All About Team Building

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Sections of this topic

    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

    Sections of This Topic Include

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

    Also consider
    Performance Management

    Related Library Topics

    Learn More in 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.

    Leadership Blog

    Supervision Blog

    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

    • 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
    • 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

    • 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

    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

    Also consider
    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
    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

    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

    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

    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.

    Dynamics (about nature of groups, stages of group development,

    The Basics of Team Building
    How to Build a Team
    Building vs Team Development

    “Team Building” Actually Work?

    Team Building Over 2000 Years Old?

    Team Building in the Workplace
    Building Roles and Teams
    Using Project Teams on Organizational Projects

    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 consider
    All About Facilitation

    Team Building Activities

    Team Building: Top 10 Team Building Pitfalls
    building energiser: Team Jump

    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
    Team Building By Asking Questions
    Free Team Building Exercise: Blindfold Square
    Ice Breaker Games
    Free Team Building Activity: Group Development

    Some Common Types of Teams

    Action Learning
    Communities of Practice

    Group Coaching
    and Self-Managed Work Teams


    Leading, Facilitating and Motivating

    With Your Team: It’s Hard to Get and Easy to Lose

    Importance of Team Governance

    Leadership Model


    Your Team Is All About Development | Plan Delegate Manage

    Firm: Learning from Ants, Crows and Wild Dogs



    Problem Solving and Decision Making

    7 Steps Get the Best Leadership Thinking from
    Your Team


    Teamwork and Team Trust — the Key to Winning
    Leaders Needed

    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 consider

    Enhancing Effectiveness and Performance
    of Teams

    Team Performance Management
    When Your Team Reverts to the Old Strategy
    Is Your Team Held Accountable?
    Building High Performance Teams
    You Challenging Your Winners?

    Organisation’s Most Valuable Resource is its Staff

    Tips to Help Teams Perform Under Pressure

    Tips To Improving Team Communication

    In Your Team — How Important Is It?

    Your Team and Improving Productivity


    You Stop the Teambuilding Retreat?

    When Your Team Turns on You
    motivated workforce the Ricardo Semler Way — Fresh or Foolish?

    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)

    Ways to Deliver Winning Team Presentations

    Key Reasons Why Team Building Doesn’t Work

    Five Dysfunctions of a Team

    Better Team-Building Through Science
    5 Critical Questions for Your High Performing
    Team of Volunteers or Employees

    Ultimate Team

    steps to forming cohesive teams

    Little League and HR
    Want your team to be happy? Here are the 4 components of happiness
    Peak Performance Tuesdays

    Evaluating Team Performance

    Team Building: Calculating — Team Building R.O.I.
    peer evaluation form

    the Hard Stuff: Teams and Other Hard-to-Measure Work

    Performance Group

    are Belbin team roles?

    Also consider

    General Resources

    Leaders Institute: Resource Center
    of team building resources

    Development Blog

    Partnerships that Work

    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.

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