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Team Building is All Fun & Games Until Someone Breaks a Leg

In a recent survey conducted by Citrix on workplace satisfaction, employees named ‘team-building’ exercises as one of the most reviled workplace activities. For many, the term ‘team-building’ conjures visions of  a range of other cheesy exercises. Indeed, team building has gone off course and earned a bad rap in recent years due to misuse. Executed without purpose, they are an eye-roll inducing waste of time. In a worst-case scenario, a poorly conceived team building activity can actually be dangerous.

One HR executive recalls a team-builder gone awry that revolved around rock climbing in a remote mountain area. One man suffered a fall, broke his leg, and had to be rescued by helicopter to the nearest hospital. He endured a lengthy and painful recovery, and he and his family harbored resentment toward the company that put him in such a position. Others involved also felt aggrieved about being forced into such an uncomfortable task. Overall, the activity actually lowered morale and trust among the associates, quite the opposite of the goals team-building is purported to achieve.

However, team building should not be considered a lost cause. We can learn from the missteps of the rock-climbing scenario. This story serves to exemplify how team building can quickly go wrong when executed without proper planning and goal setting. Simply doing a novel activity together does not necessarily constitute an effective team-building exercise. The key to meaningful team-building begins with a thorough evaluation of a particular group’s dynamic, says John Daugherty, President of Career Partners International – Kansas City. Having conducted dozens of team-building initiatives for clients over the years, he has seen how it really can improve cooperation and cohesion among work groups when implemented properly.

He always starts a team-building initiative by identifying the various strengths, personalities and communication styles of each individual within a group.

Once this is accomplished, team-building activities can be planned around how to address the specific issues facing a team. Usually group problems boil down to about five major dysfunctions, which can be addressed through focused action plans (which don’t typically involve rock-climbing or any other extreme sport). In fact, resolving the source of conflict and creating a more cohesive workplace team can involve something as simple as practicing communicating in a more effective way in a different style. The most important thing is that you identify issues and implement a strategy to work through them.

For more information on effective team building strategies and to learn how to overcome the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team,call John Daugherty at 913.322.0618

Read more about the 5 Dysfunctions of a team.

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