June 25, 2018

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Teambuilding Can Open Communication, Build Trust and Create Accountability

Dear Joan:

Iím trying to find ideas for fun activities for my staff, to help reduce controlling behaviors, establishing relationships, reduce lack of trust, and deliver on commitments. Any ideas?


Maybe Iím missing something here, but the outcomes you listed are fairly serious issues. A "fun" activity may not produce the results youíre looking for.

Perhaps you are going to be including a fun activity in a teambuilding retreat. If that is the case, my recommendation is to make the fun activity a secondary event, and spend the majority of the time together identifying causes and solutions for some of your team problems.

"Teambuilding" has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Some folks see it as a touchy-feely group hug, an event where the group will figuratively sing "Kumbaya" If done right, a good retreat will be none of those things. It can be valuable time away from the workplace, where all stakeholders can get together and focus on future plans and improvements.

The problem with making a fun activity the main event is the likelihood that your staff will view it with cynicism and simply go through the motions to get it over with. It may even make things worse, if they think you are taking a superficial approach to festering problems. A Band-Aid may cover the wound but it wonít stop the spreading infection.

First, letís look at some strategies for getting at the heart of these issues. Then, letís consider some fun activities that will create some additional camaraderie.

To begin, you may want to enlist the help of an outside consultant, to conduct confidential interviews with members of your staff and custom design a teambuilding process that will help you solve some of these problems. When members of a group donít trust each other, itís very difficult to get them to suddenly start opening up about their concerns. This is especially true, if the boss is a part of the problem (which is often the case). Using a credible, experienced, outside resource allows individuals to open up to a neutral third party, who can then create a safe, structured environment in which to resolve difficult issues.

An experienced facilitator will create ground rules that will keep the meeting on track and prevent it from becoming inflammatory. The process he or she designs will have some structure, so everyone has an opportunity to be heard and respected. I sometimes hear about managers who get fed up and tell their staff that they are going to get in a room and "hash things out" until they reach a solution. Without structure, the meeting usually dissolves into a shouting match or people refuse to speak up. In the end, the team and the issues are usually in worse shape than before.

For example, a very simple process might begin with an icebreaker. Ask each person to answer three questions: 1. Whatís the best thing about working on this team? 2. Whatís the most difficult thing about working on this team? 3. What is your wish for this team? The answers are written on the chart and an agenda is built around numbers two and three.

From years of working with teams that are in trouble, I can tell you that they typically wonít tackle the main problem head on in the first meeting. Usually, they will have to see some evidence of success working on a smaller issue before they will have the courage to go after the bigger, nastier problems, lying under the surface. Intuitively, they know that going after the big ones too fast can create an even bigger mess.

In other words, your team wonít be one happy family after one retreat, or after a few staff meetings. It will take time and patience to work through the underlying issues that have eroded the effectiveness of your team. That is why an outside consultant may suggest several sessions, spread out over a period of time. It will hold people accountable and give your team time to implement needed changes. It will also convey the message that youíre serious about resolving these issues.

Of course, having some fun activities may help along the way. For instance, after a long working session, off-site, include a cocktail hour and buffet dinner. It will keep people talking and minglingóa key element for rebuilding relationships. Some hotels offer teambuilding activities such as cooking classes or outdoor activities. Be creative: have a scavenger hunt, play Jeopardy on teams with company trivia, make a giant snowman.

These can be great avenues for getting people working together. However, the activities will be more powerful if the learning points are used as a metaphor that are applied to the real problems they are trying to solve.

Does your team need a tune-up? We will conduct a detailed assessment and get to the bottom of the problem. We will provide you with detailed recommendations and work with you, and your team, to implement needed changes. We work with all levels within your organization, team or department. We custom develop each teambuilding retreat. We have an excellent track record of success with teams in a variety of industries. Call us today for information at (800) 348-1944.

-Joan Lloyd

Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership training, conflict resolution between teams or individuals, internal consulting skills training for HR professionals and retreat facilitation. Clients report results such as: behavior change in leaders, improved team performance and a more committed workforce.
Joan Lloyd has earned her C.S.P. (certified speaking professional) designation from the National Speakers Association and speaks to corporate audiences, as well as trade & professional associations across the country. Reach her at (800) 348-1944,, or
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