by Kerry Fillmores
“So, what do you do?” I both love and hate this question. I love this question because I love my job and I love what I do, but I hate this question because my answer, “I work for a team building company,” is inevitably followed by either, “Team building? What’s that?” or “So you climb trees and have people fall back into each other’s arms?”
So, just what is team building? Again, another love/hate question, because I love talking about what I do, but I hate that most people have no idea what this is, except the few people who know they need “it”, whatever “it” is. This scenario is usually played out in the vein of, “Laura, make sure we have some team building at our next meeting.” Laura’s internal response, “Oh no, what should we do for team building?” I am a team building facilitator. I help people work together better, more efficiently, more smoothly. I help the workplace flow. I help root out workplace issues so people can trust each other, take responsibility for the workplace environment, and hold each other accountable for their responsibilities. This sounds like a nice touchy-feely intangible that isn’t really necessary, but study after study shows that team building leads directly to profit. (See Stephen M. Covey’s, The Speed of Trust.)
When people know one another on a personal level, and really, truly care for each other’s personal and professional success. Clear communication and trust among employees enables office processes to proceed smoothly and much more quickly than in a low-communication, low-trust environment. How does team building do this? First, you gather the team together…offsite. Getting them out of the office loosens people up and by placing them in a relaxed environment. Then, select an activity that requires them to work together to achieve an objective. Don’t make it too easy. When things go “wrong,” you watch the group dynamics emerge. This is where the magic happens. After the activity, take a few minutes to chat about what happened and why. Discuss the behaviors that played out in the activity, link them back to the workplace, and create an action plan to transfer insights from the event back to the job.
Does team building solve everybody’s problems in one three-hour session? No. But it puts people on the path to fixing them. We spend so much of our lives in the workplace, it’s crucial that that time is a positive experience. Team building helps people get to that place. That’s a valuable contribution to society, and I love what I do.