A Guide to the Different Types of Team Building

Team building is a diverse field with a wide variety of approaches that cater to an even wider variety of teams. They range from loud and outgoing activities that target younger audiences to more natural perception-based events staged for the more reserved or executive crowd.

After you have determined your budget, you’ll need to take stock of what your team needs to revive, repair, retain, or reward it. Only after assessing these two things will you be able to determine the type of team building that will do your key people the most good. If you find that your needs and your budget don’t align, you may have to adjust your budget or save for a while to be able to invest in what is needed.

Here are the big 3 types of team building, and a little bit about each one.

Office Session Team Building

This is the most well-known of the various kinds of team building options available. Countless comic strips make this the punch line of their office jokes, yet this is still a prevalent approach that many people rely on to pull their people together. It is by far the most economic option, but is also the least effective in terms of staff motivation and job satisfaction.

During an office team building session, contracted team builders come in to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and then provide various exercises meant to address them. The shortfall of this method is that these sessions tend to be viewed as cheesy, embarrassing, and overly transparent by a lot of people. If your team isn’t wholly composed of extroverts who don’t mind being the focus of the room during forced amateur improv performances, these sessions can even be daunting and perceived as more of a punishment than anything else. You really have to be aware of the personalities on your team when choosing this option.

The majority of people don’t want to play ‘two truths and a lie’ at work. Being quizzed on your personal life in order to level the playing field through mutual humiliation and dread is no way to build a team, and more times than not, that’s how people feel about it. There might have been a time and a place for them before, but now it seems they are outnumbered by more authentic options that build teams in a more natural way.

Survival, Risk, or Adrenaline Based Team Building

Another kind of team building that’s really making waves right now is organized group activities that are based on evoking survival instincts and adrenaline responses based on risky or downright frightening shared experiences. This is a great option if you’ve got a bunch of adventurers on your team. People that thrive on competition and tend towards stimulation rather than relaxation in their off-hours will eat this up. Sports and high-stakes sales teams are best suited to this level of stress-inducing fun.

Companies that cater to this kind of team building offer things like outdoor survival in the woods or desert, hunting, or camping in the secluded wild with limited resources for a week or over the weekend. Ziplining, base or skydiving, bungee jumping, and aerial obstacle courses are also shorter variations of the same kind of experience. If you’ve got a young team that thrives on new experiences, exhilaration, and challenges, this is a great option. Just make sure there’s a consensus before signing up for anything like this, or it will only defeat the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve.

Travel & Voluntourism Based Team Building

This option is likely a bit pricier than the other two types of team building experiences, but has the greatest opportunity for growth, revival, team member integration, company loyalty, good PR, and morale boosting. If you’re a company that is used to sending their executive, management, or sales teams off to weekend leadership development or corporate workshops, you might even find it to be less expensive than what you’re used to budgeting for.

The basic tenet that travel based team building revolves around is that sharing unique experiences with team members in a foreign setting forms strong bonds that might not otherwise develop, and inspires people to see and connect with the world around them in a new way. It provides common ground for team members to exist as equals, and encourages authentic awareness. It takes people outside of what they know, but in a comfortable enough way to make all the great stuff that comes from experiencing something like this worthwhile and easy to grow from. Climbing a volcano to roast marshmallows is both challenging and rewarding to achieve together. The view at the top inspires personal gratitude and awe of the world we’re a part of, and sharing this with teammates can really enhance the relationship they share.

A travel based team building experience that also incorporates voluntourism takes the travel experience one step further. In addition to sightseeing and climbing volcanoes together, it also gives the team something they can be proud of having accomplished together. Incorporating volunteer time into the tourism experience leaves the host community better and stronger than it was before thanks to the work of the contributing team. That can be a truly powerful feeling. It’s also something people want to hear about and take part it, and elevates not only your employee’s vision of the company, but your clients’ and community’s as well.

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How IT Managers Can Do A Better Job Of Team Building

The job of every IT manager is to find ways to use your IT manager skills to get the most productive work out of your team. However, your team is made up of a group of very diverse individuals – they really don’t have a lot to do with each other. What this means is that being an IT manager is much more than just telling people what to do, it’s convincing them to work together to accomplish a goal. I don’t believe that there is any IT manager training that can teach us how to do this. Before you can make this happen, you’re going to have to build a team…

What’s Wrong With Today’s Team Building

Team building is not something new. However, the ways that it is done today more often than not does not achieve its goals. The reasons for this are many; however, interviews with people who have attended building exercises have revealed some common factors. In a number of cases the building exercises had nothing to do with the company’s culture. In other cases the exercise placed staff in situations that they found either embarrassing or uncomfortable.

What a lot of our current building exercises are missing is an understanding of just exactly what we are trying to accomplish. The purpose behind making an investment in a building exercise is that you want to boost both communication within your team and camaraderie within your team.

Any building exercise is only going to last for a brief period of time. When it’s over the staff who participated in it will be going back to their offices. These offices may be located anywhere on the globe or everyone may already be part of the same office. As an IT manager, you are going to want to see improvement in how everyone works together once they’ve participated in the team building exercise.

How To Go About Building Teams The Right Way

So if we can all agree that it is easy to go about trying to do team building the wrong way, then what becomes most important is finding ways to go about doing this type of activity the right way. A lot of this starts with having you understand that within your team, there will always be people who don’t want to participate. Whatever exercise you do, you’ll need to make sure that it appeals to them and draws them in.

The team building exercises that your team is involved in need to reflect your company’s culture. You need to keep in mind that a team building exercise may be one of the few times that the various team members have to work side-by-side with each other. This means that you need to use this opportunity to have the exercise to allow them to discover things about each other such as how they prefer to make decisions. The thinking is that after the team building exercise is over, this information will allow everyone to work together more closely.

When you understand that in order for your team to work together smoothly, they need to understand how each other thinks and feels. The purpose of any team building exercise has to be to place the members of your team into a situation where they can’t succeed by themselves. Instead, they need to rely on others to achieve a goal. This may be a new situation for many of them, but developing this kind of skill is critical to showing your team how they can be successful by working together.

What All Of This Means For You

As an individual IT manager there is only so much that you can get done in a given day. If you are able to get the people who work for you to cooperate and work as a team, then you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more. It’s creating this team that can be the real challenge…

A lot of what passes as IT team building today does not accomplish what it is intended to do: build a team. There are a lot of different reasons for this but the most common ones are that the team building that was done had nothing to do with what the company does or that it made the people participating feel embarrassed. IT managers are finding new ways to engage their team members in team building activities. These new methods tap into pop culture and are more likely to draw all members of the time into the exercise.

As an IT manager you are not going to be effective if you don’t have a team to manage. Trying to manage a collection of individuals will be too hard and will consume too much of your time. Instead, you need to take the time to find the right team building exercises that will cause your collection of individuals to fuse into a smoothly working team. Yes, this will take time to do correctly; however, it can be done and the results are well worth it!

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Team Building Maneuvers and the Team’s Leadership

Conquering the Challenge of “Change” through Team Building Maneuvers

Nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. Nothing has greater potential to cause failures, loss of production or failing quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of your organization as your people and their response to change.

Research tells us that 70 percent of all change initiatives fail (Source: Author Peter Senge, “The Dance of Change,” Doubleday Press, Toronto, Ont. 1999, p. 3-4). Beyond a doubt, the likelihood of your change initiative failing is overwhelming. Since 2004, I’ve studied, facilitated and taught change processes and experience tells me that change efforts fail for one, two, or all of the following three reasons:

1. Failure to properly define the Future Picture and the impact of the change.
All too often, the “change” initiative addresses the symptoms of current challenges and problems rather than the future the organization wants or needs to create. Change is about creating a desired future, not just correcting current problem/symptoms.

2. Failure to properly assess the current situation, in order to determine the scope within the requirements for change.
Organizations perpetually assess the current situation against current measures of performance. However, change is not the same as problem-solving or project management. Rather, managing change is about moving an organization strategically forward to achieve its vision of the future.

3. Failure to effectively manage the transition of moving from the present to the future.
Experience demonstrates that failure to effectively manage the transition/transformation need is the leading cause of failure for strategic change initiatives. The change itself is not the problem. Change is an event; it is situational: deciding to implement a new system, target a new market, acquire or merge two organizational cultures (Source: Author William Bridges, “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change,” Addison Wesley, Don Mills Ont., p.3). The problem occurs with what happens within the gap between the present and future, after the “change” and before you get to “there.” The reality of change is that change is about people not structures – people are the reasons for stop gaps in change initiatives!

Failure to successfully execute often comes from seeing the change as solely structural, so once the new system is designed and ready for implementation, the new organization is agreed upon and the doctrine papers are signed to legalize the “deal,” everyone, including the CEO, walks away from what is considered (prematurely) a “done deal.” This is a mistake that goes on all too often like a broken record. History is full of examples of organizations and teams that failed when experiencing changing environments (most of them are now extinct). The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the people within the organization and their teams, is “definition” and “understanding.” To make it clear, I’ll explain them in subsets.

Definition and Understanding for the “WHAT” in Teams

It is important to understand that not everyone who works together or in close proximity is a member of a team. This concept is a misnomer for a lot of people. A clear explanation of a team is a group of individuals who are interdependent with respect to intelligence, information, transferable skill sets, resources, and tools and who seek to combine their efforts to achieve a shared-vision towards a common goal. A team, for instance, is either building or falling apart. An essential aptitude for true team building and the maneuvers they require is leading the team into building on a continuous basis. Team building maneuvers lead a group into higher levels of team spirit, cooperation and interpersonal communication. Building teams is the process of developing on the team-dynamics and interpersonal relationship of the people that come together to make-up the unit. Team spirit either grows or it dies based on the dynamics of the unit.

Teams have specific characteristics that should be addressed:

– Teams must be constructed to achieve a shared-vision for a shared goal.
– Team associates are interdependent regarding some common interests; teams are the instrument of sustained and enduring success in leadership and management.
– Teams use strategic thinking, acting, and influence – associates each possess the authority to manage their own stimulus for change.
– A team is a type of group, but not all groups are teams – team leaders know this to be true.
– Teams are formed to best facilitate learning and peak performance while operating in a socialist environment.
– Team associates are not responsible to “self,” but to their team and its mission; their obligation is to guide the unit to find its voice, while strategically and flawlessly executing.
– Teams learn to navigate positive transition to disseminate authority and power for change – and, they understand when it is a “must” to move into greater levels of performance (the difference between ordinary and extraordinary high performance teams).

The difference between ordinary teams and high performance teams are its people and their abilities to overcome the fear of change. High performance teams place a focus on the people who drive the overall performance within the system: “how do you define a high-performance team?” A high performance team is a group of people who are led by an exception leader, ALL having complementary skills, who understand roles and goals, and who are committed to achieving those goals through a shared-voice, as one unit or body, to demonstrate strategic and flawless execution measures for overcoming changing environments.

This team format learns quickly how-to work together toward mutual goals using their individual skills to support one another regardless of the situation they are engaging or any amount of resistance to change from a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss or failure.

The “alpha” of the high performance team’s resistance to change is how they perceive the change. The “omega” is how well they are equipped to deal with the change they expect. The team member’s degree of resistance is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how they expect the impact of the change to be on the entire unit. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the team member has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system. The job role of the team leader is to address their resistance from both perspectives by helping each member reduce it to a minimal, manageable process level. The success of the response depends on the leader’s ability to lead by example, their level of trust from the members on the team and their ability to persuade the members to overcome their resistance so the unit can move ahead. When the leader is able to communicate a low threat level and/or limited risk, the member’s perception will be one of trust for engaging the objective. Simply, it will all come down to the leader’s relationship with the team; hence, the success of the team not only depends on its members, but also on the leadership they follow.

Definition and Understanding for Accepting “CHANGE” on Teams and Organizations

Now, we’ll look at how teams can manage change and fear, and overcome them both to perform at its peak as a unit, and pronounce its leadership style to permeate peak performance across an entire organization. The “alpha” here begins by looking at change as an emotions state that is synonymous with fear. Fear stipulates an uncomfortable emotional response to potential threats and a way of life. It is a basic survival mechanism that occurs in response to specific stimulus of future events, such as worsening of a situation or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. It needs to be addressed by the leadership personnel in as much detail and as early as possible. Leadership must be able to provide updates as things develop and become clearer if any chance is possible for overcoming the fears that are the precursor for change.

“Definition” is a two-way street. In addition to defining a problem that causes fear, team leaders need to get their members to a point that they feel comfortable defining the reasons behind their resistance. “Understanding,” the “omega” here is also a two-way street. Team leaders must be prepared to clearly explain to their members what is changing and why. They must also be clear about the member’s reluctance. Here are a few things that the team leaders must be aware of:

– Team leaders must not try to rationalize the issues, but focus on opening and maintaining clear channels of communication with their team members so they understand what is coming and what it means to them and the unit.
– Team leaders must be able to help their member gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation at hand, both the positives and negatives.
– Team leaders must inform their members what the change will be, when it will happen and why – what is not changing and how the anchors on the team (the characteristics, such as “trust” that holds the team together) will be affected as they face the winds of uncertainty and change.
– Team leaders must be able to understand the specific fears of each member. What their concerns are and how strongly they feel about the potential outcomes, both the positives and negatives (do they perceive it as a good or a bad thing?).

The Bottom Line: Definition and Understanding

Conquering the challenge of “change” through team building maneuvers requires innovation, creativity and some good old fashion “leadership.” People yearn for ideas (big and small ones) and think that if they just had that one “right” idea for the team or organization, success would surely come. Certainly, we can all do things to be more creative, but having ideas isn’t the biggest, or even first, source of our challenges.

Think about it this way. You’ve experienced what is believed by you to be the greatest workshop ever attended, so you go back to the workplace to integrate what you’ve learned – only, you never do. You’ve thought about trying a new approach to your meetings, but never did. You’ve had a great idea that never went anywhere. You’ve had an idea for a new process, but failed to introduce it to other the leaders. The list can go on and on and you’ll see that there’s no shortage of ideas or creativity that is stopping you. What is stopping you is fear, the fear of change or the fear of failure. Either way you look at it, fear is the stimulus that stops great people from doing great things – the action that is required for successful progress in life and in the workplace.

Change and Failure (Breakdown)

Failure and success are the outcomes of change. No matter how you look at them both, they each have a constant that cannot go unnoticed, “leadership.” We cannot succeed at higher levels of performance if we maintain status quo, but inherent in change is the possibility that we might fail or experience a breakdown in process. So any discussion of the “fear of change” or the “fear of failure” needs to start with a discussion on transition and transformation. While there are downsides and risks involved in change (including the risk of failure) think of all of the positives that can come from change:

– Process Improvement to Leadership and Management,
– Overall Employee Performance Increases,
– Team Development, Transition and Transformation,
– Greater Satisfaction (Individual) – Personal Proficiency,
– Organizational Renewal – Professional Mastery, and
– Marketplace Expansion, and much more.

And these are just a few. The next time you feel the fear of failure, think about how you feel about change and how it impacts your level of fear. All change involves a certain amount of uncertainty and ambiguity and those two conditions provoke anxiety. This is a reason to hold onto the past for lessons learned; it’s familiar, and as the adage goes, “better what you know versus whet you don’t know.” So, although change has the ability to promote new systems, structures, organizations and teams, people will always conform to the “same old~same old,” unwilling to let go of the past. That is why looking at the positives and keeping an open mind is so critical to the success of experiencing change.

Structuring Failure and Success (Breakthrough)

One individual’s failure is another individual’s success; it’s all based on a decision that “must” be made at some point. Sun Tzu, arguably the greatest military strategist that many still follow, had his say on success and failure: “Consideration and analysis of The Five Elements, “Dao” – Moral Unity, “Tian” – Weather Condition, “Di” – Geographical Condition, “Jiang” – Leadership Quality, “Fa” – Discipline and Organization Structure, a must know for all commanders. Victory to those who understand and no victory to those who does not. The Five Elements will determine success or failure of conducting war.”

Here’s an explanation of Sun Tzu’s statement through comparison and an analytical lens. The Five Elements will reveal the factors of success and failure of all battle, namely: Moral Unity, Weather Condition, Geographical Condition, Leadership Quality, Discipline and Organization Structure.

Moral Unity determines the cohesiveness between the ruler and his subjects, the leader and his followers, the general and his soldiers. Ultimately, to achieve full support by fellowman, putting aside life and death matters and share the view of the ruler’s is the goal of Moral Unity. Only when a view or decision is fully supported, can orders be carried out smoothly by the team.

Weather Condition such as summer/winter and drought/flood will have significant affects on how plans are executed. When weather is an element that no one has any control, the best strategy will be take full advantage of the conditions when able. Going against the force of nature may prove rewarding when one overcomes, but it usually spells destruction.

Geographical Condition here refers to distance of near/far, terrain/mountainous/flat regarding the battle space, wide/narrow the battle field and whether the location chosen to engage the battle favors attack/defense.

This will limit the size, type and performance of the troop. The same for business – this will also determine the team’s reaction to the mission and the amount of resources – people, process and management of initiative that will be required to win.

Leadership Quality (my favorite) concerns the general/commander’s leading capability. There are five qualities of a good leader: “wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence and deportment, courage (both physical and emotional) and sternness (temperament).” These five qualities will affect the leading capability of a commander, his culture and climate for organizational behavior effectiveness within the environment and the efficacy and value of his command being carried out by the people under his leadership.

Discipline and Organization Structure is the system of open communication and the vehicles used to do so – how each level within the organization manages and leads the people and process, including logistics. It requires a fair, consistent and clear communication to everyone. Communication is the greatest resource in all of life, not only in organizations, but in all we set out to accomplish. Effective communications is leadership’s greatest tool to win its people, systems, processes and management of functions.

As The Five Elements are inter-related, no leader can either ignore or fail to understand the constructive/destructive nature of each element. Victory will overcome “failure” and “success” will fall upon those who analyze and clearly understand The Five Elements. Therefore, by asking who offers fairest reward and punishment, whose troop, team or organization is best trained and led, whose equipment and resources are more efficient and plentiful, who can deliver and communicate order/leadership smoothly, effectively and thoroughly, who has better geographical/weather advantages (culture and organizational climate), who has more resourceful leaders and followers – teams, whether the appointed leader/leadership is wiser, more strategic in their thinking, tactical in their approach to engage and has virtue… the winner is clear, defined and understood.

Constructing it all to Enhance Leadership for Teamwork as an Essential Goal

What am I referring to in the term “Leadership for Teamwork?” Organizations can try to influence leaders to work as a team, but only leaders themselves can make it work. Why should you want to be a team-oriented leader, and how can you take steps to make it happen, even when the status quo is not favorable? A strong motivator to becoming a better cohort with your leaders-colleagues-peers is to take stock of what “not” collaborating is costing you during the tough times (and, even the not so tough times).

As you attempt to lead others and yourself, it is important to keep in mind your quintessential intention to enhance, deepen and strengthen the spirit of “we are absolutely on the same team, sounding with one unified voice, and committed to achieving the same outcome/ Future Picture for one another.” Integrate the improvement of the quality of leadership for effective teamwork into your objective, strategy and tactics. Include it in the vision and mission and ensure that all members across each level of the organization understand and can communicate it without fail. It must not “only” be written on a fancy picture and placed on the wall (the all too common inspirational). It must run like blood through veins and become as important as the air we breathe.

Express your value of Leadership for Teamwork and team fortitude by ensuring that the cost factor is not as important in the decision to remain on a continuum to train organizational behavior, transformational leadership, strategic execution and team building maneuvers as the decision to make all allocations to do so. The cost of not doing it, even when things are tough, offers a far more potential for failure.

If you overlook Leadership for Teamwork and effective team building maneuvers by focused exclusively or excessively on the outcome you want teamwork to accomplish, you’ll place your team and organization in a position to neglect the means to your end and eliminate the solution-centric outcomes in your future. This would be like a U.S. Marine purposely neglecting to adequately care for his weapons while on the battlefield.

How you think about each individual and team in the organization is the most critical aspect in Leadership for Teamwork. By leading your own thoughts, you begin leading in the most significant way. So discipline yourself to think about those you are responsible for leading as members of your team, and not as your problems, adversaries or competitors. You have to “mentally embrace” them as for you, and not against you, particularly when they demonstrate difficult conduct. This is the truest form of selflessness that, in most cases, is forgotten.

An effective and easy tool to form the greatest disciplines in Leadership for Teamwork is for everyone to do his best to interpret the behaviors of others, however dissonant, as a sign of a core challenge or initiative that needs immediate attention. It’s important to realize that behaviors are a form of communications to address Leadership for Teamwork and this action can transform bad feelings of resentment into positive organizational behaviors and gratitude. Our President Barack Obama, the 44TH of the United States, used similar techniques to successfully win the elections to lead the American people; “CHANGE and Leadership for Teamwork!” His message rings true around the world and is also being used to bring communities and Governments (also forms of teams) together in ways that at one time, would never have been thought of. Marcus Aurelius said, “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

This statement can be applied to teams and defines the true meaning of Leadership for Teamwork. The team that is not overwhelmed with being productive and full of life is far too busy dying. Life is born from every member and led by every member. Regard Leadership for Teamwork as an essential means for overcoming fear, winning change and leading through cooperation to experience peak performance that takes the organization to the next level.

How to Lead your Team to the Next Level

What is the worst thing that could happen? Actually, people will ask a more rhetorical question: “what could happen?” But, they never really get the answer they are hoping for because of fear. Most of the time, just asking the question seems like progress is being made or, a significant amount of time (meetings to schedule more meetings that promotes nothing but time and talk) planning and not executing. This is a question that simply hangs in the spam folders, lost in internet space or on a memo at the water cooler. Don’t let it become a technical “error message” that requires someone else to get it done. Take the initiative to go against the status quo and get the question answered yourself. Consider the very worst thing that could happen; answering the question for yourself can and will stimulate movement in a positive direction. Often, the absolute worst case isn’t as bad as might think.

What is the best possible outcome? Seriously, what is the best thing that could happen? Think about the scenario where everything goes perfectly. Will this be your outcome? Maybe not, but your worst case scenario likely won’t happen either. It takes both of these questions to really understand your situation. Chances are, your results will be somewhere between the two. Once you have considered the range of possibilities, you are in a better position to decide whether to proceed or not, and you will have definitely reduced your fear of failure if you do take that step forward.

Next, you can explore the development of a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) for the team. This is designed for people to learn broadly, to inspire the service out of generosity for others, and to prepare them to lead courageously into the future. A Memorandum of Understanding encourages a perspective to become firmly grounded in the potential for successful growth using a series of constructs – a portfolio management approach – that everyone buys into for effective deportment and forward movement. A Memorandum of Understanding acts as the blueprint for strategic leadership on the teams and across the organization.

Are you wondering how to build an organization in which executive leaders, team leaders, middle managers and front line staff will flourish? To build an environment where people, teams and organizations will flourish and achieve peak performance, you must get the best leaders to pay close attention to the design of the elements around them (situational awareness).

The Memorandum of Understanding articulate a lucid purpose, helps to create effective leadership teams, prioritize their initiatives carefully, redesign organizational structures, employ strategic intent meets strategic agility to result flawless and strategic execution and, most importantly, integrate all these tactics into one coherent strategy.

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Team Building and Development in a Matrix Environment

What is a team?

There are many kinds of teams. A functional team is a permanent team established to conduct operational activities for a particular part of the organization, such as finance, sales, marketing, etc. There is no specified time limit on functional teams as they are needed to keep the business running. A project team is brought together for a discrete period of time to achieve a defined goal. At the end of the project the team is disbanded. Project teams are often matrix in nature, staffed by members taken from diverse functional teams in order to achieve the project goal. When the Project Manager has a high degree of authority this is known as a strong matrix; when Functional Managers have stronger authority this is known as a weak matrix.

In all organizational structures, there are many ‘teams within teams’. For example, if I am the Manager, I might have several teams within my overall team:

– Me and the whole team

– Me and each individual in my management team

– Me and all of my management team

– Me and my peers in other departments

– Each management team individual and their direct reports

This is complicated enough if the structure is a well-defined functional hierarchy. However, a matrix environment for completing projects adds in another layer of complexity. The functional ‘teams within teams’ still exist and each person has a functional ‘home’ team, but now they also belong to a ‘project’ team which has a finite life span.

All of these teams need nurturing if a project is to be successful. In a matrix environment, allegiance to the project is not created by the structure itself, but rather as a result of the relationships that are developed within the project team. Relationships in all teams are important for success, but on matrix teams, particularly weak matrix teams, where the project manager may have little authority, they are especially important. On such teams, relationships are more difficult to establish, are more fragile, and can be more easily destroyed. Keeping a diverse group of people together in a matrix team depends on building loyalty and trust.

Phases of Team Development

In 1965 Bruce Tuckman developed the theory that a team went through certain phases of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The phases can be summarized as follows:

– Forming – the team comes together, starts to understand the goals and boundaries, initiates the tasks, but each individual is still working somewhat independently. Managers need to be directive at this stage in order to steer the team toward the goal.

– Storming – ideas and approaches start to be exchanged about how the work can be accomplished, and this can result in conflict. This phase is critical for the growth of the team, and results in individuals learning ways to work together. Managers still need to be directive at this stage, and also accessible to ensure that conflict is resolved and the team is starting to move forward toward the goal.

– Norming – the team starts to feel a sense of achievement, rules of operation (either formal or informal) are working, and trust begins to form. Managers start to be participative, and need to be available to provide guidance as the team continues to grow together.

– Performing – the team is now maturing and often high performing. Work is accomplished, team members know how to work together, and even though conflict takes place it is managed and navigated with skill and can enhance productivity. The team requires very little supervision at this point and can largely make its own decisions.

Tuckman later added a final phase ‘adjourning’ to acknowledge that teams, in particular project teams, typically break up after the objectives of the project are complete.

Team Building Techniques

Team building activities are conducted in order to develop loyalty and trust which are a critical foundation for getting the most effective results from a matrix project team. Team building is not just about creating ‘fun’ events, although that is part of it. It is also not just about understanding team members through personality assessments, although again, that is part of it. The most effective team building involves combining a variety of tools and techniques.

– Kick off meetings – a new project should be initiated with a kick off meeting so that the purpose of the project, roles and responsibilities and how the project fits into the organization’s overall goals can be understood. This technique can be used in all types of teams, but in a matrix project team that has come together with staff from multiple different sources it is especially important as the team has no established context for the project.

– Team agreements – Teams that know how to work together are more likely to be effective and efficient. Establishing agreements can assist in this process. Collaboratively establishing ground rules for how a team will operate will provide the team with clarity and will ease communication over issues such as boundaries, responsibilities, and team member behavior. Functional teams already have this established through the use of departmental policies and procedures. However for newly formed matrix project teams that do not have rules of operation established as part of their formal organization structure, team agreements is a necessary aspect of building an effective team.

– Delivery process definition – Understanding how the work is to be accomplished makes it easier for a team to work together. Functional teams typically have the process for delivering the work established as part of the departmental rules. Given that the nature of each project may be different, matrix project teams typically do not have initial stated rules for delivering the work. For example, if a software development team is unsure which development lifecycle (waterfall, agile, etc) is being followed to achieve the project goal, confusion and a lack of productivity by the team may result. Clearly defining and establishing a process that is understood by all the players in the newly formed matrix team is critical for the success of the project.

– Conflict management- A skillful Manager will understand that conflict happens on any team and will take the initiative to establish a clear process for managing it. This provides clarity to the team in the event that conflict does occur. A newly created matrix project team will find this especially helpful as the team is not used to working together and will need to navigate this as part of the process of maturing as a team. This will also help the team move more quickly through the ‘storming’ phase of group development.

– Personality assessments – An effective way to understand the other members of a newly formed matrix project team is through team building sessions using personality assessments. These can be simple and quick assessments, such as the Personality Profile: The Shapes Test, or more complex assessments which include Strengthsfinder, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, FIRO-B, Kiersey Temperament Sorter, etc. Regardless of the specific assessment conducted, the results can bring a team significant value in determining how team members can be best utilized, how the project manager can best communicate with specific team members to get the best outcomes, and how people like to be managed to make them efficient and productive. For matrix project teams, personality assessments can help shorten the process by which the team matures and learns to work together to get the results needed by the project.

– Team building events – Group events encourage positive team dynamics to develop and mature. In matrix environments, the development of loyalty and trust is critical to the stability and effectiveness of the matrix structure. Engaging people in activities outside the project allows them to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting and is quite effective in building team esprit de corps. In addition, this allows people to find ways to work together in a non-stressful environment that can then be carried back to the workplace. Some options are:

– Social events – participating in a social activity can create a team spirit that encourages people to support each other when they are at work

– Team building ‘games’ – building or creating something outside of the project may engender a camaraderie that can then be carried back to the working day

– End of project celebration – to acknowledge the success of the project meeting the goal

– Executive Coaching – Individual and group coaching can be an effective tool in all types of organizational structures. Executive Coaches can facilitate team development, as well as individual leadership development, by focusing on areas such as collaboration skills, negotiation skills, addressing personal or group blind spots, and improving communication. For matrix project teams, Executive Coaches can assist in team building events, as well as facilitate personality assessments, and help the group understand its own dynamics and assist the team in becoming more effective. Executive Coaches can also help teams and individuals navigate conflict in an emotionally healthy way that allows the team to move quickly through the ‘storming’ phase of a project and onto the next phases, thus becoming more productive more quickly.

– Regular status updates – There are a variety of ways that status can be gathered and communicated. This is a natural activity in a functional team, as members are typically used to an established status reporting routine and may be more clear on their role in that structure. For newly formed matrix project teams it is important that team members feel that they belong to the team, and can see how their progress affects the overall progress toward the goal. Examples:

– Weekly status meetings

– One on one sessions

– Project dashboards

– Project status reports

– Clear Task Assignment – Assigning work that is relevant, achievable and appropriately challenging for the individual is important in all types of teams. In newly formed matrix project teams it is especially important to make this clear, as clarity is not necessarily provided by the structure itself, as it is in functional teams. Defining tasks clearly and explaining how team members’ roles in completing project tasks contributes to the success of the project, especially in the early stages of team development, is critical to the effectiveness and productivity of the team.

– Recognition and rewards – its is always important to recognize people that either go above and beyond, and in matrix project teams this can feel especially rewarding for the team members, if it has taken both the individuals and the team itself some considerable work to get to the point of operating smoothly together to achieve project goals. This can be in the form of a simple thank you, certificates, bonuses, gift cards, etc.

The techniques described can be used in any type of organizational structure, but are especially important for building loyalty and productivity in matrix teams. In a functional environment a level of allegiance is created by virtue of the structure itself, as there is only one focus for a team member’s loyalty. In a matrix environment a team member has multiple loyalties and may be more loyal to his or her home team than the project team. In addition, projects often have aggressive deadlines and so it is critical that project teams become efficient, effective, and productive as quickly as possible.

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Seven Steps to Planning a Useful Team Building Event

Planning a useful team building event can be a challenge, but these seven steps will help you to ensure that your people enjoy not only a great time, but also benefit from insights and lessons that they can apply to workplace interactions.

So, here are your seven steps to planning a useful team building event:

1. Decide what you want to accomplish.

This is the most important part of the event – the preparation and deciding what your day of team building activities should provide as take-aways for your people. Sometimes, you can make a little progress with building rapport with a weekly bonding session or fun de-stressing opportunity to laugh or learn together. But if you do not have experience facilitating team-building activities, or if you want a more thorough and productive set of outcomes, consider hiring a team-building trainer.

A good team-building coach can create cohesiveness and improve communications within your staff using a set of customized games and challenges. The person should be high-energy and focus mainly on experiential exercises (not lecturing) that will provide the take-aways your group needs!

2.Choose a budget and a location. Once you know what you want your team building day to accomplish, you need to decide on a location and a budget to ensure those goals are achieved. If you are looking to reward your employees for successfully completing a big project, you may want an off-site location. Do you want them to get to know each other and work through personality differences or communication issues? Once you have the goal for the day and a general budget in mind, you can schedule an activity for the location that best fits those needs.

3. Schedule it for an appropriate time. Employees will always be more receptive to a team building day of activities if it is held during work hours and does not interfere with their valuable personal time. When you schedule the event, keep your employees’ schedules and other obligations in mind. You may also want to consider the current calendar or any ongoing projects. The best time to “build” your team or identify and work through issues is before that project gets underway – or before a big change is undertaken. Many schools look for dates at the beginning of their semesters to allow their staff to work better together.

4. Make it special. Fun and unique experiences are the best ways to bring your team closer together. Many people are only interested in giving their people a chance to interact outside the normal confines of their office relationships. There is certainly a value in providing “bonding” experiences.

True “Team Building,” though, involves experiential learning activities that are both enjoyable and unique AND can be used as a catalyst for discussions and insights that can be applied to everyday interactions to improve organizational culture. Think about the interests and fitness levels of your employees when deciding on a “fun” activity… and if you want a more impactful event, consider a business team building day of more focused and meaningful challenges.

5. Leave job titles at the door. One of the most important keys to creating a successful team building day is for all employees to feel like they are on equal footing, regardless of their positions back at the office. Emphasize to your people that office titles do not exist during the team building activities. Everyone should be encouraged to leave their ego in their back pocket! Coming in on equal footing and with no perceived subordinates or supervisors allows others who normally may not take the initiative to illustrate their leadership style and fosters better communication and more creativity.

6. Identify who needs to “grow together.” Every team and organization has at least one or two people that struggle to communicate well or rub others the wrong way. If you have a “sandpaper person” in your group, it may pay dividends to plan ahead and arrange your people into the specific groups that most need to interact together and build better relationships.

If there are any team personality types in the group that is clashing with another person or department, give them the opportunity to grow together by placing them in the same group. Being forced to overcome an obstacle or come up with creative solutions or learn more about each other’s background often work wonders and strengthen rapport between team members who have struggled to interact productively in the past!

7. Get feedback. Two or three weeks after the event, ask your people to provide anonymous feedback about the team building day. This can provide valuable information for you to plan similar or more successful events in the future. Team building is like bridge maintenance – it is ongoing and never fully complete, as there are always relationships that can be strengthened and leadership skills that can be learned or improved.

By finding out what your group liked and disliked about the event, or what they have been able to apply to improve your organizational culture, you can address their concerns and re-evaluate your goals to meet other needs with future events.

The true value of a team building day is not the enjoyment and engagement your people experience in the midst of the activities. It is not even the laughter or light hearted lowering of stress levels that you should most want to hear about.

A quality team building event should also provide your people with the tools and insights to make modifications to their daily interactions, priorities, and attitudes.

The return on your investment will be determined by your thorough attention to each of these seven steps – and if you are intent on creating a useful team building event, you will enjoy the success that good preparation promises…

Team building offers a fun, safe, non-threatening way to improve communication, teamwork, and leadership skills with the laughter and lessons that interactive group activities provide.

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5 Reasons to Use a Cloud Server for Your Business

The majority of traditional companies invest in expensive in-house servers for their file sharing, email and applications. These solutions feature physical servers and a number of virtual machines. For the management of the servers, they need to spend a lot of money in the beginning. The cost includes the purchase of equipment and IT staff, just to name a few. But cloud servers offer many advantages. Let’s talk about 5 reasons to use a cloud server instead.

The downside of an in-house system is that it comes with high initial. Plus, you need to order a replacement as soon as the old system stops working. Not all of small businesses can afford to buy a new unit. Cloud servers, on the other hand, are much cost-effective. Without further ado, let’s read about 5 reasons to use the alternative.

1. No Upfront Cash

The first reason to go for a cloud server is to save tons of money. Unlike a conventional system, cloud machines don’t require you to invest in high-end machines. All you need to do is pay a small fee at the end of each month, and you will be good to go for the entire month.

2. No Cooling Required

Since you don’t need to manage all the equipment in-house, you can use a server that an experienced provider can control. Therefore, you don’t need to install air conditioners to cool down the servers and the related equipment.

For small businesses, this is a huge advantage as they can invest that budget on other projects to expand their business.

3. Software Updates

Another great advantage of cloud servers is that the software they run receives updates on a regular basis. You don’t need to pay for buying the software updates as this will be taken care of by the service provider. This can save you a lot of time and effort.

Opting for the updates is based on the computing needs of your business. So, this is another reason to go for this alternative instead of in-house equipment.

4. No Surprise Costs

This is another huge advantage of these systems. You can easily predict the costs of IT support. You don’t need to worry about the server outages. Although the cloud service comes with its own costs, you can enjoy cost savings over the long haul. That’s the reason many companies don’t manage in-house hardware anymore.

5. Easily Scalable Solution

Cloud servers offer a scalable solution to meet the changing needs of a small or large business. On the other hand, these systems require a fast, stable internet connection. As long as you have a fast connection, you can get the most out of these servers. Also, you can buy more bandwidth and other system resources by paying a small monthly fee.

Long story short, these are some of the reasons to choose a cloud server instead of an on-site system for your small business. You can try out these systems if you don’t want to manage in-house systems. Hope this helps.

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