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Team Building: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Sep 12, 2008
If you want to see the expression change on one of your colleague's faces tell them that you have a teambuilding event booked next week. The ghastly looks of horrendous expectations of the trust falls and truth games to come will form a humorous picture but it also has quite serious implications. Team building days are often half cocked and ineffectively organised days reminiscent of a Peter Kaye sketch.

It greatly depends on the organiser that is selected as to what you get and word of mouth or professional testimonials are a great way to judge. Firstly you have to identify to fundamental principles behind team building that can applied. It is not all about bell ringing quasi-American motivational mantra chanting antics, there is serious psychoanalytical theory behind all the sentiment and cliched acronyms.

'There is no I in team' is possibly one of the worst offending cliched sayings that litters motivational paraphernalia and stains the name of team building but what they seem to miss is that there is a ME in TEAM! 'Success comes in cans', ' Everyone gets butterflies - the trick is getting them to fly in formation' the list is endless. These sort of catch phrases paired with coloured ball throwing games are what has the opposite effect to team building.

Genuine team building is about creating an environment where people can work to their creative best within their defined role. The fundamentals of team building are lodged in Jungian psychoanalysis based on his interpretation of the sixteen different personality types belonging to four ruling temperaments. Team building adopts this theory to identify who plays what role and whether they are over or under playing this role affecting the team dynamic.

These personality types are then churned through an assessment of cognitive processes however this is something that again can bore the back side off a donkey. Although the theory behind team building is effective it should not be rammed down team member's throats. The most effective team building communicates by demonstration through innovative practical simulations or exercises the core principles behind team building.

These core principles are simply that there is an 'I' in team, in fact there are several. Every single member of the team is a very important 'I' who has a role equally as important as everyone else, no matter what level. If every member of a team focuses on his or her role without imposing their role on other people then the team is functional.

Issue arise when people are so task focussed that they want to tick their boxes then put their feet up for the rest of the day, or they are focussed on other people's work as opposed to their own or they are running around trying to help everybody then the team is not functional. All team members must carry out their tasks bearing in mind the team's overall objective and what their role is within that.

When a team begins to break down the finger pointing starts however no team is immune to human error and an environment should be created where a team member can come forward and take responsibility without a sense of martyrdom about it. This comes from the structure and ethos created by management, many team problems come from a blamer or incompetent in management who is continually shifting everything down.

This is where team building can be fun as put into a foreign environment the problem manager can be ousted by any half decent team building or management consultant, highlighting their short comings as much of the time, problem managers feel that the principles behind team building do not apply to them. Team building applies to every member and each individual, or 'I' is as important as any other
About the Author
Dominic Donaldson is an expert on team building and contributes to trade publications on the subject.
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