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Monday, December 01, 2008

Why The Big Boss Can Make A Lot of Difference in the Team Building Process

I always appreciate it when the big boss of a company participates and I mean really participate in a team building program of a company. This is because it makes a lot of difference in the level of team energy, participation and of course outcome.

I've lost count of team building workshops I facilitated and attended. The most successful workshops I've been through are the ones where the big bosses had the most participation.

I believe in the power of a good team building program as an organization development intervention. Done right, it can increase the level of trust among team mates, thereby increasing the level of collaboration, commitment, accountability and focus on result. If a program can help build all these in a team, I can't imagine why a CEO or a general manager or a country manager or whatever the big boss is called, shouldn't get herself thoroughly involved in the process.

The best team building I had were with CEOs who were there at the onset and does not just rely everything to HRD. They start by telling me stories about the company, their strengths, their weaknesses, their current challenges and what they think they should develop in order to achieve their goals. They ask difficult questions about the design of the program and don't stop asking questions until they are are satisfied. The most important questions are the ones about their own role in the process; what they need to prepare, how they should behave, how to follow through and how they can support the team. These are all important questions because as I said, their level of participation greatly impacts the team building process. Their involvement in the design process allows the facilitator to customize the program to meet the team's needs. Their behavior during the workshops affects the amount of exchanges during discussions. In one team building workshop, the CEO said " I believe we have poor communication in this team because we seldom speak our mind. We need to recognize that we have that problem and solve it. This workshop is a good opportunity for that, so I expect you to speak up at every opportunity. If you will not speak to point out what we need to improve, I will think that you don't want this team to improve and all these investments will go to waste." When big bosses say those things, it helps build the participants confidence in the process. When the boss encourages the members to point out what's wrong and share their opinions on how to fix them, the quality of interactions improve.

More than enhancing the amount of participation and interaction during the event, the most important role of the Boss is to ensure that every commitment made during the workshop is followed through after the event. The euphoria and momentum of the team building workshop can make participants promise to do things that are mostly easier said than done. When they go back to work, they realize that and become terrified of talking about the so called commitments. It is the seriousness of the big boss about pursuing these commitments that will encourage other managers to follow through. If the boss behaves as if he expects nothing out of the team building effort, that's what he'll get.

A good team building program can really help the team improve its performance but only if the organizational leaders play their role right. At this time when organizations cannot afford to waste their money on useless interventions, I recommend that you only invest in team building when the leaders in the organization are willing to do what it takes to build the team. They play such a major role in it that they should not take a back seat or be mere observers as many managers I encountered think.

Are you planning a team building event for your company? share this with your organizational leader. Let me know if you need my help explaining.

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