Teambuilding or Building Team?

Picture this: eight to ten executives huddled around the base of a table, arms extended, half-smirks line their faces as they try to stay focused on the task at hand: catching their colleague as she falls blindfolded from the table-top into their arms. The message: if one of us falls blindly, or fails to deliver, the rest of us are here to break your fall. Great message, but is it applied practically?

Trust in teams isn’t built in one broad stroke. It’s built up over time, and requires the right amount of dedicated collective attention. A big missed opportunity I see with many leaders is investing real time to develop the team – especially the team at the top.

There is a difference between team-building and the concept of building team:

  • Team-building: an event designed to get people moving, in a novel environment, where parallels can be drawn (sometimes easily, and sometimes with effort) to life back at the office.
  • Building Team: A dedicated effort to build alignment, trust, accountability and relationships required for high performance and success – all in the context of the organization’s strategy. Essentially, it’s ensuring the right people are on the bus… in the right seats… driving in one, clear direction.

There are benefits to both, but when we reflect on the concept of deliberate practice, it’s the constant focus and effort put towards building teams that generates high performance. Geoff Colvin says: “Turning groups of individuals into great teams is a discipline in itself… that’s why the best organizations follow one additional rule: Develop teams, not just individuals.”

So as leaders, what can you do?

  • Be clear on your expectations of the team. Don’t focus only on individual coaching and performance;
  • Address team dynamics with the whole team, not just with individuals;
  • Use every opportunity to build trust – when processes or systems fail, talk with the whole team about what happened and use the opportunity for learning rather than punishment;
  • Engage in high impact conversations as a team – ensure collective accountability for results AND interpersonal impact.

Essentially it comes down to building your collective leadership bench strength – where together you can accomplish more than any one could do individually. That’s the sweet spot of high performance teams… and it takes work.

I’d love to hear from you: what’s the best team you’ve ever been a part of? What made it great?

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11 thoughts on “Teambuilding or Building Team?

  1. Great building is a great way to build social trust which is a step to building a team. A strong team can install confidence, thinking outside the box, mentors and a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts. The best team I worked on was built on these foundations, we shared, we mentored each other, our yin and yangs balanced us, we had a lot of autonomy and we pitched in to help each other. The team was definitely stronger as a whole than as individuals.

    1. Imagine what the world would be like if we were all able to work in our “sweet spot”. The leadership challenge comes when an employee’s sweet spot doesn’t necessarily align with the organization’s strategy or need. As leaders, the dance is in aligning talent and doing so in the best interest of both the employee and the organization. Sometimes a person’s “sweet spot” might be outside the organization…

      1. It’s also an interesting concept for educators and parents. Instead of focusing on a child’s weakness with extra work, practice or tutoring- why not help them spend more time and excel in the areas they are good at? It will improve their self-esteem and desire to learn in all areas…and help create a future employee/leader that knows their sweet spot.

  2. “Essentially, it’s ensuring the right people are on the bus… in the right seats… driving in one, clear direction.” I love that!

    I think the key is being aware of group/team dynamics. And recognizing that each person brings a unique strength to the group.

    The best team I worked on was a web department with distinct and diverse roles -web developers who focused on functionality, content coordinators who focused on the meat of each site, designers who built the look/feel/brand, producers who led each project and the sales team who brought the projects in the door.

    Each area of the work was looked after by highly skilled and talented people but they were also great people who respected and trusted each other and could negotiate through difficulties together.

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