Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Practical Ideas to Create a Culture of Team Building in Your Organization

By Guy Farmer

Leaders and managers ask me whether there is a practical way to build stronger teams in their organizations. I often suggest that they think about going beyond the occasional activity or retreat and create a deliberate culture of team building in their workplace. Creating a culture means designing an environment where employees are encouraged to work well with each other. The ultimate goal is to build a workplace where people collaborate effortlessly and help each other succeed.

Many of us don't practice team building in the workplace on a regular basis even if we realize that it would help us improve productivity and morale. This is usually because we are creatures of habit who like doing things the way they've always been done. Successful collaboration requires conscious and ongoing commitment from leadership and employees so that it can take root in the organization. Let's look at five practical ideas to help you create a workplace that celebrates working together.

1.Team building starts at the top of the organization. We need buy-in and participation from the company's leaders to make it work. It's possible for individual departments or employees to do some activities on their own but it's exponentially more effective when leaders actively and continuously show their commitment to being part of the team. When leaders participate it sends a positive message of dedication and interest. Our employees see first hand that we value being part of the group.

2.Developing a culture of team building. Every business creates a culture based on what it values. You can create a culture of team building at any time if you choose. You create this type of environment by giving people the opportunity to work together effectively and showing you care by supporting them along the way. This may require shifting from a competitive or compartmentalized culture to one that encourages collaboration. As a leader, you set a positive example by being an active part of the new culture.

3.Team building takes commitment, time and effort. We can't build cohesive teams if we only offer a one-hour workshop or seminar every few years. Creating strong group collaboration is an ongoing process where people continually practice the skills related to thinking, collaborating and working as a group. The goal is to create a workplace where team building becomes the standard way of doing things. Leaders play an important part because they demonstrate through their actions whether team building is really valued in the organization or just a bunch of words.

4.Set time aside to do activities. Identify a team building activity (there are many online) that makes sense to you and practice it once a week. My clients ask me how to find the time to do team building when they have so much other stuff on their plates and my answer is that one either dedicates the time or doesn't. Either choice shows the organization's level of commitment and virtually guarantees certain results. You decide whether the activities are a priority and how you will fit it into your work schedule. I recommend a free-standing weekly meeting that stands on its own and doesn't have to fight for attention with other meetings or topics. Give these activities importance and conduct them with no interruptions.

5.Celebrate your employees. We get so busy that we forget that creating teams is really about celebrating our employees and helping them enjoy a more positive and supportive work environment. When our employees are encouraged to collaborate positively they tend to perform better and do it more happily. Leaders have a profound effect on the productivity and well-being of their employees when they focus on encouraging them and building cohesive teams.

Team building is about helping your employees unite so they get more done in less time and with more enjoyment. The key to your success will be to commit to creating a viable program and setting aside the time and resources necessary to make it happen. The reward is that our people and workplaces function better. Try the ideas we've talked about in this article and you'll be on your way to enjoying the benefits that come from creating a culture of team building. How will you get the process started?