When employees work together in a group, whether it is on a single project or for the long run as a department, it is important that they can work together effectively. The ultimate purpose of team building for groups is to help ensure that the group will work together as well as possible. There are many different ways that team building can help to achieve this greater purpose.
Making Groups Function Together
Your team might have the most gifted minds in the world, but if they are all used to working on their own, and they don't function as a team, the end result of their collaboration might be inferior to those with mediocre minds who work together brilliantly as a team.
The fact is that simply putting people together in a room and calling them a "team" does not actually make them operate together like a true team. That is why it can often be a good idea to have your group participate in team-building activities before they actually begin on their project so that they can learn how to function together as a team.
Building Trust in the Group
A group can't work effectively if the members don't trust one another to do their work properly or if they think one of their co-workers is trying to steal the credit for their work.
One of the top objectives for team-building exercises is helping to build trust among group members and helping to make them feel less guarded around one another. This should ensure that they share more ideas with one another and focus on their own work rather than looking over each other's shoulders to make sure things are getting done right, increasing both creativity and productivity drastically.
Improving Group Communication
Poor communication can slow down work on a project when employees don't know what to do and thus wander through their tasks aimlessly or, even worse, misunderstand what they are supposed to do and do a significant amount of work the wrong way that will later have to be done over again.
Making communication more efficient can help ensure that employees know what they need to do, can get the information that they need to complete a task in a timely manner and don't waste time doing something wrong due to a miscommunication. This will also ensure that an employee will feel comfortable approaching a co-worker or manager to ask any questions she might have about a project or a task.
Improved communication can also further improve trust in that they know that when a co-worker tells them something, they can rest assured that it is exactly the message that the co-worker intended to pass along.
Strengthening Conflict Resolution Skills
Better communication and improved trust can help reduce conflicts, particularly those due to miscommunication, but just because people learn to communicate more clearly doesn't mean you will end all problems among your team members.
Team-building exercises can help improve the conflict resolution skills of your team members regardless of the reason for the conflict. By ensuring that conflicts can be resolved as soon as possible, you will help reduce downtime and the decreased productivity that would occur due to the time spent bickering.
Improving Employee Morale
It is well-established that most team-building activities are fun and silly. While some managers believe this reduces their effectiveness in teaching the deeper lessons, they are missing the fact that people not only are more engaged in an activity when they enjoy it, but that employees are also more likely to bond and build better relationships when they are having a good time together. This can in turn improve employee morale long after the team-building exercises are over and help to reduce employee stress, thus improving productivity.
Creating a Group Purpose Statement
One of the great benefits of team building is that you can help your group to recognize their purpose for working together. The best way to do this is to ask your team to define this purpose for themselves. To get started, you will want to explain the purpose of identifying purposes when conducting group work: that it can help your group work more seamlessly together since they will have a unified understanding of what they are trying to do together.
You might need to clearly explain a group purpose definition since some people don't quite understand the difference between a greater purpose for their working together and what the actual task of the group is. For example, your group might be tasked with building a new software program, but the greater purpose of the group is to build on each other's skills and knowledge in order to ensure that the software meets all of your customers' diverse needs.
While you can always tell your group what you believe their purpose to be, it is often better to ask your team to come up with a group purpose statement about which they all agree. This way, they will all agree on the purpose and identify with it rather than having something forced upon them that they might not feel is accurate. Of course, you can always help guide your group if necessary, but you might be pleasantly surprised by what they come up with on their own.
Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
One of the best reasons to work in a group rather than working alone is that each person has her own knowledge and skills, and when different knowledge and skill sets are combined, things can be accomplished that one person could not do alone. Of course, everyone has her own weaknesses as well, and whereas an effective group will use one another's strengths to negate each other's weaknesses, a poor group will do the exact opposite.
Team-building exercises can help identify both the strengths and weaknesses of each group member so the team can work as capably as possible. This can also help the group members define everyone's unofficial role within a group. For example, if one member of a group is incredibly persuasive and great at communicating but terrible at making decisions, he can be responsible for trying to talk to managers and clients to get what the team needs. If someone else is good at coming up with clever solutions to problems and making quick decisions but is terrible with communication, then she can focus on being a problem solver, and her decisions can be relayed to others by the prior team member who excels at communicating.
Team building can sometimes even reveal hidden skills of employees that they either didn't know they had or didn't feel comfortable sharing. These surprise strengths could come in handy and further improve your team's productivity, but they will rarely come out unless the person who possesses them encounters a situation that is well-suited to the skill and feels comfortable enough to share his talents in front of the group.