Why you don’t need team-building
It is commonly believed that team-building exercises are fantastic for improving your employees’ morale, communication and overall performance. However, in truth team-building exercises are useless and in some way even offensive to your staff. Why? Because this suggests that if only they spent more time doing things like going on trips, solving puzzles and participating in team-based games, they would be better professionals.
The real issue is leadership. If a team hasn’t developed a good relationship between one another and it affects their work performances, it doesn’t mean they require team-building training. It means that the management is not doing its job properly and no one is talking about it.
Often, it is not even a matter of management being unqualified for the job, but rather asking the wrong questions when faced with problems. Instead of asking “what causes such issue? Is there an upset dynamic at work?” oftentimes they ask “Should we take everyone to the team-building exercise to solve the problem?”.
To be more specific about the issues that cause upset dynamics in the workplace, here are some of the examples:
- Flawed corporate strategy
- Poor conflict-resolution skills by the management and staff
- Role confusion
- Excessive bureaucracy
- Slow decision-making process
- Quantitative approach when it comes to performance evaluation. Huge reliance on figures.
- Poor corporate culture
- Inexperienced leaders
- Lack/Fear of innovation and experimentation
- Lack of acknowledgment and trust between management and the rest of the team
It is extremely likely that the cause of your problem is listed in one of the bullet-points above. Team-building is not the answer to it. At best, it can serve as a distraction from the real problem that you’ve got on your hands. And even then, I am not sure if it is a good thing.
Team-building is a multi-billion dollar industry around the world, with team leaders and managers treating it as a very progressive miracle cure to solve the problems, which are far deeper than they wish to acknowledge. It is great for serving as a boost to the already well-functioning and performing team, maintaining and even improving morale and communication within, but utterly unsuitable as a fixing tool for something that is already broken.
Being a leader means to be able to have difficult, honest, at times unpleasant conversations with your staff and even yourself. It means being demanding and fair. Strong leaders can admit their own faults and shortcomings, as well as confront their staff and system about them. Weak leaders prefer to sweep the issue under the carpet and take all the staff to the picnic by the river, pretending that the matter has been taken care of.
Which one are you?