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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Team Building is Environment Building

If you are a leader and you want teamwork, I suggest that you consider creating an environment that fosters it. How and why? Here are some suggestions:

Breakdown communication barriers between you and your team. Create an environment where they will feel free to go to you to address an issue, ask questions or disagree with what you want to do. My point is people will disagree with you whether you are aware of it or not. If you are unaware, you will not be able to address the disagreement. When things are unclear or if team members' resentment go unaddressed, it damages their commitment. When communication channels are open, members are able to address issues. They get to have the needed clarity and they are able to buy in to goals and strategies. Two important factors are necessary to make this happen. These are trust and rules of engagement. Go to your team and answer these simple questions together:
  • How are we going to build trust in this team?
  • what should be our rules for communication so that we can address what ever issues get in the way of our performance?
The first one improves trust, the other one establishes rules of engagement.

Create opportunity for collaboration. Some managers say they want teamwork but give very little opportunity for it. Meeting are mostly about them giving a rundown of what need to be done or staff reporting accomplishments to the manager. If you want to encourage collaboration, come down with questions or challenge for them to think about and solve as a team like how do we improve last month's performance or how do we manage cost without hurting quality, etc. Form quality circles or performance improvement teams and let people flex their mental muscles. When people get used to sharing ideas, you will be amazed at the amount of ideas and information you can use.

Establish Meritocracy and accountability. Reinforce delivery of results and call people's attention on bad performance and behavior. Mediocrity breeds more mediocrity. It multiplies. It also drives away good performance. It's like a communicable malaise that spreads swiftly in your organization.  Create a set of norms for calling each others attention. Do not exclude yourself because your mistakes as a leader will have the most impact on the team. When you exempt yourself from getting feedback, you lose a great deal of opportunity to improve as a leader.

Literally create an environment that fosters teamwork
. I mean look at how your office is set up. does it allow for people to access each other and engage in discussions and information sharing? Even sitting arrangements can impact on how people collaborate. Review your current setup and change it so that people will find it convenient to really work with each other. If you ask me, too much walls between each other makes it easier for people to jump to conclusions about motives rather than clarify issues.

Make your vision visual... audible as well. Make sure people are constantly reminded of why they're there. Remind them that amidst the different roles is a common set of goals. That as one team, they should consistently work with each other and not against each other.

Building a team takes more than one day of camping out. While those things help jump-start the process, without leaders who create the right environment for teamwork to flourish, they'd be complete waste of time.

ExeQserve can help you get on your way towards building a great team environment. Click here for more info.

If you have ideas that will help build a strong team environment, I would appreciate hearing it. Please share it in the comment section below.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with your ideas. One I'd add to the list is to create opportunities for team members to review, reflect and learn from their experiences. For example, after a major activity or project milestone, take the time to gather the team together. Seek ideas from everyone on the lessons they learned and recommendations for similar activities in the future. Harnessing the power of team members ideas for continuous improvement enhances both the team environment and results.

  2. Fantastic suggestion, Ali! Thank you for the very useful input.


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.