Robert Ferguson (www.thefocusedmanager.com)
I have had many opportunities to teach on the subject of Building Teams lately, (a real passion of mine). As receptive as these groups have been, I still encounter leaders who struggle to put the team building principles into practice. The issue isn’t with the theory, which is straightforward. The issue is that team building is relational and some leaders are reluctant to move beyond their comfort zone in the area of people management.
Leaders need to realize there is more to team building than simply bringing a group together and standing back to watch the magic happen. Consider a handyman who decides to build himself a house. He buys the property, buys the building materials and has them delivered to the intended address. After a week, the handyman goes to the job site, only to find the building materials still sitting in the same place they were delivered. Annoyed, the handyman decides to return in one week, hopeful that the house will have erected itself. Absurd, right? A house doesn’t build itself and neither does a team.
Leaders must understand that they personally must do the (team) building. A team is distinguished by defined inter-dependencies that are required and promoted in order for a group to accomplish a common goal. Both the power and the challenge of teams come from the defined inter-dependencies. And, as it turns out, people do not naturally accept dependency on others for their success. Enter the leader!
It is the leader’s role to make team members comfortable working in dependence on each other. There are two significant parts to this role: shaping behaviours and building relationships. The behaviours necessary for team members to work in close relation to one another do not come easily to everyone. The leader needs to set the standard for interpersonal behaviour and ensure the standard is maintained without exception. Appropriate behaviour will help the leader carry out the second part of their role, which is to promote personal relationships among the team members. Team members who behave appropriately and share personal relationships can trust one another with the success of their efforts. The leader’s team building measure of success is not the accomplishments of the team, but rather the health of the team and the strength of the inter-dependencies.