Team building events should not be thinning the herd or pitting individuals in a team against each other. Team building should not be a clandestine program on the part of senior management to select up-and-coming leaders. Once participants in a team feel there are ulterior motives to the team event they can revert to a survival of the fittest mode; a competition within a team and then appears the “I” in team.
For example, if a team is assembled under the auspices that the exercise is to build cohesiveness, respect and to define/clarify goals, there should not be any hint of any underlying motives. Specifically, if management is wanting to evaluate inherent management skills of candidates for future promotions, the team building exercise is not the place for this kind of search. Such moves will render the tool of team building worthless. People today are cynical and cautious about being manipulated; they will spot insincere motives immediately and that feeling will last a very long time.
Thinking about these comments: How effective would it be, if announcing to a group of potential new managers, they were participating in a test to evaluate their management skills that were to be used in receiving a future promotion? In essence, management is trying to determine who is the best leader based on some undefined criteria. Now let’s all have fun… I don’t think so.
To be clear, I am not intimating that some non-destructive competition between teams is not appropriate. I am saying that pre-determined competition within a team for personal recognition, monetary gains, or promotion is destructive.
Many years ago I lead a team in a new start-up company I had founded. One person on the team, who had previously retired and then came back into the workforce, looked at his job as a social endeavor more than a job; it was something to occupy his time. We would occasionally socialize after work; most conversations were work related–financing, website design, etc. Nonetheless, this created a very powerful rift amongst the team as they felt I was relying mostly on one individual and their input was less valued and would ultimately impact their stock participation plan. Fortunately, it was corrected before permanent damage was done.
The problem was solved when I restructured the organization to visually and viscerally demonstrate that the team was most important. I got the feeling that the team thought I was grooming one of the team for a senior role at the diminution of very important other team members.
Team building is an important tool in any organization, whether formalized or ad-hoc. Don’t fall into a trap of using team building exercises to rank or evaluate employees for promotions; there are more effective setting for that to be done in a less destructive way for an organization. Even after extensive employee testing (if you chose to go that route) such as extensive interviews (as a group or round-robin) or considering outside recommendations; face it, not all management personnel decisions are correct.
Employers that try to manipulate employees will always get less than desired results and the impact can be felt in long-term results that are also less desirable and impactful long-term. Matt Alderton wrote an article in Successful Meetings Magazine entitled-How to Enhance Your Workplace. One of his points in the article is that “Managers would be well-served to learn… the skills of relationship management, consulting and communications. Being able to work with colleagues, as well as manage others, is very important.” A skill learned in part through team building not in hand-to-hand combat on the job.
Further, don’t promote people that do well in team building exercises and forget that team building is not, in-and-of-itself, the only indicator of a good manager. Management should define all the tool sets of a management position for their organization, by function. Realize not everyone will have all those tools so for the sake of the organization train new or potential managers toward the total tool set. Team building is not necessarily the place to train, but it can be a place to help build confidence in potential new managers.
My rules of the road:
· Don’t use team building as a competition amongst individuals to determine potential new managers.
· Be transparent with setting goals and directions in training or team building exercises. People are too smart to allow management to take a surreptitious approach in trying to manipulate them.
· There might be a time and place for large team building experiences but small group approaches seem to improve results and communication.
· There is a difference between team building and building management skills; they are not the same.
Steven S. Lay has been in the travel and corporate meetings business for 30 years and is now focused exclusively on small luxury corporate gatherings in Wine Country. More information about his company, Symtrek Partners, is available at: http://www.symtrekpartners.com
Symtrek Partners is a resource to any company contemplating a highly effective