No team is “born” fully effective; it develops over time with ups and downs, successes and failures. Effective teamwork is essential to project, department and organizational success. It requires hard work, persistence and a committed team leader. Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan said, “My job is to give my team a chance to win." This is also the job of a committed team leader. But sometimes, committed leaders need help addressing team dynamics.
In his book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," management consultant Patrick Lencioni identifies several “natural pitfalls” that can prevent a team from being effective. These pitfalls include a lack of trust among team members; destructive rather than constructive conflict; lack of commitment to the team; lack of accountability – the willingness of team members to accept responsibility for their behavior; and the failure of the team to produce results.
Team building intervention strategies may help teams avoid or recover from these pitfalls. The type of team building intervention used depends on the team’s composition and history, along with the nature and the severity of the problem. For an intervention to be effective, there must be ongoing follow-up to incorporate the lessons learned to the team’s daily work.
Sometimes a team has problems because its members do not have the basic knowledge or skills they need to work together. Skill building interventions give members the opportunity to learn and practice team skills, such as leading a team meeting, reaching group consensus, improving team communications, constructively giving and receiving feedback, resolving conflicts, listening effectively and sharing information. These team building interventions are presented as a course in which all members participate and during which they develop action plans for practicing the needed skills.
Problem solving interventions are most effective with a team that has a specific project problem or barrier to teamwork that is blocking progress. In these interventions, all team members meet at an off-site location with an outside facilitator and without the distraction of daily work. The facilitator's job is to help the team explore and understand the problem in order to find a solution. Problem solving retreats are the most common form of team building intervention because the activity is immediately applied to the team's daily work.
Personality-based interventions focus in improving interpersonal skills among the team members. Members take personality or psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Type, Insights Team Dynamics, Enneagram or DISC assessments. The results are communicated to each team member and, in some instances, the entire team to help members understand and appreciate their own and their teammates' personalities and interpersonal styles. Ideally, this understanding leads to better communication and improved team effectiveness.
In activity-based interventions, team members participate in physical challenges, such as playing games, canoeing or hiking. The interventions focus on teamwork, problem solving, trust and risk taking. The activity addresses specific problems facing a team with the goal that the success achieved by working together in the activity will carry over into the team’s work.