Many leaders ask me whether there is any easy way to build stronger teams in their organizations. I’ve found it helpful to go beyond the occasional activity or retreat and create a culture of team building in their nonprofit. Creating a culture of team building means that we establish an atmosphere where employees are encouraged to collaborate instead of working against each other. The goal is to build a workplace where people get more done and enjoy helping each other and the company succeed.
Our organizations are more productive and experience better morale when we build highly cohesive teams but many of us don’t take advantage of this valuable opportunity. Team building takes conscious and ongoing attention from leadership so that it can take root in the organization. Let’s look at five key ideas to help you create a workplace that values team building.
1. Team building starts with the company leaders. In order to build strong teams we need to have buy-in from the top down. While it’s possible for individual departments or groups to do some activities on their own, it’s always more effective when leaders are actively and enthusiastically involved. After all, they’re a major part of the team. When leaders participate actively it sends a positive message of unity and shared purpose and employees see that we mean it about team building.
2. Create a dynamic culture of team building. Every organization has a culture that it creates based on its core values. It’s up to you to design the type of culture you want, in this case one of team building. You create this type of environment by giving people the opportunity to work together effectively and providing your support along the way. This may require shifting from a competitive or compartmentalized culture to one that encourages collaboration. As the leader, you set a positive example by showing people how to work together.
3. Team building takes long-term commitment. You can’t build cohesive teams if you only provide a one-hour training every five years and then expect people to fend for themselves. Team building is an ongoing learning process where people continually practice the skills related to collaborating and working together. At first it may feel strange or out of your comfort zone but, over time, your team building efforts will become the new way of doing things. Leaders play a big part because they decide and demonstrate through their actions whether team building is really a priority or a token gesture.
4. Team building activities require dedicated time. Identify a team building activity (there are many ideas online) that makes sense to you and practice it weekly. People often ask me how to find the time to do team building and the answer is that you either dedicate the time or you don’t. You decide whether team building is a priority and how you will fit it in to your work schedule. I recommend a weekly stand-alone activity that doesn’t have to share space and energy with other meetings. The idea is to give these activities importance and conduct them with no interruptions.
5. Celebrate your employees. We all get so busy that we forget that creating teams is really about honoring people and highlighting their amazing talents and abilities. Team building isn’t about pain, it’s about helping people work well together. When your employees are encouraged to collaborate positively they tend to perform better and do so with fewer problems. Leaders have a profound effect on the productivity and morale of their employees when they praise them and help them build effective teams.
Team building can help organizations get more done with less effort and create happier workplaces. Use the five elements we’ve discussed here and you’ll develop a culture of team building that helps your leaders lead better and your employees be more productive.