All About Team Building

The reader might best be served to first read the topic the Group Dynamics to understand the basic nature of most groups, their typical stages of development and how to support groups to evolve through the early stages. That understanding, along with the guidelines in the following resources, helps the chair or facilitator of the team to support the team to fully develop.

Sections of This Topic Include

How to Build Highly Effective Teams
Building -- Does Team Building Actually Work?
Some Team Building Activities
Types of Teams
Leading, Facilitating and Motivating Teams
Enhancing Effectiveness and Performance of Teams
Evaluating Team Performance

Also see
Facilitation
Group Performance Management
Group Skills

Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Team Building

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Team Building. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog
Library's Team Performance Blog



How to Build Highly Effective Teams

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

Too often, teams are formed merely by gathering some people together and then hoping that those people somehow find a way to work together. Teams are most effective when carefully designed. To design, develop and support a highly effective team, use the following guidelines:

1. Set clear goals for the results to be produced by the team.

The goals should be designed to be “SMART.” This is an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant and
  • Time-bound.

As much as possible, include input from other members of the organization when designing and wording these goals. Goals might be, for example, “to produce a project report that includes a project plan, schedule and budget to develop and test a complete employee performance management system within the next year.” Write these goals down for eventual communication to and discussion with all team members.

2. Set clear objectives for measuring the ongoing effectiveness of the team.

The objectives, that together achieve the overall goals, should also be designed to be “SMART.” Objectives might be, for example, to a) to produce a draft of a project report during the first four weeks of team activities, and b) achieve Board-approval of the proposed performance management system during the next four weeks. Also, write these objectives down for eventual communication to and discussion with all team members.

3. Define a mechanism for clear and consistent communications among team members.

New leaders often assume that all group members know what the leaders know. Consistent communication is the most important trait of a successful group. Without communication, none of the other traits can occur. Successful groups even over-communicate, such that:

  • All members regularly receive and understand similar information about the group, for example, about the group’s purpose, membership, status and accomplishments.
  • These communications might be delivered through regular newsletters, status reports, meetings, emails and collaboration tools.

4. Define a procedure for members to make decisions and solve problems.

Successful groups regularly encounter situations where they must make decisions and solve problems in a highly effective manner. Too often, the group resorts to extended discussion until members become tired and frustrated and eventually just opt for any action at all, or they count on the same person who seems to voice the strongest opinions. Instead, successful groups:

  • Document a procedure whereby the group can make decisions and ensure that all members are aware of the procedure.
  • The procedure might specify that decisions are made, first by aiming for consensus within a certain time frame and if consensus is not achieved, then the group resorts to a majority vote.

5. Develop staffing procedures (recruiting, training, organizing, replacing).

Too often, group members are asked to join the group and somehow to “chip in.” Unfortunately, that approach creates “chips,” rather than valuable group members. Instead, if group members go through a somewhat organized, systematic process, then new members often believe that the group is well organized and that their role is very valuable in the group. Successful groups:

  • Identify what roles and expertise are needed on the group in order to achieve the group’s purpose and plans – they staff according to plans, not personalities.
  • New group members go through a systematic process to join the group – they understand the group’s purpose, their role, their next steps and where to get help.

6. Determine the membership of the group.

Consider the extent of expertise needed to achieve the goals, including areas of knowledge and skills. Include at least one person who has skills in facilitation and meeting management. Attempt to include sufficient diversity of values and perspectives to ensure robust ideas and discussion. A critical consideration is availability – members should have the time to attend every meeting and perform required tasks between meetings.

7. Determine time frames for starting and terminating the team, if applicable.

Now consider the expertise needed to achieve the goals of the team, and how long it might take to recruit and organize those resources. Write these times down for eventual communication to and discussion with all team members.

8. Determine the membership of the team.

What expertise might the team need to achieve the goals of the group? For example, an official authority to gather and allocate resources, or an expert in a certain technology. Always consider if the members will have the time and energy to actively participate in the team.

9. Assign the role of leader – to ensure systems and practices are followed.

The leader focuses on the systems and practices in the team, not on personalities of its members. For example, the leader makes sure that all team members: a) are successfully staffed, b) understand the purpose of the group and their role in it, c) are active toward meeting that purpose and role, and d) utilize procedures for making decisions and solving problems. (Note that the leader does not always have to be a strong, charismatic personality – while that type of personality can often be very successful at developing teams, it often can create passivity or frustration in other members over time, thereby crippling the group.)

10. Assign role of communicator – communication is the life’s blood of teams!

Communication is the most important trait of a successful team. It cannot be left to chance. Someone should be designated to ensure that all members receive regular communications about purpose, membership, roles and status. Communications should also be with people outside the team, especially those who make decisions or determine if the team is successful or not.

11. Identify needs for resources (training, materials, supplies, etc.).

Start from analysis of the purpose and goals. What is needed to achieve them? For example, members might benefit from a training that provides a brief overview of the typical stages of team development and includes packets of materials about the team’s goals, structure and process to make decisions. Consider costs, such as trainers, consultants, room rental and office supplies. How will those funds be obtained and maintained?

12. Identify the costs to provide necessary resources for the team.

Consider costs, such as paying employees to attend the meeting, trainers, consultants, room rental and office supplies. Develop a budget that itemizes the costs associated with obtaining and supporting each of the resources. Get management approval of the budget.

13. Contact each team member.

Before the first meeting, invite each potential team member to be a part of the team. First, send him or her a memo, and then meet with each person individually. Communicate the goals of the project, why the person was selected, the benefit of the goals to the organization, the time frame for the team effort, and who will lead the team (at least initially). Invite the team member to the first meeting.

14. Early on, plan team building activities to support trust and working relationships.

Team building activities can include, for example, a retreat in which members introduce themselves, exercises in which members help each other solve a short problem or meet a specific and achievable goal, or an extended period in which members can voice their concerns and frustrations about their team assignments.

15. Carefully plan the first team meeting.

In the first meeting, review the goals of the team, why each member was selected, the benefit of the goals to the organization, the time frame for the team effort, who will lead the team (at least, initially), when the team might meet and where, and any changes that have occurred since the individual meetings. Have this information written down to hand out to each member. At the end of the meeting, ask each person to make a public commitment to the team effort.

16. Regularly monitor and report on status of team members toward achieving the goal.

It is amazing how often a team starts out with a carefully designed plan, but then abandons the plan once the initial implementation of the plan is underway. Sometimes if the plan is behind schedule, team members conclude that the project is not successful. Plans can change – just change them systematically with new dates and approval of the changes.

17. Support team meetings and the members’ processes in the team.

At this point, it is critical that supervisors of team members remain available to provide support and resources as needed. The supervisor should regularly monitor team members’ progress on achieving their goals. Provide ongoing encouragement and visibility to members. One of the most important forms of support a supervisor can provide is coordination with other supervisors to ensure that team members are freed up enough to attend meetings.

18. Regularly celebrate team members’ accomplishments!

One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to regularly celebrate accomplishments. Otherwise, members can feel as if they are on treadmill that has no end. Keep your eye on small and recurring successes, not just the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Also see
Team Building Primer
The History of Team Building

Team Building - Does Team Building Actually Work?

© Copyright Fresh Tracks

An article in The Wall Street Journal* suggested that while team building exercises may be fun (for some people), they really don’t do much to solve workplace issues.
Team building doesn't just mean getting the team together

Team building doesn't just mean getting the team together

For example, sales executive Paul Garvey claimed that the most insightful team-building exercise he ever participated in involved paintball, which in no way helped to resolve the relationship issues back at the office. Speaking of his former company, he said that colleagues would poach each other’s deals while their manager played favourites. Someone decided a paintball exercise would help. It didn’t, and merely reinforced the divisions and favouritism already present.

Another instance of completely inappropriate team building involved the team from a contractor on an Apollo space project. They were asked by their HR department to participate in a role-playing exercise where they had to return safely from the North Pole. Their day-to-day job involved helping astronauts return safely from space. What additional insights into teamwork did HR think this role play could teach them?

The point is that these weren’t team building programmes at all, rather they were generic activities imposed upon teams without any real consideration for what the team wanted, or needed.

Similarly, while it may be fun and friendly, a corporate fun day involving inflatable suits where you hurl yourself at a Velcro wall, sumo wrestling a colleague, bungee running, quad biking, karting or clay pigeon shooting, won’t necessarily build team relationships or address any problems in the group. While it may be just the right event for a seasonal celebration, especially if it involves families or partners, this kind of “team build” is seen mainly as an informal motivational activity. ”They make us feel good,” said Margaret Neale, Professor of Organizational behaviour at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “What they don’t do is improve team performance.”

For this, you need a more considered approach and above all, something where the objectives are clearly stated and can be met. You need to take into account specific issues that need to be addressed and the sorts or personalities involved in the team. The resulting programme could well involve a ruthless battle for a trophy in an inflatable Olympics arena, but for a hard-working, hard-playing and highly competitive sales team, perhaps this might be exactly what’s needed.

For most, however, while it may be fun to get out of the office, you can’t expect that blasting each other with paint pellets is going to be much of an exercise in resolving trust or communication issues. Perhaps a programme involving something a bit more creative and less physical – indoors or outdoors – with plenty of time for discussion is a good place to start. There are always going to be those resistant to the very idea of “team building” or others whose comfort zone is very small. Acknowledging this and creating a programme that takes it into account is going to pay far bigger dividends than forcing them to jump out of aeroplanes or role play in Arctic expeditions.

7 Steps to Success
Group Dynamics (about nature of groups, stages of group development, etc)
The Basics of Team Building
How to Build a Team
Building the Winning Team
Developing a Team or Organization Vision
The 5 P's Of Team Design And Development For Managers
Five Characteristics Of A Great Team
Team Building vs Team Development
Does "Team Building" Actually Work?
Is Team Building Over 2000 Years Old?
Team Building in the Workplace
Building Roles and Teams
Using Project Teams on Organizational Projects
Bruce Tuckman Model of Stages of Corporate Team Development
Are You A Team Player?
Top 5 Tips on Building an Excellent Team
Partnerships that Work
Building a Winning Team
Team-Building Days – Renew Employee Excitement and Motivation
Winning Teams Aren’t Created By Accident

Also see
Facilitation and Group Performance Management

Team Building Activities

Planning a Team Building Event
Free General Team Building Activities
Free Team Building Activities For New Teams
Team Building: Top 10 Team Building Pitfalls
Team building energiser: Team Jump
Free Trust Focused Team Building Activities
Free Motivational Team Building Activities
Free Communication Focused Team Building Activities
Funny Business – 5 Ways to Play at Work and Get More Done
Intimacy in the Workplace: Relationships in Teams
5 Key Ideas to Create a Culture of Team Building in Your Business
Team Building By Asking Questions
Free Team Building Exercise: Blindfold Square
Ice Breaker Games
Free Team Building Activity: Group Development

Types of Teams

Common Types of Teams

3 Types Teams and Characteristics of Good Teams
Action Learning
Committees
Communities of Practice
Essay: The Life Cycles of Executive Teams
Focus Groups
Group Coaching
Self-Directed and Self-Managed Work Teams
Virtual Teams

Building Informal Work Groups and Teams

Team Building: Informal Groups at Work
Team Building: Formation of Informal Work Groups
Team Building: Leadership of Informal Work Groups
Team Building: Communications of Informal Work Groups (The Grapevine)
Team Building: Informal Group Cohesiveness
Team Building: Informal Group Norms -- Unspoken Rules
Team Building: Changing Informal Work Group/ Team Norms

Leading, Facilitating and Motivating Teams

Ten Ways Leadership Can Motivate Team Building And Performance
Credibility With Your Team: It’s Hard to Get and Easy to Lose
The Importance of Team Governance
Team Leadership Model
Facilitation Library
Empowering Your Team Is All About Development | Plan Delegate Manage
Animal Firm: Learning from Ants, Crows and Wild Dogs
Conflict Management
Facilitation
Group Learning
Group-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
7 Steps Get the Best Leadership Thinking from Your Team
Meeting Management
Teamwork and Team Trust -- the Key to Winning
Teamwork Sayings ... How to Use Quotes for Team Motivation
Harnessing the Power of Teams
New Leaders Needed
How to Stop Micromanaging Your Team
Five Techniques for Motivating a Team
How to Fail When Taking Over a New Team
Winning Teams On the Football Field and the Workplace

Also see
Leadership

Enhancing Effectiveness and Performance of Teams

Group Performance Management When Your Team Reverts to the Old Strategy
Breaking Out of Groupthink
Is Your Team Held Accountable? Quality in Teams
High Performance Teams
Being a Valuable Team Member
Building High Performance Teams
Are You Challenging Your Winners?
An Organisation's Most Valuable Resource is its Staff
5 Tips to Help Teams Perform Under Pressure
5 Tips To Improving Team Communication
Trust In Your Team -- How Important Is It?
Engaging Your Team and Improving Productivity
MANAGING TEAM PERF: UNREALISTIC VISION OR ATTAINABLE REALITY?
Groups that Work
Should You Stop the Teambuilding Retreat?
When Your Team Turns on You
A motivated workforce the Ricardo Semler Way -- Fresh or Foolish?
Seven Simple Principles Might Contribute to Group Work Success
This Team Doesn't Listen
How to Work Like a Team of Superheroes
10 Ways to Boost the Effectiveness of an Autonomous Business Unit (including teams)
10 Ways to Deliver Winning Team Presentations
5 Key Reasons Why Team Building Doesn't Work
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Better Team-Building Through Science
5 Critical Questions for Your High Performing Team of Volunteers or Employees
The Ultimate Team
3 steps to forming cohesive teams
Little League and HR
Want your team to be happy? Here are the 4 components of happiness
Connectivity
Peak Performance Tuesdays

Evaluating Team Performance

Team Climate Survey
Team Building: Calculating -- Team Building R.O.I.
Interpersonal Evaluation of Knowledge in Distributed Team Collaboration
Evaluating Consensus Team Decision Making
Audit of Group Performance Management
Evaluation of Team Member Performance
Sample peer evaluation form
One Team's Approach to Performance Appraisal
Measuring the Hard Stuff: Teams and Other Hard-to-Measure Work
Team Measurement: Some Whys, Whats and Hows
Zigon Performance Group
Evaluate Team Performance and Determine Training Needs
What are Belbin team roles?

Also see
Evaluations

General Resources

ASTD
list of team building resources
Leadership Development Blog
Partnerships that Work


Submit a link


For the Category of Facilitation and Teams:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

Leadership and Supervision in Business - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Includes step-by-step guidelines, tips and tools to effectively lead:
1. Yourself
2. Other individuals in the business
3. Groups and teams in the business
4. Business organizations
5. As well as all functions within the business organization.

Many of the Library's materials about business, leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.
Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Includes step-by-step guidelines, tips and tools customized for personnel in nonprofits to effectively lead:
1. Yourself
2. Other individuals in the nonprofit
3. Groups and teams in the nonprofit
4. Nonprofit organizations
5. As well as all functions within the nonprofit organization.

Many of the Library's materials about nonprofit leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.

About Facilitation

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.

About Teams

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See

Strategic Planning (Facilitating) -- Recommended Books

Organizational Development (Facilitating) -- Recommended Books




Find a Topic