Categorized | Down to Business, HR, Management

Improve your output through teams

By Pat Petersen    

Which group of employees would be better for your company: a group of talented and motivatedBusiness people standing with hands together individuals, all diligently working on their own to further the goals of the organization or a group of employees who shared a common vision and common goals—a group that works together and who supports each other in furthering the goals of the company?

According to researchers Katzenback and Smith in The Wisdom of Teams, 1993), “Teams outperform individuals acting alone … when performance requires multiple skills, judgments, and experiences.” What this means is that whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Many other researchers confirm these findings.

Virtually every organization, regardless of size, mission, product, and/or service can and will benefit by establishing teams. Don’t think that excludes you if you are a sole proprietor, an independent consultant, or a “mom and pop” business. These types of businesses also need teams in order to survive and thrive.

Needless to say, many of us are in a “survival mode” in this economy, and it will take a lot of flexibility and adaptability to thrive. Teaming can be a huge help.

Too often, however, business owners look for a “silver bullet” to solve all of their challenges, especially when it comes to helping people work better together to produce the best possible outcome for their organizations. In doing so you may be overlooking a concept that’s been around for a long time and for good reason. People produce better results when working as a team.

Do you need teambuilding?

How can you determine if teambuilding will benefit your business? If you have ever said or thought any of the following, teambuilding may be appropriate for your organization:

• I thought I explained everything well, but I didn’t get the results I needed.

• I don’t understand how people can sit next to each other and not offer help without being asked.

• Everyone gets his own piece of the pie to complete, but in the end, nothing fits together; we don’t have a whole pie, only separate slices on the same plate.

• Each one of us seems to have a different solution to issues and challenges. If they all achieve results does it matter? Should I set down a single way of doing things or would it be better to let majority rule?

• There seems to be a lot arguing among staff about which is the “right” way to do things.

• I seem to spend a lot of my time redoing everything other people have done.

If any of these situations sounds vaguely familiar, you may want to consider doing some team building, which can be done in a variety of ways, with most of them are relatively “painless.”

Before starting however, first determine what outcomes you want to achieve from these events or programs, such as improved communication, less bickering, more cooperation, on-time completion of projects, or fewer “do-overs.”

The teambuilding process

Here are some of the basic steps in a teambuilding process.

  • Determine your starting point. This involves doing a baseline assessment of where the team is currently, prior to any intervention, so you can determine which process would be the most suitable. Then, be certain to conduct a post assessment to see if the results you wanted were achieved.
  • Create an unbiased environment. Include the team leader working side-by-side with their team members.
  • Assess preferred work styles. Determine work preferences and how those preferences affect teamwork in your environment.
  • Do team profiles. Some very simple ones are available, for free, online. Some more sophisticated assessments, such as OPQ, Life Style Inventories, Myers-Briggs, can also be used. Understanding work and communication behaviors of individual team members will provide insights to you and them.
  • Decide on the teambuilding exercise. Teambuilding exercises (also called interventions) can range from simple interactive games to group problem solving exercises to facilitator-led events. (See sidebar for examples.)

Many cost-effective teambuilding opportunities are available for any size team. With a little research, you should be able to find a facilitator or program that will fit your organization.


Patricia Petersen

Patricia Petersen

Patricia E. Petersen, MS, MBA, is an organization and human resource consultant with Leadership Development Associates. She can be contacted at 904-631-8219 or


Sidebar 1

Examples of teambuilding exercises

• Interactive games. These create an environment that may be competitive, but when team-appropriate behaviors are employed, the outcomes change. These can be board games, survival games. ball toss, puzzle solving, or project building, to name a few. The cost for games ranges from free to several hundred dollars.

Remember, though, that the objective of the game is not just to have fun—but to understand and improve teamwork. Consequently, it is important to discuss the game playing in terms of teamwork: What roles did each person take on? How did you decide on your goals? How did you communicate? What frustrations did you feel? How can these experiences be applied to work?

• Participative events. These facilitator-led exercises can range from $200 to several thousand dollars, based on complexity and facilitators needed. Examples include: low and high ropes courses; outdoor expeditions such as, scavenger hunts (orienteering) and sailing; or indoor events such as cooking schools, computer games, or mystery theatre.

Again, remember that discussion about the event (as described above) is critical to its success, otherwise the expense is just a recreational activity.

• Group problem solving. One of the most effective teambuilding events does not cost anything but yields tremendous results. It is employee involvement in solving organizational problems. The key here is to do group problem solving as part of your organizational culture, focus it on real problems as they arise, and act on the team’s solutions.

Sidebar 2

When does a group become a team?

What are the indicators that a work group has turned into a team?

The goal of most teambuilding sessions is to take a group of people who work together and transform them into what Katzenbach and Smith define as a real team: A small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

The key phrase here is “… they hold themselves mutually accountable.” In most instances, a team is focused on a specific mission/objective/purpose, which is clearly evident in their actions and behaviors. They use a collaborative, solution-oriented process to come to a consensus about their plan of action, methodology for implementation, and continuous improvement. They have criteria that define success.

When a team is functioning well together, you will see them:

• Interacting with each other often, throughout the day;

• Clarifying and confirming action plans;

• Adapting the plan of action, as new information is shared;

• Helping each other, without being asked;

• Remaining focused on their mission; and

• Celebrating their successes.

From your perspective, the most important result will be that your business will gain focus and improve productivity with fewer headaches for you and much happier, engaged employees.

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