Team Building and Leadership - So Much Hot Air

2021.07.02.

If you are seeing undesirable outcomes, then don't examine the team who produced them, but examine the system that created them in the first place. You need to be able to separate what you want to believe from the real evidence. And it's here that nearly all team buildings go wrong. Simply put, they focus on the wrong things because to focus on the right things would mean criticising upper management. 

When it comes to the subject of team-building there are as many sceptics out there as there are true believers. In fact, I would suggest that since the inception of "team-building" a couple of decades ago, there are now more sceptics. There's a lot to untangle here, but there are some basic blocks that have been assembled wrongly, giving the impression that each team member can somehow play their part and improve the team's performance. But these mere worker bees can have very little influence on any type of work policy. All the rubbish that is put on the shoulders of terms is nothing more than bad management practices. But, of course, it's easier to blame those who are powerless.

If a team is not functioning at its optimum best, then it only follows that they will probably not be producing their best work. But they can only do so much as it's inevitably the procedures and management systems that stop them from going in a direction that will produce better results. The problem with "team-building" is that it's just a quick fix, but in reality, the only changes that can happen, come from the top. It's like serving a horribly overcooked steak and then disguising just how rubbish it is, by adding a lot of bechamel sauce.

The overcooked meal is the organizational system that the team and workers are employed by. It has power over the work time and lives of the team members. You know the feeling. You are a cog in this machine. The sauce is the main flavour and it tastes really bad. Using team-building, it's easier to wash off the sauce and then replace it. But we have done nothing to the underlying problem....the badly cooked meal. It's much easier to make a superficial change yet leave the underlying problems untouched.  

Cooking a new meal takes time and effort. It involves making uncomfortable changes. Everybody in the whole office hates eating this meal every day. Yet, they don't really want real change because that might reveal that they too are useless. Their very lack of certain skills is the real reason why the teams and the company is failing. But this way of thinking is totally ingrained all the way up the office management hierarchy. Everybody prefers to just keep their heads down and not stir the pot. Hense everyone is OK with any new fad, like team building, as it continues the facade. managers are fixed in a "doom loop" and don't have either the skills or the want to ring around real meaningful change.

Have you noticed how, over time, the managers might change the sauce, but the meal still tastes like cardboard and quiet desperation? Everyone wants to eat something delicious and fulfilling at work. ut constantly changing the recipe for the sauce achieves nothing as it's the whole meal that needs to be binned. All those behaviours and attitudes need to change.  

How can team building be useful & effective?

As the old saying goes, if you want to change then you're going to have to break some eggs. The first thing is to identify what's working well and then concentrate on amplifying that particular ingredient. The things that are not working well should be held up, for all to see, and then everyone is openly invited to suggest a solution. Not as normally happens, with all the bad stuff being hidden or suppressed. You cannot cook a great meal by just winging it and hoping for the best. There needs to be a process that's followed and this also has to allow for change and correction, and then ensure that it's all implemented correctly. 

Ways to start this process

First off take a good look at how the organization is structured in terms of layering. Maybe there are too many later, maybe it's top-heavy with too many cooks and not enough dishwashers, or maybe no one understands their role. Too many managerial levels will breed distrust and halt the possibility of any innovation.

We suggest that you carry out a "pool analysis." You need to find out what everyone, on an individual level is capable of. This will help you define the work roles and find the exact person to fill them. Training, success management and development will all become much clearer once you know a person's capabilities. Tae time and energy to ensure that everyone is matched to their particular role. Yes, it sounds like common sense. ut please ensure that the right skills are matched with the work requirement. This not only includes the skills but also the correct temperament as well. This will also put a stop to the terrible habit of promoting people into the wrong role, which in itself, is a huge cause for unhappiness. 

Pay people what they're worth! The compensation structure must reflect the level of responsibility and the weight of work required. This is a basic means of showing both thanks and respect. make sure that ay similar works are compensated if the work requirement is the same or of equal complexity. recognising someone's efforts with a proper salary is going to cure virtually all your problems in one fell swoop.

Finally, as part and parcel of looking out for everyone's well being, be sure to conduct regular development and training sessions in order to help coach all your workers with the same skills needed at the management level. This way, all decisions will be understood and implemented correctly as everyone can see the reasons why that lie behind all managerial decisions. As a given, as there is a hierarchy, make sure that managers are actually responsible for the work of their underlings. They need to be held accountable for everything that's happening under their watch. 

Maybe now you'll agree that though team building is great on a social level, its real-world uses are very limited. These new-fangled schemes have been sold to HR as the panacea to all the ills within a workplace organization. And everyone is happy to go along with this facade all because no one wants to point out that the Emporer has no clothes. You don't need team-building to solve problems at work. Upper management just need to get there kitchen in order. Simple.

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