Debunking Team-Building Myths – Part 1

team-buildingRather than “do” the team-building for them, I prefer for individuals and groups to intentionally build themselves into teams using simple, easily learned, and reliable strategies when I teach the The Leadership Gift™.

I believe and show that many popular team-building practices are myths — here are just two of them:

Myth #1: You must hire a coach.

Team-building is not an art — or even magic — reserved for just a few special people. The truth is that “being built” results from a predictable set of realizations people make about each other and their work.

However, how these realizations are (or aren’t) accomplished often flies under people’s radar, so people see but can’t explain or reproduce the effects.

But we know that the realizations can be pointed out to and observed by people in the workplace who can learn to generate them in groups. Then those realizations can regularly be fostered through a specific set of conversations.

I estimate at least 50 percent of the gains I help clients achieve come from pursuing clarity about the group’s collective purpose or task.

There certainly is no magic in getting a group to confront shared task clarity, nor must one be a coach or consultant — or even an outsider to the group — to demand that it be addressed.

The team-building consulting industry thrives on this myth, but companies can’t afford to perpetuate it. Instead, let’s raise our expectations that smart professionals can and will see the need to align with one another as an accountability in their roles.

Myth #2: The first agenda in team-building is to get people to like each other.

There is a good reason for this myth. From early in this century until the seventies, researchers defined “group cohesion” on the basis of interpersonal attractiveness, i.e., how much people in a group liked each other.

So psychologists developed personality inventories to help us understand people’s behavior. And consultants use these personality inventories to help us appreciate each other’s differences. This is a valuable relationship service, but it is a team-building cart without a horse.

Today’s scientific literature defines group cohesion on the basis of linked individual and collective outcomes — what causes a group of people to cohere as a unit is not so much their affinity for each other but their affinity for a common outcome (task, result, mission, experience, etc.).

Hence, when people in a group are at odds, don’t automatically assume that personality awareness training will bring them in line. Instead, check their outcome alignment and see if they perceive each other as a credible ally or credible threat.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch

Think about when and how you have bought into these two myths and what you can do different in the future. What do you need to do to prepare yourself?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Teamwork on 03/18/2013 01:03 am
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