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September 2005

The Mirage of Team Building

A mirage is an optical illusion.  Think of a guy crawling across the desert, slowly dieing of thirst.  He  sees an oasis with a beautiful cool source of water.  The mirage gives him hope and makes him feel good - temporarily.  And then reality hits when the oasis turns out to be a mirage.  The struggle continues.

Oasis1Many teams are like the guy crawling through the sand, struggling (unnecessarily).  Then, in an effort to ease the pain, someone says "let's do some teambuilding" and the mirage is created.  A day of teambuilding is offered up and team members become hopeful and then... poof!  The day of teambuilding is over (the mirage disappears) and everyone is back at the office crawling along.

A reader of this blog offered up this excerpt from the Harvard Business Review (March-April 1993) called the Discipline of Teams: "But people use the word team so loosely that it gets in the way of learning and applying the discipline that leads to good performance. Groups do not become teams simply because that is what someone calls them.  The entire work force of any large and complex organization is never a team, but think about how often that platitude is offered up."

A group of people does not become a high functioning team simply because they've participated in a team building activity (or a day of activities).  The activities are part of a "disciplined" approach to building a high performing team. 

A high performing team starts with the organization's mission and vision and core values - - and I'm not talking about just the words they have on paper... I'm talking about how these are experienced and lived every day within the organization.  And it starts with the leadership acting as the role model.  Every system within the organization must support high performing (win-win) team consciousness - - these systems include but are not limited to: the training system, the planning system, the communication system, the budgeting system, the information system, and the compensation system. 

Here's a metaphor:   
-- Karen eats a salad at lunch and believes it will help her live a "healthy" life.  But she eats at McDonalds 5x/week, doesn't exercise, hates her job, has no friends and watches 40 hours of TV a week (a national average).  Karen is chasing a mirage.

-- Sally has committed to living a healthy life.  She eats a diet based on the advise of a wise nutritionist (who has completed several in-depth surveys of Sally's health), she has many deep and loving relationships with quality people, she laughs a lot, she loves her work, exercises regularly (and has fun doing it), read books that inspire her and enjoys nature.  Sally is living a healthy lifestyle through discipline.

I see a lot of companies that act like Karen.  I'd like to see more companies like Sally but it takes an enormous amount of discipline to follow that path (which, by the way, provides HUGE pay-offs).

Are you a team leader who is ready to become the example for your team to follow?  Are you ready to learn how to lead your team in a disciplined and conscious way?  If yes, then I urge you to consider membership in the IATF where you'll join a community of like-minded Teamwork Facilitators intent on building strong and vibrant teams.  CLICK HERE to read the benefits of IATF membership and join today!

Justifying Teamwork?

A recent email... "I am writing a report on teambuilding to the top management of my organization. The managers want to know  how many companies have got the benefits from teambuilding, especially, the famous ones." 

Is this an amazing question or what?!

I'm trying to imagine a group of top managers in a company sitting around a table saying "Do you think we would be a better company of we invested in building a better team?"

It's hard to believe  managers would actually sit around wondering if high performing teams (i.e. teams that generate more profits with greater speed and ease) are more or less valuable than a group of people who argue, don't share (resources, ideas, etc.) and generally operate from "lack mentality" (win-lose or lose-lose thinking).

This is like asking a fish to do research about the value of gills.  (To discover the value of gills, simply remove gills from a sample of fish and see what happens)

QuizAnd what about the "...especially , the famous ones" part of the above question?  Do the managers assume that famous teams (famous organizations) have some kind of inside knowledge about the value of teambuilding?  Enron was a famous team.  United Airlines is famous (about to go bankrupt though).  I'm reminded of the kid in high school who cheats by looking on the paper of the kid next to him - - the assumption being that kid is a reliable source of information.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote a book published in 2005 entitled "The World Is Flat".  Friedman describes how, through technological advances and the lowering of trade and politcal barriers, how it's now possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. What does this mean for organizations?  The short answer is you better find every conceivable advantage or someone somewhere is going to take your business right out from under your feet.  Your organization better be investing in creating high performing teams because someone somewhere is investing in teaching their group team skills right now (while you sit and wonder if it's a good investment).

It used to be an organization could "buy" their competitive edge (i.e. purchasing the latest and greatest computer, phone system, pda, fax machine, etc.).  Now technology is so cheap it alone can't provide the edge.  Developing people is the last frontier - - and as far as this blog is concerned it's about training people to work as a high performing team. It's HOW you get your people to work together that will produce the greatest competitive edge.

Teams In Trouble #2: Stuck in Lose Lose Thinking

Team_building_game_1How do you help a team get unstuck from lose-lose thinking? 

TRUE STORY:  40 managers from an international company met at a resort facility for a teambuilding workshop I led.  The team works in geographically dispersed offices and upper management clearly sees that group members (consciously or unconsciously) compete with each other.  Information flows slowly and sharing of best practices doesn't occur. Everything takes longer than it should and opportunities are lost (revenue is lost).

What would YOU do in this situation to expand their thinking?

How would YOU facilitate this group to be open to new ways of behaving?

I led a lively TeleSeminar with my colleague Michael Goldman of to answer these questions. 

I shared one teambuilding game that I used with this group that created the opening to allow the group to shift from win-lose and lose-lose consciousness (or "scarcity" mentality) to win-win (or "abundance" mentality) - - you can see a photo of this above. 

Michael shared an amazingly simple and powerful 5-step facilitation process that he’s used to move a group from win-lose behaviors to action planning win-win behaviors.

We wrapped it all up with a question and answer period.  How about those callers from Switzerland and South Africa?!

This is an exciting collaboration between Michael Goldman and myself as we bring you the best of both worlds:  teambuilding games and facilitation skills.

Access to the free recording of this TeleSeminar and the written material has expired.