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Teams that play together work together

May 5, 2010

What would you put at the top of a list of characteristics that make a good team? Perhaps; trust, flexibility, empathy, communication, shared responsibility or effectiveness?

Trust and communication are very important in team work
Trust and communication are very important in team work

What becomes clear if you look at these characteristics is that most of them are not the hard skills of industry or management expertise: most are attitudes rather than skills. Successful team players are defined by the way they relate to their colleagues, and the way in which they interact across a broad range of skills bases. In fact 80% of what makes a good team member is determined by these positive attitudes, and only 20% by the specific job skills they possess.

So why does industry spend around 80% of its training budget on developing often short-lived skills which need updating on a regular basis? For any real value to be gained from team development initiatives, you must be able to get colleagues to recognise a whole range of contributions made by different team members. Only then will they be able to think about how best they can exploit this potential and work effectively together to ensure that everyone plays to their strengths and maximises the team’s efforts.

One of the best ways of bringing about this recognition is to get the team away from the office environment. Putting groups of people together in new, unusual or fun settings, in which they depend on each other’s individual attitudes and strengths to work through challenges and problem-solving can have immensely powerful consequences.

The relationships you see in the office are only the tip of the iceberg. To fully appreciate the qualities your colleagues possess, you really do need to take time out and get rid of the 9-to-5 agenda. Far from wasting time, this enables you to develop new ways of working together based on the powerful experience of shared experience. For example, we have run team-building workshops based on activities such as scuba diving where participants are literally thrust into a totally alien environment. Colleagues have to work together using non-verbal communication, trust each other to share masks as they tackle a range of tasks, and learn to adapt both to the unfamiliar environment and to their colleagues’ needs and abilities. Similarly, team challenges based on off-road driving or sailing activities, or some of the more simple team tasks involving problem-solving and competitive, time-limited challenges will highlight these areas of strength and potential for further development.

So get out of the office: think about the added value that a really well-designed team-building event can add to the in-house training you may already have. And have fun!

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