I’ve always believed you can define factors that influence team success that are centered on “healthy team fundamentals”, like trust, fruitful conflict, accountability… but the element that creates great team chemistry was more of an art form, made up of too many factors to predict or train. However I’ve recently come across an article “The New Science of Building Great Teams”, that claims you can predict the success of a team based on the manner in which a team communicates.
“At MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, we have identified the elusive group dynamics that characterize high-performing teams—those blessed with the energy, creativity, and shared commitment to far surpass other teams. These dynamics are observable, quantifiable, and measurable. And, perhaps most important, teams can be taught how to strengthen them.”
The full article is worth the read, however here are the key elements that appear to predict high performance teams:
- Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.
- Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
- Members connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader.
- Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
- Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.
Evaluate your team based on these 5 criteria and where individual traits are impacting the results focus on coaching the individual to grow/stretch their skills. If the overall environment isn’t conducive to promoting these behaviours then perhaps physical changes to the work place set up could make a difference.
Is team building an art or a science? If it truly can be treated like a science you can improve productivity of your team immensely by teaching the skills and creating the environment to create great teams and that sounds like its worth the effort!
Toronto Team Building Coach
In a recent article, identifying the top words of the year by Webster’s Dictionary, “Culture” was the most searched word of 2014, a staggering 100 Million look ups per month! Why all the interest in culture? You can copy technology, process and product, but you can’t copy team culture you have to cultivate it and that involves intention and action.
What better way to help create a positive culture for the team than to start off the year with a team building event! We offer many great indoor options for the winter months. Set the tone for a great year and help cultivate an inclusive, positive culture for your team.
Check out the full article for the other top words of the year: Culture – 2014 Word of the year.
Toronto Team Building Coach
Best practice: A process or a methodology that represents the most effective way of achieving a specific objective.
The key reason why we don’t see more best practice sharing across teams is often a fundamentally different perspective on what constitutes the “best practice”. When working with groups to help build or improve team performance, one of my key focus areas is to help team mates understand each others different perspectives.
Having a best practice at an individual preference level would defeat the purpose, however if we take it down from an overall best practice to each of the four core workplace personalities we can gain great insight as to how each personality would define “best”. After working through at the workplace personality level you are able to have each workplace personality define “best”. With this insight, teams can then build from the common ground to then make some comprise and adjustments to have a “holistic best ” practice that all four workplace personalities can work with.
We work with groups in our True Colours Workshops to fully explore the four workplace personalities to understand the differences but you can have your team self declare at a high level into each of the four descriptions presented here and then follow these steps to help work through an improvement opportunity:
- Identify the opportunities for improvement. (I recommend staying away from HR recommendations for your initial attempts)
- Separate the team into each workplace personality and ask them to stack rank the opportunities.
- list and number the opportunities
- provide each group with post it notes to put them in order from the most important to least important
- Select the best opportunity to work through.
- look at each groups top priorities and try to find something that is important to all 4 groups
- Again break out into primary workplace personality groups to work through their “best” practice.
- Regroup to determine the overall “holistic best” practice.
- Repeat as time permits during the session.
Working through workplace processes in this manner will not only end up with improvements identified, it is actually a great team building experience to help each team member understand their team mates better.
Team Building Coach
The reality is human nature is a powerful thing and no matter how social or antisocial you consider yourself, almost everyone has people at work that they “like” and people they “don’t like”. Asking co-workers that don’t “like” each other is definitely swimming up stream when trying to build effective teams. My goal as a facilitator of team building is not to have everyone “like” each other so much they want to start connecting socially outside of work, however my goal is to at least move critical team members to a position where they “respect” each other.
Even focusing on respect as the ultimate goal between team members, the likeability factor comes into play. This is why during our adventures we focus on two key elements, first; building social bonds through having a fun shared experience and secondly; delivering facilitated training that allows team mates to better understand each other. Our focus is on zeroing in on the four different workplace personalities that are based on Carl Jung’s Personality Types.
Over the coming weeks I will be profiling specific training focus areas to become more productive and effective as teams. Creating insight into the different personality preferences that can lead to a better understanding of team mates, which translates to a higher degree of respect for differences and hopefully increases the “likeability” of team mates. They include:
- The annual planning process
- Sharing best practices across the team.
- Managing change
- Managing projects
If you have other specific training focuses you need for your team, let us know and we could develop a custom program or add it to our roster of available training programs.
With the summer now in full swing, downtown Toronto is a great place for your team to get out and about and enjoy a day of fun and learning.
Our Toronto Team Building adventures are differentiated from the run of the mill team building programs with high quality in both the activities themselves and in the delivery of the event. Challenge the team, interact with actors and have fun: Key benefits include:
- Inspire a mindset of creative thinking
- Build social bonds during a fun activity
- Recognize the value of working as a team
But don’t just take our word for it, here are verbatim comments from a couple of recent Toronto Team Building clients:
“Thanks again for such a great event. Everyone here is still talking about it 2 days later! I think I’ll most definitely be calling you again for another event in the future. It was so well organized, your staff were fantastic and it was such a great way for all of us to bond. It’ll probably be the only team building event that our staff will cheer for in the future!” Meagan Fritsch – Figure3
“I just wanted to say thank you very much for yesterday! Everyone had a fantastic time, and are still talking about all your amazing puzzles. We really appreciate all the work you put into it.” Brin Snelling – Detour Gold
We customize your adventure to your preferred starting and ending location within each of our Toronto routes; Bloor Yorkville, Toronto Harbourfront, Entertainment District, St. Lawrence Market District and the Downtown Core.
Contact us today to get your team event in motion!
We’ve partnered with app developer Mapdash to create an enhanced digital version of our Classic outdoor Toronto Team Building adventure. This tablet/smartphone based event allows us to expand the boundaries of our creative challenges by adding a GPS component to your adventure.
Photos, real time scoring, maps, and challenges all are seamlessly integrated into the game interface, providing for a simple and intuitive adventure experience. But while the technology will impress you, it is still our special brand of creative puzzles that makes this new adventure stand apart.
Contact us today to find out more about this exciting new addition to the Conundrum Adventures product set.
Asking your team to reflect on their performance can be a daunting task, not to mention fraught with land mines that people are cautiously stepping around to ensure they don’t blow things up! But if your group is in need of a “team tune up”, then having a structured approach can help. Here is a great article written by Giant Leap Coaching that could be the basis of a team discussion, to really get to the heart of issues. The article talks about the difference between workgroups and teams.
It covers off key elements of successful teams but also distinguishes between workgroups on one end of the spectrum that are more about people being assigned to tolerate each other versus true teams that embrace team elements and ultimate deliver better results. The article discusses how to put the 5 questions to work during a simple team exercise.
It looks like an effective way to flush out how the team feels about their environment and potential areas for improvement. Although the assessment is to be completed anonymously, be prepared if tensions are particularly high to manage the outcome. As a manger of a group, you need to be responsible to guide the discussion along productive lines, if personal challenges are surfacing be sure to take those off line to ensure the individuals resolve the issue rather than it being labelled as an overall team concern. Individual conflict can be at the heart of teams not functioning at top performance but are best resolved privately than as an overall team issue.
Toronto Team Building Coach
Tanveer Naseer has recently written a wonderful post on the benefit of truly embracing diversity in the workplace. To demonstrate the point he identifies 4 words found in languages from around the world that have great power and meaning. I’d like to explore each of those words to see how we could utilize the true meaning of each. This exercise can then enhance team performance by utilizing it as a simple team building activity. The first word is “Meraki” a Greek word that means “doing something with soul, creativity, or love”; that you’re able to put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing.
How each workplace personality responds to that definition will be quite different. However, all of us can relate to doing something that has real impact and something that we can fully engage with to feed our own personal sense of satisfaction. A simple team exercise for your next team meeting would be to define the phrase and ask each individual to spend some time writing down 1 thing that they could do in the following month that they would say would meet this definition as they understand it. Then have each individual share their objective and why it is important to them and what is it that would make them feel so connected to it.
The benefits of this exercise would be two fold, you would have new ideas for improvement being discussed and implemented, but it would also give you a great opportunity to understand your team mates better and what is truly important to them. As the manager of the group it will give you great insight into your staff and how you can, when possible send projects there way that will address their key motivations.
Would love to hear your feedback on items the group has discussed and the impact it has made on the team.
Toronto Team Building Coach
Many of us have a very specific view on leadership, that is shaped from early on in our careers. This TED talk from Drew Dudley asks us to challenge that view and instead of making it a formal checklist or a standard that equates to “leaping tall buildings in a single bound” to think about how we can impact another person in small but meaningful ways.
Take the challenge to improve your team performance by helping build team mates confidence in their leadership skills by sharing with them how they have impacted your career/performance. This action has double benefits, demonstrating your own leadership skills by enhancing their understanding of their contributions to the team.
Toronto Team Building Coach
This is the 2nd in a series focused on improving your team skills by identifying one thing that you can change/improve for 30 days. Approaching changes from a “30 day challenge“perspective allows us to tackle small changes with meaningful results.
To determine what areas to focus we need to keep in mind many of us have great skills and often those skills that are our greatest strengths also become our greatest weaknesses in managing relationships. For example if we have great skills at being organized and structured, we likely have a very difficult time when situations arise that we are unable to have the structure and order we prefer. In that vein the preferences extent to connecting with our team mates. We intellectually recognize that different skills sets are required on a team to really achieve great performance, but its these differences that cause great angst when peoples different preferences put a strain on relationships. The original post in January identified 4 areas that you could choose from to improve your skills. With 30 days of practice under your belt you should be ready for one more “new skill” or “modification of your behaviour” to help improve those skills.
Here are your 4 choices for your 2nd, 30 day challenge:
- Let someone else speak first – if your normal tendency is to speak up first, for 30 days try letting someone else have the first word. It doesn’t mean you disengage from the group and don’t speak it means you just take a breath and let someone speak first. This will allow others on the team the opportunity to speak up more and also allow you to hone your listening skills. When we are in discussions with a team, if we always speak first we also tend to dominate the conversation. Being conscious of not speaking first will help you focus on hearing what others have to say.
- State your opinions – if you like to hold back your ideas to hear what the rest of the team has to say first, try being the first one to articulate your position. This doesn’t mean you abandon your listening skills, but likely you don’t state your own opinions often and clearly enough to let the group know you do have strong opinions and can be decisive. Having the ability to adjust our own perspectives based on others valid input is definitely a valuable team skill, however some team members may need to see a more decisive side of you to ensure they understand the value of compromise. When you compromise your ideas without even sharing your original perspective, others may not give you credit for your ideas and any compromises you have made.
- Eliminate sarcasm for a month – it may seem harmless enough to you, but odds are if you have been called sarcastic more than a couple of times in the last week its a bit too much a part of your repertoire. Become more aware and when possible opt to eliminate it. The effort alone will not go unnoticed and after the 30 days you will likely use it more sparingly just by becoming more aware of how often you utilize it in your communication with team members. If you would like to read more about the potentially destructive aspects of using sarcasm, refer to this earlier post.
- Do something just for the fun of it– Dive into an activity with abandon. Forget about schedules and duties for the moment and allow yourself to fully participate. Instead of questioning whether the activity is productive, logical or responsible, ask if it would bring you joy. Take this more lighthearted approached when dealing with some team interactions this month even on things that are productive and logical and you will experience a different connection to the team.
As with your previous 30 day challenge, now that you have selected one item that resonates to improve your team skills, do the following:
- Write it down.
- Commit to at least one other person, what you have decided to focus on for 30 days.
- Write down in bullet points, the areas that you can see it impacting your behaviour/routines for the next 7 days.
- After 7 days, jot down your successes and add any new opportunities to implement you see coming in the next week.
- Repeat till the end of your 30 day challenge!
Don’t forget to engage your team members to also take the challenge, with everyone on the team working to improve, the team results should soar!
I welcome feedback on key things you have identified that significantly contribute to your effective team skills, to help build the repertoire of key skills to be developed.
Toronto Team Building Coach