leaders often feel unnecessary pressure to tell everyone on the team what to do. The key is to focus on influencing versus doing.
Experiential learning helps clarify big picture goals and expectations. In order to do this effectively, you must communicate the goals in a number ways that appeal to a variety of team members. Some may need a visual representation (e.g., a roadmap); others may need to know the “why” behind the goals to buy in. A proper facilitation will help the team to articulate their understanding of the overall goals in their own words based on their experience.
Another experiential learning solution can be created to help the team focus on the goal (the what) and the key strategies (the how). Activities are designed which help uncover trouble spots, create feedback flows and help team members to leverage opportunities. The activity can be followed by a strategic focus session.
Change management and creativity
Activities can help identify one aspect of the team that you would be excited to see change come about. The team can to make sure everyone agrees it would be worth it to affect change in that area. The facilitator will help determine what the best possible outcome could be if the team made the change, adopted a new procedure, tried a new approach or do whatever it is you have identified as a change need. The flow of ideas from the team on how to make it happen will generate excitement and awareness about new possibilities and pathways for progress.
Team building is a means to an end, not an end in itself. What do you want your team to achieve?
No Common Identity or clear focus
People have become used to working independently and view collaboration as a nuisance. Staff may not feel mutually accountable to one another for the team’s objectives. There may be a lack of commitment and effort, conflict between team goals and members’ personal goals, or poor collaboration. As a result the team doesn’t really know how to function. The team has lost focus on results or members have never been clear of their goals in the first place. Without a clear focus, team members frequently react to events in their immediate environment. They become distracted by other team members or simply respond to whatever issue lands in their lap. There’s no strategic team focus or energy to move forward.
This is a key issue. Some leaders are too busy concentrating on their own political or career agenda. Other leaders just don’t understand their role or possess good leadership skills. Leaders can fail teams by not defining a compelling vision for the team, not delegating, or not representing multiple constituencies. There is no understanding of or allowance for situational leadership utilizing the strengths of the team members. Effective leadership is critical to help the team succeed. Without it, team members will resort to their own methods. Some will run as far and fast as they can to prove themselves, pushing boundaries and taking on too much risk. Others will sit idle for as long as they can, performing as little as possible, yet complaining about how much work needs to get done. Another aspect is Inflexible Decision-making. Team members may be rigidly adhering to their positions during decision making to preserve the status quo for selfish reasons or refusing to introduce and work with new information and new ideas.
Lack of Innovation and creativity
The team is unable to generate fresh ideas and perspectives and or convert unexpected setbacks into opportunities. Teams end up doing the same thing while expecting differing results – the definition of insanity! The team is unwilling or unable to consider alternative ideas or approaches. There is a lack of critical thinking or debate over ideas. There is a false emphasis on team agreement and unity without real effectiveness. The team is stuck in practices that may have been established years ago. They’ve gotten lazy or stopped trying new approaches. New team members may be frustrated by the apparent lack of openness to new ideas or ways of operating. Experienced team members defend the way things have always been done. The most effective teams can maintain best practices while adapting to new environments or organizational changes.
This is an area with great potential for disruption of effective teams. There is no effective communication system in place or the systems are outmoded, irrelevant and not modified to face situational reality. Other reasons for poor communication can be unresolved conflicts. Team members refuse to talk with or listen to each other, or may interrupt or talk over one another. There may be consistent silence from some members during meetings, allusions to problems but failure to formally address them, or false consensus (everyone nods in agreement without truly agreeing). Poor communication can also result in a lack of participation or involvement. There may be poor attendance at team meetings or low energy during meetings.
Team building is the magic phrase when it comes to corporate training. But is it producing real results?
Many organizations invest time and money for events to help team members bond together and function more effectively as a team; staff return from these outings with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, yet results are hard to quantify and short term at best. Despite the best team building efforts, many organizations are still struggling to produce the required results.
One main reason for this apparent mismatch between expected and actual outcomes is that team building isn’t directly linked to business results. It is true that the team enjoyed the motivational feel good exercises. But although the team learned about each other’s behavioral styles, motivational profiles, individual strengths and weaknesses etc, they have failed to connect their learning and experience to desired business outcomes.
Another reason for the lack of a lasting outcome is there is no continuity beyond a one-time event. A successful team building process should be approached strategically, not as a one-time event with unrealistic expectations. It should create tangible experiences that modify behavior and result in actionable ideas to help the team and organization achieve their goals. Continued experiences, learning, reflection, integration and reinforcement are critical.