When it comes to team building and team spirit, the challenge is to match your reality to the theoretical principles regarding happy, healthy and productive teams. This can be a rather challenging task at times, given the day-to-day operational obstacles, mini-crises and impossible deadlines which forever loom on the horizon. So how can organisations keep their teams committed, energised and aligned?
To begin with, it is useful to step back a moment and ask ourselves; What qualities does an effective team possess?
– A shared objective
– Adherence to key shared principles and values efficiency, productivity, pulling your weight
– A diversity of skill sets which combine into a synergy which optimises performance and makes the whole greater than the sum of individual contributions
– Interpersonal skills and factors where those skills become essential – interdependency, collaboration, co-operation (and, dare one say it, friendship?)
– A strong sense of commitment and mutual trust
– Clear, coherent and positive communication
– Adaptability to circumstances, working styles and changes in the rhythm and intensity of the workflow
– A shared responsibility for both success and failure
– A shared understanding of what makes the component parts of the team tick
There are several additional factors which contribute towards creating a healthy team, including work environment, benefit packages and hours. However, these appear to be largely ‘hygiene’ motivators (that is, their absence is noticed far more than their presence), or they tend to be operational and are geared towards being of short-term benefit.
All we tend to know about our colleagues and co-workers are the impressions we pick up in the workplace. As this is frequently a highly-charged and pressurised environment, it is hardly going to bring out the best of people all the time. Managers may be missing a trick or two in terms of gaining genuine insight into what makes their people tick, what talents they may be hiding under a bushel or even what complaints or suggestions may be hidden behind the superficial impression we have of their professionalism and performance.
Short-term or long-term solutions
Common suggestions for making your team stronger focus on elements like; measuring satisfaction, giving constant feedback, actively seeking input and ideas and praising good performance. There may be instant rewards, like presents, nights out, or a meal in a high-end restaurant. Some organisations use software and apps which allow employees to give each other kudos for jobs/tasks well done, or they may allow people to pick from a variety of rewards they themselves want (trendy gifts, time off, cash prizes and so on.).
1. Investment in employee learning
Sending team members to an event like a conference, a workshop or even a skill-specific training course are all positive but could be interpreted as only focusing on the discrete instrumental areas of expertise, competence and productivity. What is more important is a focus on crafting a better work-life by adopting a more holistic approach to team dynamics, work styles, efficient processes, and effective outcomes.
2. Goal setting
Never underestimate the power and of goal setting. Sitting down with your staff and ensuring they’ve all got clear goals to aim for is something you can do right now – and it will make a huge difference in 2019. What do you want your business to achieve next year, and how can you adapt employee appraisals and goals to help you get there?
3. Book a meeting with your team
Ask for their feedback. Get some insights from the horse’s mouth. Because at the end of the day, it’s your team members who are working together – and they’ll probably have some fantastic ideas on how to strengthen your team. So book a meeting, right now and plan for the year ahead. Get some honest feedback and make changes to the way you do things for 2019 in order to build a much stronger team.
4. Invest in a team retreat
Why send your teams away for a few days? Think about all those lost working hours! The cost! And, even if we do, how can we measure ROI? Take a deep breath and consider how a company retreat removes any distractions and gives company personnel the time and space to truly explore and dig down into areas for attention.
Listing some of the benefits of a well-run and focused team retreat makes it clear how strategically intelligent a getaway can be in terms of getting a whole lot of long-term gains for all concerned;
– Time away from the humdrum world of the everyday working environment.
– The payback in terms of employee positivity can be enormous If the retreat is well-run and in the right place. Alignment, energy, enthusiasm and a reaffirmed desire to buy into the team spirit ethic.
– A chance for managers, leaders and colleagues to get a different view of their co-workers and gain insight into their personalities, communication styles and behaviours in certain contexts totally different to the regular working environment.
– A (possibly) unique and certainly rare opportunity for remote or ‘virtual’ teams to get together and establish closer relationships and see the person behind the voice or video or email. Virtual office suites like Slack or Smartsheet perform this function up to a point, but in order to anchor a team in its values and micro-culture, time spent together face-to-face is ultimately the most effective and rewarding way to do this.
– The option of using team-building exercises which may reveal unsung or undiscovered skills and abilities in a context removed from the daily expectations of what work normally involved.
Reinforcing a team’s culture or reimagining how a team might work with more cohesion, collaboration and harmony.
– A chance to air grievances or manage conflicts in an environment which is less threatening than the work situation and where outcomes and patterns of responses may be significantly different than expected due to not being locked into the workplace/office mindset during that time away.
– Space and time to reflect (on the past) and project (towards the future)
– A time to celebrate success with more than a piece of supermarket chocolate cake and a lukewarm glass of prosecco.
– A place to improve team morale. Maybe things haven’t been going so well, or it’s that time of year when your workers gaze out of the window and daydream about being somewhere exciting, different and more energizing.
– Unfamiliar surroundings often generate creativity, left-field (or ‘out-of-the-box’) thinking and all-round motivation.
– The opportunity, over a meal and a glass or two of whatever takes your fancy at the end of the day’s activities, to tell people just how much you appreciate them.
– New dimensions. Co-workers often fail to appreciate just how extraordinary each person is because there is rarely ever the chance to reveal who they truly are. For example, “who knew that Paula (the quiet one) would emerge as such an effective team leader in the treasure hunt”, or that Jon was a budding stand-up comedian?
– A chance for all concerned to free themselves from the tyranny of 24-hour smartphone availability, even if only for a few days.
The key to a great getaway
If a team getaway, workation or team building retreat is to work well, it is worth considering what participants (and those holding the purse strings) want;
- A location where the people running it know exactly what elements make a team retreat work like a dream
- A place where everyone feels happy and welcome
- Good, healthy food and drink
- A comfortable place to sleep
- High-quality facilities for work and play – conference rooms, breakout rooms, equipment that works, a good wi-fi connection, a well-stocked bar, dining room, sleeping space, chill-out areas
- A space where co-living is a pleasure, not a pain
- Somewhere you would love to go back to
- Interesting, relevant, challenging and fun activities and tasks with meaningful outcomes
- Expert facilitators and support staff
Team retreats (or team off sites or team getaways; the terminology is flexible) are becoming more and more common as a way of creating and spending quality time for bonding activities and team-building tasks in a setting explicitly designed to encourage closeness, trust and a more relaxed (and relaxing) attitude than is likely to be found back at the office (real or virtual). That can only be good for the team as a whole, and the cash outlay is massively outweighed by the longer-term benefits.