Unfortunately, it is rare that you get all that from every employee. So, in the world of “how to make your business better”, there are all sorts of seminars or speakers to invite, powerpoint presentations, lunch meetings, HR specialists and finally the infamous team-building exercises that can be brought in to fix your woes.
Only thing is, few of them actually work.
I have had the opportunity to experience so many attempts in so many different organizations as leadership strives to fix an age-old problem of people just not working harmoniously and gleefully each and every day. I have never even once seen a sustainable change after team building events. Not once.
Part of the problem is after the event, leadership scrambles to seek out feedback and no one ever wants to say “are you kidding me”? “What a freaking waste of time”, or “you’re trying to force team-building to just happen because we all got in a circle and past the baton, and said what our personal dream was, and now we are a great team?”.
So, in the interest of saving your butt, who is going to be honest knowing you just dropped ten-grand on this whole program and you hated it? Nobody, right? So everyone congratulates on a splendid afternoon, “oh, I really learned so much,” etc., etc. and everybody goes home to tell their spouse or partner what a freakin disgrace you got put through today.
Several years back I attended a team building event with a group leader who was in her first role with HR and made the group all congeal into a loving, powerful work-team by using a parachute to raise and lower the silk as we stood holding the edges in a circle. She guided us up and down in unison for 20 agonizing minutes squealing “yes, yes, now see how we are doing this together!” Actually, I could not believe we were doing it, and couldn’t figure out why the heck people didn’t just walk out? I was there as a project lead for something totally different and they asked me to join, so I reluctantly jumped in. And then agonized for that poor decision making on my part.
Here’s the bottom line--you can’t force team-building. Never. It won’t work, it is despised by any intelligent hard working staff member, and it distances leadership and your key staff by showing them, you really don’t get it. Teams fail because of a lot of different reasons, but you will never fix it by forcing a group team-building exercise with a parachute.
Our armed forces and others around the world create incredible teams. Many of the seminars and road shows reference those incredible teams like the Navy Seals, Green Berets, Israeli Special Forces, and others. The problem is yes, they are incredible machines working as near-perfect teams, but there is a major key component you don’t have, actually several key pieces you lack and will never have.
Things like they the team either gets on board, or they get into a court martial. No one can quit, find another gig, tell the boss to screw off, or whatever. They sign up and have no choice, and exercising any choice is a major life-changing decision. Up to and including imprisonment or during time of war--death. No termination here.
They also make personal bonds that say “look I will lay down my very life for you, over anything else, and you will do the same for me”. No one leaves a fallen comrade, not ever. Maybe if you even look like you’re running out, somebody on your team gets to shoot you. Different from the office... .
In a nutshell, rationalizing or comparing military teams and office team success is the very farthest thing from reality. Nobody is going to sacrifice their life for you at the office.
How to build teams successfully is a topic all by itself, but it is never going to start with an outside motivational speaker, or team building ropes course, or embarrassing sharing of “special moments” with your office partners. Forcing that on good hard-working dedicated employees may actually be the first step to realizing they need to make a plan to get the heck out, especially after a brown-noser may actually suggest we make this an annual event (it happens every single time!).
Team-building plans for the most part actually come about because leadership realizes something is really wrong. Instead of actually fixing the problem, we decide to overhaul the masses. A plan that each and every time avoids the real issue, and destroys what loyalty and respect you may have as you attempt to embarrass and expose good people who love what they do, do it well. Now, in an afternoon, they will learn to become a cohesive, mind-blowing, highly skilled, military focused, I-got-your-back, precision team. Failure in the making, from leadership who just doesn’t understand human emotion, desire and purpose.
So here is how it works when it comes to creating a magnificent group to stand behind you.
Great teams only come from great leadership. Leaders who listen to, and care about their team. Mentor, empower and support your staff. Be available and dedicated to your group. Don’t lie, ever. And finally, take the time to empathize with whatever it is they do at work, and whatever it is that’s happening in their personal lives.
Invest instead of team building seminars, day trips, books or events, on the people themselves.
You’ll be amazed on how easy teams actually build.