The Mirage of Team Building
August 31, 2005
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.
Many 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!