Blog Post 6-24-14

The Challenge with Team Building – Why Your Business Requires More


Daniel was troubled about his team. They had been through a great deal of change lately—new members, a new directive, new software—and they seemed less cohesive, their efforts scattered and unfocused. He knew some of the younger members needed help with time management and the entire team needed help with improving communication. Normally he would propose a team building session. But the agency environment was tough right now, and sometimes it seemed like everyone was running on a treadmill with their heads down, so focused on tasks they couldn’t see where they were going. How could he persuade the team that they could afford to take the time? And with everyone so overloaded, would it even make a difference?

Daniel brought up his feeling of discomfort over lunch with Selena, a trusted colleague from human resources. She nodded knowingly as he described his doubts about whether a team building session would prove useful, or whether he would be able to sell the idea to the team.

“I had a similar experience last year,” she said. “We had to deal with a high pressure contract deadline for the purchase of a new HRIS system and people got stressed about it. My people are pretty high-level when it comes to communication and interpersonal skills but I could swear they forgot everything they knew for about three months. Dialogue went straight out the window as people just tried to get things done, and when I suggested a team building session my team lead snapped at me that we didn’t have time for trust falls and touchy feely stuff.”

“So what did you do?” Daniel asked, discouraged to have his own doubts confirmed.

“Actually, we did eventually do a team building session,” Selena said. “We hired a facilitator who specialized in business-focused team building sessions, and we began with an objective to explore options for more effective success measures for the team. Previously our measures were built on things like employee engagement scores, time to hire, cost per hire—you know, stuff we could easily measure. The facilitator asked us lots of questions about whether these measures really gave us a working definition of success or whether we had just taken the easy path, and we began to see that qualitative measures would work better for us. By the end of the session we had started to align on a completely new vision for the team’s performance measures.”

“So there was no training component at all?” Daniel asked.

“Oh, there was definitely a training component, but it was woven around the business discussion,” Selena said. “For example we revisited some communication engagement techniques we had worked with in previous training sessions, but instead of just re-learning the model we applied it to what we were talking about, the qualitative success measures. We came out with a whole new definition of what constitutes an important task versus an urgent one, and I believe we built a deeper understanding for the “why.” An important task was one that directly impacted process improvements known to influence positive comments from our customers.”

“I’ll bet that helped the concept to stick around after the session,” Daniel mused. “Did you notice any improvement in your own engagement skills within the team?”

“Absolutely!” Selena said. “With a new vision for team success I was better able to apply the engagement skills with other disciplines and techniques I’ve learned over the years. But of course the greatest gains came from our redefinition of performance measures. We’ve really changed the way we serve our customers now.”

Interested in hearing more about a business-focused team building session? Contact Alli Christie at achristie@ciinternational.com or at 303-679-6335 Ext 115.