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Building A Team Without Silly Teambuilders

Building A Team Without Silly Teambuilders

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    “As we go around the circle, tell the group your name and something special about you.”

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    That kind of team builder may have been useful on the first day of kindergarten, but when you’re building a business team or putting together a team for another important project, you need to go far beyond silly icebreakers to create a cohesive group. There are hundreds of groups that offer to help you create a team out of a group of disparate employees, but you can’t really outsource team building — even if you have thousands of dollars to throw at the problem. It’s been my experiences, though, that most people and companies have much better places to put that budget. Instead, you can best build a team by working with them.

    Making Introductions

    When you’re working with a group of people who have never even met before, it may seem like you need to carefully orchestrate introductions. A casual setting, a stress-free environment and so on can sound pretty good. But elaborate introductions can actually get in the way of getting your team together. Rather than one-on-one introductions, giving your team members some of the information that you let you to tap them for a particular project can give each of them a better idea of where they fit into the picture.

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    Having that overall sense of hierarchy can provide a surprisingly smooth transition: if you meet a bunch of people in a social setting, it’s difficult to figure out who’s operating more in a support function, who needs to crank something out, and who has the skill set to help with particular problems that come up. Such an approach has an added bonus of offering a way to jump directly into the project. Email out short bios on each time member, preferably with some sort of framework where people can interact and follow up, and you can probably skip at least the first round of awkward introductions.

    Your team will probably still need some level of orientation, if only to meet internal requirements on bringing people up to speed, but you can skip the painful icebreaker session. And if you were planning to bring in food to smooth out that icebreaker, I’m sure that I speak for your team members when I say that you can make everyone feel more comfortable with a meal even if you’ve jumped straight into working on the project.

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    The First Project

    There are a lot of arguments to introducing team members to each other in an informal environment — that is, outside of the office. But it’s not the best option when your goal is a working team. There is always time for socializing down the road, but creating a team capable of tackling big projects requires professional relationships rather than ‘best friends forever.’

    When you’ve brought together the individuals you want to turn into a team, your first step should be to assign them a project. It can’t be just any project, though. The project should be short enough to require only a few days at most to complete. It should offer a chance for the team to get a glimpse of how each member works — and even a short project is enough to see where your team has problems interacting. The real benefit of a small project is there: if you see problems, you’ll be able to debrief at the end of the project and learn from them quickly. You won’t have to try to manage them in the middle of a bigger project, or have to break the work flow to discuss them.

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    It may seem like you don’t have enough ramp-up time to add a small project to the front-end of the larger problem you’re building a team to solve. However, you can easily call the first step of a larger project your stating point. Breaking a large project into smaller sections offers an additional opportunity for team building: if you assign different team members leadership roles for different sections, you’ll find that their continued interactions will help develop a working relationship. You can actually get to the meat of your project faster if you use even a starting element as a more efficient icebreaker. Reducing orientation only provides a chance for your team to be productive much faster.

    Problem-Solving

    While it’s nice if each member of your team is best buds with all the rest, that rarely happens. Problems — especially when your team is first learning to work together — are a given, no matter how many icebreakers you shoehorn into your schedule. Finding a solution for these problems is just as much a part of team building as initial introductions. Give your team members the space to come to an agreement they can live with. A leader’s attempts to help can easily be seen as taking sides and any interference from outside the team should be reserved for problems that have escalated.

    Sooner or later, a problem will likely reach the point where your intervention is necessary. It’s hard to give across-the-board conflict resolution advice, but if you use tact and look for a compromise that represents the best interests of both the team and the project, you’re most likely to find a solution that everyone can live (and work) with. That, combined with a team with a working relationship rather than something based on superficial information shared at yet another introductory session, can keep you and your team working together.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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