Friday, December 4, 2009

One of the truths about “teambuilding” activities

In my work, I do leadership training and development, among other things. I was once asked to do some teambuilding activities with the staff for a law office. The person who contacted me had seen me work with another group and was impressed with how quickly that group had bonded after a long day of activities. Then I had to tell them one of the truths of teambuilding: a group can come together as a team if they want to; if they don’t, they won’t.

In my experience, people who do not regularly do teambuilding with their group believe that they can overcome conflict by having a few activities to smooth over troubles. I have found that not to be the case. If this is a group that is just recently started to work together or who have not been working closely previously, then teambuilding activities would help.

However, if this is a group that has been working for a while and has been having trouble, then it won’t necessarily work. Conflict is rarely a group thing, us versus them kind of thing. Even when you have do have groups or factions formed, it mostly comes down to a couple of people who have the initial or central conflict. Then it becomes an issue of their friends and cohorts getting involved.

If you can isolate that and deal with it separately, then you can move on. For most leaders, the question comes down to how publicly they want to take of the problem – and it IS the leader’s problem. It can be done during a teambuilding/conflict resolution session. The advantage is that it can be taken care of once and for all so that everyone understands that the conflict has to be over with. However, some group shy away from such public confrontations. It can also leave one or more people publicly humiliated. In a private discussion, the leader has more control of the situation and avoids public embarrassments. However, outside the private meeting, people can still talk and push rumors one way or another.

People have to attend a teambuilding session with the attitude that they want to truly work better as a team. Most people do, most of the time. It is the leader’s job to know that before hand or to work on developing the individual members until they are ready to be team members.