Team building is a process, not an event. Throwing axes together is fun but building an effective team takes time, effort and venturing into not-so-fun spaces together. The “unfun” is where the team is really built. Teams and individuals need leaders to guide them into this territory; support them as they navigate the challenges; and help them emerge stronger.
Building an effective team requires guiding a group of individuals through four stages:
Individuals come together to create relationships that enable them to meet a common purpose more effectively than if each were to attempt it alone. Initially, they tend to “be on best behaviour” and “get down to work.” To build a strong team, the leader needs to slow the team down, facilitate strategic conversations about objectives and expectations, and encourage people to let their guard down and deal with, rather than avoid, relationship challenges.
Conflicts arise as people become more comfortable displaying emotions and speaking their minds. Many relationships, teams included, get stuck at this stage. The relationship can remain stuck or break down entirely if there is a mindset that conflict is bad, or individuals lack the knowledge and skills to navigate it effectively. This is that unfun space. The leader must help the team learn to deal with conflict, which is easier when clear expectations have been established in the Forming stage. The reward for getting through the Storming stage is a clear path toward a highly effective team.
Team members have learned the skills, developed the positive mindset, and are motivated to achieve a common goal. Problems arise, which may require coaching and facilitation, but the team generally navigates challenges without the leader’s constant presence.
The team begins to act as one. Each individual understands and respects the others to such a high degree that they are able to anticipate each others’ needs and do not think twice about helping meet the common goal, even at the expense of individual projects.
When a significant change affects the team, like a member joining or leaving, the process begins again and the team must be rebuilt. Each time the team building process becomes easier, as they understand what is required to move to the next stage. They rely less on the leader, and with their learned skills the team glides toward high performance even when facing great setbacks.
As a leader are you prepared to take your team headfirst into the unfun, navigate the journey, and reap the rewards?