Team Development and Team Building may be complementary approaches, but are often mistakingly used for one another.
Team development and team building are often used interchangeably in the business world, but they are in fact two different concepts. Even the term ‘team building’ is somewhat open to interpretation, as the process of composing and building a team is indeed more of a process integral to longer-term development, yet typically the term ‘team building’ is associated more with single off-sites and games.
While team building activities are focused on improving relationships and communication within a team, nothing wrong with that, genuine team development involves a more comprehensive approach to improving the team's effectiveness and performance over time. At Sabre we nickname this ‘Sustainable Teaming’ TM
True team development focuses on developing a genuine culture, a shared vision and a clear purpose, developing trust and mutual respect, improving communication, identifying and leveraging individual strengths, and fostering collaboration and accountability. It goes far beyond just fun team building activities and superficial exercises that are often used to boost team morale. Genuine team development requires ongoing effort, commitment, and investment from team members and leaders.
The stages of team development whether they be Tuckman’s ubiquitous ‘Form – Storm – Norm – Perform’ or more sophisticated neuroscience models also need to be taken into account to see where a team is at. Managers and leaders benefit from adapting their leadership and communication styles to help teams at different stages. People also have different behavioural operating styles that will thrive or struggle accordingly at various stages of a team’s natural development process.
We successfully use the Belbin Model and its associated profiles and reports with tailored workshops to create genuine cultures, awareness and to pragmatically develop team working relationships and performance. When used in conjunction with other tools and approaches as a team develops it’s a potent way to accelerate a team’s awareness and development process ongoing.
One of the key elements of genuine team development is establishing a shared vision and purpose. When team members have a clear understanding of the team's goals and objectives, they can work together more effectively to achieve them. This involves engaging in open and honest discussions to determine what the team hopes to accomplish and how they plan to get there. It also involves identifying individual strengths and skills that can contribute to the team's success and matching them to real work. Again, we use the Belbin model to identify ways team members can project strength, and contain the impacts of one another’s weaknesses.
Developing trust and mutual respect is another crucial component of genuine team development. Team members need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns with one another without fear of judgment or ridicule. This requires creating a safe and supportive environment where everyone feels valued and heard. It also involves building relationships based on open communication, empathy, and understanding. This is often referred to as ‘psychological safety’ now.
Ironically pseudo psychological safety, that is to say attempts to create openness within a team whilst discouraging certain natural behaviours just because they are not liked, can be counter-productive indeed. Better to allow people to be themselves, strengths and weaknesses in mind here, just aware of managing to limit the ingress of the weaknesses into working relationships and performance. We are increasingly seeing weaker team cultures from leaders trying to superimpose contrived and compliant cultures onto a team instead of looking in an evidence-based way at what’s actually there and developing that culture.
Effective communication is also essential to genuine team development. Team members need to be able to express their thoughts and ideas clearly and listen actively to others. This involves using a variety of communication channels and tools, such as meetings, emails, chat apps, and video conferencing. It also involves practicing active listening skills, such as paraphrasing, clarifying, and asking questions to ensure everyone is on the same page. We use Belbin profiles to help understand how people will differ in the way they impart and receive communication. A common language to talk about teamwork such as Belbin helps to de-personalise clashes.
Identifying and leveraging individual strengths is another important aspect of genuine team development. When team members understand their own strengths and weaknesses, they can work more effectively with others and contribute to the team's success in meaningful ways. This involves conducting regular performance reviews, providing feedback and coaching, and creating opportunities for skill development and growth. A safe and depersonalised way of measuring and talking about strengths and weaknesses is once again where we find Belbin to be a vital tool.
Finally, fostering collaboration and accountability is critical to genuine team development. Teams that work well together are more productive, innovative, and successful. This involves setting clear expectations, establishing roles and responsibilities, and holding team members accountable for their actions and outcomes. It also involves celebrating successes and learning from failures as a team. The idea of building psychological safety, and enhances inter-personal awareness does not remove the need for accountability within business teams, it just makes it more targeted and appropriate to the person’s style and the team culture.
Team Development requires a lot of thinking, evidence-based tools like Belbin and the commitment to see it through. Team Building games and activities at off-sites, conferences and the like may be part of the wider process, but not a replacement for an intelligent approach to real team development.
In conclusion, genuine team development is essential to creating high-performing teams. It requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond simple team building games and exercises. By establishing a shared vision and purpose, developing trust and mutual respect, improving communication, identifying and leveraging individual strengths, and fostering collaboration and accountability, teams can achieve greater success and achieve their goals more effectively.
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