Last April 22, 2010 I had the opportunity to share with fellow Philippine Society for Training and Development members some of my experiences and learnings as I facilitate team building workshops. I decided to share the key points of that 2-hour presentation in the intent of reaching out to more people who are interested in doing what I do. I divided my presentation in three major components; Preparation,Implementation and Follow through. and that's how I intend to share them with you today. Here goes:
(This one came at the end of my presentation but I decided to put it here ahead of the rest to make this article more cohesive). The most important preparation you will make as a Team building Facilitator is understanding, appreciating and developing a passion for team building. Your success depends not only on your ability to facilitate some so called team building activities but in your ability to help the participants contextualize the lessons into some useful actions. I suggest heavy reading on the subject matter, observation of organizations and teams and trying to build teams yourself. I find it difficult to imagine succeeding as a team building facilitator without learning the lessons from both success and failure of building teams and fostering teamwork in your own territory.
I presented three components in the actual preparation on the way to a team building initiative; leadership involvement; needs analysis; and design.
I recommended that you involve the leaders of the team/organization as early as possible and as deeply as possible. Remember that they are the ones building the team, not you. You are a facilitator, a process guide or a team building coach if you will. The leaders need to understand what kind of leadership work it entails to build a high performing team. I always say that the Leaders have the most to learn in any team building initiative. As a facilitator, you need to level expectations with them, even decide whether you can actually help them or not. There were a number of times that I begged off from a request to facilitate a team building workshop because there's a disconnect between what I believe and what the leader believes. I do not say the person is wrong, maybe I am the one who is wrong. I always find it better to beg off than pretend I can help when I can't. Anyway, what is necessary so that the leader will be able to build the team with your help? First, the leader needs to understand the concept of teamwork. She needs to accept the tasks that leaders need to undertake in order to achieve teamwork. I also find it helpful to let the leader in on the whole intervention so that when I have to run a team building workshop, the leaders are not coming off at the same level as the other learners. I make sure that I already have allies in them when I run the workshop. The leaders also need to know and accept the responsibility of following through. I tell them that the real team building happens when they follow through. The workshop is just a learning session, some sort of a launch pad.
As a team building facilitator, you will come in to teams at different development levels. You need to know where each team is so you can design a suitable intervention. You'll need to know what their current strengths are and their areas for improvement.If you like to use Patrick Lencioni's team building framework like I do, you need to know which of the five team fundamentals need to be strengthened; trust;conflict management;commitment; accountability or focus on result. The use of climate surveys and other needs analysis tools can be useful.
I did not cover the entire team building design process because that would have taken more than the amount of time I was given. Instead, I highlighted the most important mindset in designing a team building workshop and that is having a clear set of objectives first and then choosing the interventions/activities that will address those objectives. Some facilitators for example tend to think that a ropes course will address all team building needs, I disagree. They say that if your only tool is a hammer, everything will look like a nail. As a facilitator, you need to see to it that you don't fall into that cure-all mindset. I also shared five things to consider in choosing your team building activities as:
1. Will they meet your objectives? (See reason above)
2. Do you have enough time? (Let's be realistic, we can't always have unlimited time)
3. Are the activities new to the participants? (Some companies hold team building events regularly. If they've done it before, the impact and appreciation tend to decrease)
4. Have you tested them? (For impact and safety in case of highly Physical and outdoor activities)
5. Are they fun? (They say people learn best in moments of enjoyment. This is a good last criteria, not a top one.)
Implementation: Some tips in Facilitating
Start your team building event on a right note by coming up with a really engaging ice breaker activity that will set the tone of the workshop. Follow it up with emphasizing the need to be as engaged in the whole duration of the event. Level expectations so the participants will know what they can expect from the workshop. I also use the leveling of expectation activity as a way to gauge the level of commitment of the participants. While we laugh at funny not so serious statements written by some participants, I also call their attention to it. This is so they know that there is a need for some change of mindset if the event is to be successful.
Facilitating experiential learning activities
There are four major steps in running a structured learning experience (Please see photo). If you use a learning game, the game itself is the experience. The three other steps are part of what we call processing. You need to prepare suitable questions to process the activity. Here are some examples:
- What happened? (Reflecting)
- What helped? (Reflecting)
- What hindered? (Reflecting)
- What can we learn here? (Generalizing)
- What can we change in the way we work because of the learning? (Applying)
Learning games or SLE's are not the only activities available to you as a team building facilitator Here are some other tools you can use:
Self and group assessments To assess individuals or the team
Disclosure activities To familiarize
Norming To agree on a set of behaviors
Visioning and action planning To agree on a goal or course of action
I recommend three major team building event outputs, they are key learning points, norms and and re-entry plans. Have these ensures that learning is contextualized and follow through is planned.
It is hard to have a successful team building initiative without a follow through plan. Having it ensures that leaders have tools they can use to push the team building agenda after the learning event. Here are my suggestions:
- Make a post workshop report (Include all workshop outputs)
- Discuss the report with the rest of the team as soon as possible
- Make plans to implement commitments
- Monitor progress, give feedback and make improvements