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Friday, November 13, 2009

Team Building in the Philippines: A Leader's Check List for Building High Performance Teams

I have been conducting training for 14 years and facilitating team building workshops for more than 10 years. I have done all sorts of team building approaches. I facilitated indoor and outdoor activities, ropes course, paintball, amazing race types and a mix of everything. I followed most of the teams I worked with to see if they succeeded in building teamwork or not. And just like not all those who buy self-help books really get to help themselves, not all of those who go to team building workshops help themselves to become effective teams.

What differentiates those who succeed from those who fail to fully harness their team strength?
Two things; leadership and execution (although the latter also boils down to the former)
Leaders area able to follow through, relentlessly on whatever is needed to build the team.

I've always said that going through a team building workshop and then not following through is worse than not going at all. Why? Because it erodes trust to a much lower level than before you did your team building activity. That's definitely not a good thing.

If you are an HR Manager or a Team Leader and you want to build a high performing team, I have five suggestions you might want to add to your to do list:

First, understand the role you play as a leader in building your team. Some managers send their teams to team building workshops expecting that it would turn them into droids who will follow every command without complaining. Some think team building workshops are attitude adjustment events suitable only to their staffs and not to them. They go to the workshop, give an opening remarks then leave or stay in the sidelines. All these come from lack of understanding of the nature of teamwork. As far as I am concerned, it is the leaders who need to make the biggest attitude adjustment if they want better teamwork. If you need help in equipping your managers and supervisors for building high performance teams, click here. I'll be more than happy to help.

Second, pick a team building intervention that is not only fun but one that allows your team to agree on a set of norms to build trust, manage conflicts, demonstrate commitment, be accountable for their actions, and focus on results (Patrick Lencioni, 5 Dysfunctions of a Team). A good team building workshop will not only help participants learn about team working principles, it should help them take specific actions after the workshop to work more effectively as a team. Check out ExeQserve's team building workshop design based on this framework.

Third, follow through on whatever action items were committed during the team building workshop. Managers should meet their team at least a week after the workshop and talk about implementation of norms. Setup a number of review meetings to assess execution of commitments. I believe that team work is not achieved overnight. It takes some painstaking nurturing and shaping from the leader to make it happen. As John Maxwell said. Everything rises and falls on leadership, hence, the leader must actively pursue this.

Fourth: In my experience, particularly with Filipino teams, having norms for open communication is not always enough. Our culture have a very different definition of respect for authority.( See my post on creating a culture of candor and assertiveness in the Filipino Workplace) To be assertive in a Filipino workplace is to risk being branded as disrespectful, griper or too radical for one's own good. To increase the amount of productive collaboration in the team, it helps for every team member ( yes, including the leader) to learn assertive communication skills. If you see your team as having the need to communicate more effectively, please check out this link.

Last but not the least, it helps to have systems and processes that harness the power of teamwork. Programs like Kaizen, Quality Circles and the likes help teams put more structure and regularity to team collaboration. It also helps teams focus their energy towards improvements. If you like this idea, please see our program for implementing the TEAM LEARNING  to team problem solving and decision making.

Let me reemphasize that everything rises and falls on leadership. The success in building a high performing team depends on the leader's ability to lead. Kouzes and Posner ably encapsulated leadership as inspiring a shared vision, modeling the way, enabling others to act, challenging the process and encouraging the heart. These are all learned skills. Have your leaders learn them.

You may download ExeQserve's complete Team Culture Building Program here.

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