Gaining Team Commitment to “Team-Building”

The most important element in capturing the team’s commitment to a team-building program is that they can see that it will benefit them or things that they care about. Managers who are thinking about doing “team building” are typically coming from one of two perspectives:

1)  Solve a problem. Often management falls back on “let’s do a team building exercise” when things are not going well, as a substitute for management digging in with the team and solving the problem. If a consultant (either internal or external) is called in to help, the first thing he/she should do is a diagnosis with the manager and the team, to determine what steps are needed.

At some point in dealing with the issue, team building exercises may be appropriate, including using MBTI or other assessment tools. But, these are not a panacea and are not a substitute for the hard work of management to diagnose and solve business issues. Rarely are they where you would most appropriately start an intervention. A team with issues needs the sessions to address the business issues directly and offer business solutions. When you do this successfully, you will find more openness to assessments, organization development sessions and the like.

2)  Improve Skills.  The second reason that team building sessions are held is to build capability. In this situation there is not an immediate issue; management is thinking they want to build the capability of the (often well-performing) team. Often this comes about as part of a planned program. So, the agenda is about improvement.

Here the key to team engagement is for the team to see that the activities will provide a benefit that they value. The way to understand this is to work with the team to see what interests the team members. So, you should do a discovery process in this case, too. Too often well-intended management-mandated training achieves only compliance because there has been no buy-in by the attendees – they see no value. Even worse, they may question why training is needed, since they are well-performing, and see it as a time-consuming distraction.

Successful engagement and commitment from the team comes down to management’s relationship and credibility with the employees. The work needs to go in for the benefit to come out. If management relationship and credibility is lacking, such that the team is resistant to the idea of the suggested team building session, the best thing to do would be to direct the training effort first to the management team, understand where the relationship with employees is lacking, and focus on improvement there.

About Wendy Vittori

Wendy Vittori is Strategy Consultant. With over 30 years of executive business leadership experience, Wendy works with dynamic small and mid-size organizations to help them improve organization performance and business results. She is a Certified Master Practitioner for MBTI® and conducts MBTI individual and team assessments and workshops.
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