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Online workshop report: practical tips for teambuilding


This is the transcript of the online workshop held on Tuesday 27 February on the subject of tips for teambuilding.

Stephanie Phillips Hi all - thanks for coming along. Tim Pickles is facilitating the workshop today - he'll be along shortly. If we could start with introductions.....I'm the Editor for TrainingZONE. Can you explain briefly what you'd like to get from today's session.
Tim Pickles Hello everyone - welcome to the team building issues workshop - hopefully everyone can give a brief self-introduction ...
Ken I'm a training coordinator with the U.S. Army in Michigan (US).
Kate Kate I work in HE - primarily with student volunteers - and I'm interested to see whether my scepticism about conventional approaches to 'team building' is shared or justifiable.
Qudos Broadley Hi, I am a team trainer and I am after some practical tips on improving the impact of team building sessions.
Tim Pickles Great - that's very helpful. I thought we might look at various team building issues e.g. preparing people for team sessions, favourite methods, awkward situations, etc.
Andy Waterworth Hi, I'm Andy Waterworth and I work for an online learning company, I have worked in T&D for 10 years and have run many outdoor events.
Tim Pickles Can we start with devices which people use with teams before they set up a team development session - what works in preparing people for an effective session?
Qudos Broadley I always find that establishing TRUST at all levels is a key issue during the set up stage.
Ken Usually, I am only given a packet of papers that notifies me that I am on a team - and here are my new friends.
Andy Waterworth I know it's old but I find Belbin's team roles is a useful tool to let individuals and managers know their preferred role.
Paul Duxbury Afternoon all apologies for lateness.
Tim Pickles Hi Paul - the current topic is how we prepare people for team events ...
Louise Jaggs Hello everyone - sorry to be late as well.
Paul Duxbury Hi Tim, thanks.
Qudos Broadley I think I'm talking more about agreeing outcomes, ground rules, who are the stakeholders for the event.
Tim Pickles There are several team 'diagnostic' tools such as Belbin - my experience is that they can be quite useful in providing a theoretical framework for teams, but are limited in the ability to handle many of the inter-personal issues within teams.
Paul Duxbury What is people's experience of attending Team Building events have they felt prepared for them?
Andy Waterworth I think before you start any team building event you have to decide whether it's needed, i.e. what are the outcomes.
Ken The information is ok - but having everyone buy into it is a problem.
Paul Duxbury Ken how do you mean?
Tim Pickles I think Ken's point about 'buy-in' is crucial. Team development events tend to work well where the team is functioning effectively - but where conflicts exist, commitment to work on these issues can be very limiting.
Ken It is evident that there is one who can lead better, one who can organize better, one who is able to do other tasks, etc... but then people become "lazy" for lack of a better work.
Paul Duxbury So are you talking there about the Team itself?
Tim Pickles This takes us back to Quodos Broadley's earlier point - the importance of the tutor in establishing trust with the team.
Ken The short answer is it looks good on paper - but a chain is as strong as it weakest link. One team member can sabotage the process.
Andy Waterworth If a team is working effectively is there a need for team building events? Surely the events should happen when a team is experiencing "problems"?
Tim Pickles The counter-argument is that regular team development sessions can act like a 'health check' for a good team and are worth the investment to avoid bigger issues building up.
Ken But the "storming" phase is a natural part of a team scenario.
Andy Waterworth So how would you get buy in from a disfunctioning team Tim?
Paul Duxbury Do people actually work in a specified team long enough anymore to need "Teambuilding" shouldn't we really be focussed on Interpersonal Skills which can be used in any team environment?
Louise Jaggs Good point Paul.
Tim Pickles Good question Andy - I'll try to identify a few of my ideas ....
Ken My work went as far as to give performance reviews for the team.
Tim Pickles In disfunctioning teams, individuals retreat into 'self-contained' work areas where they don't need to interact with others. In a team development event, you need to explore the consequences of this - for team members and for external clients/customers, etc.
Andy Waterworth I guess some of the issues with teams happen at an organisational level take for an example the dichotomy that companies state they encourage teamworking but pay bonus on individual achievement.
Tim Pickles You also need to work with people to identify the work environment they WANT to work in - and their view of the blockages to working in this way.
Tim Pickles One of the most effective techniques I've found with 'blocked' teams is to spend half a day doing a historical reconstruction e.g. asking the first team member to outline their aims, aspirations and experience when they joined, they allowing each new person to outline their view and experience of the team as it evolved over time - it's about exposing the myths and misunderstandings to see where they began.
Andy Waterworth That's interesting Tim what is a historical reconstruction it sounds like something you would do on an old battlefield with muskets :)
Andy Waterworth What techniques has anybody else used? I'm thinking about physical activities...
Paul Duxbury Has anyone had experiences of things that have gone well when trying to build team cohesiveness and any thoughts on how these can be applied to the new types of teams today?
Ken - Long silence on successes.
Louise Jaggs I've always found that on-going communication is the most effective way to build team cohesiveness.
Tim Pickles I'd be interested to hear people's experience of using outdoor activities for team development. Our recent research indicates that companies intend to continue this format at similar levels to previous years - but I'm not sure what they see as the benefits of outdoor events.
Paul Duxbury What sort of forms can that take Louise? Tim, when I used to run them a few years ago most people seemed to think of them as a nice holiday in a pleasant environment.
Louise Jaggs If you get too wound up in the project at hand it's very easy to forget the individuals involved in it.
Louise Jaggs It's important to keep talking.
Paul Duxbury Are there any ways to avoid that Louise?
Andy Waterworth I think the outdoors can present more opportunities for team working exercises as it is easier to set up exercises on a large scale where all participants need to take part to be successful. Many team building exercises which are classroom-based can be easily completed by individuals. Try doing that with a river crossing.
Tim Pickles That's what concerns me! I agree with taking people away from their usual workplace to focus on team issues; but I'm concerned at the extent to which team members can be put off by either "outdoor activities fear" or "touchy-feely fear" - both have developed mis-conceptions and a bad press.
Paul Duxbury Tim I have a morbid fear of deep water for various reasons and therefore would be more focussed on my fear of that than on developing any managerial or interpersonal skills.
Andy Waterworth As with all things it's a question of balance and focus. There are as many Macho outdoor events as there are tree-hugging sessions. The good ones have a defined outcome and use the outside as a tool, another method of learning.
Louise Jaggs Aren't they all just a tad gimmicky?
Paul Bridges Hello all, sorry to join you so late - technical problems. I am interested particularly in any hints for team building with people that don't often see each other. I run a volunteer mediation services and our group support meeting need some improvement. Any thoughts? I also agree with Tim's point about people being scared of the touchy-feely.
Paul Duxbury Louise I would tend to agree with you - I think the focus on the environment precludes thinking of the outcomes that are required.
Qudos Broadley I find sessions start to get "real" when difficult issues come to the surface.
Andy Waterworth Interesting scared of touchy feely but we must improve our interpersonal skills. How do we bridge that gap?
Qudos Broadley By getting involved.
Tim Pickles There's something interesting here about team development attitudes being related to people's underlying interests. The 'outdoor-man' will opt in to outdoor activity approaches whilst the 'office-woman' may be more resistant. The issue for team development is whether participants should/ought to be involved in something unfamiliar as part of the process.
Louise Jaggs What is people's experience of the REAL benefits of outdoor events - other than a good excuse to get away from the working environment!
Andy Waterworth Isn't every new project potentially different territory?
Louise Jaggs Different territory and different people.
Qudos Broadley I think its very important to move people out of their comfort zones
Louise Jaggs Why?
Paul Bridges My one experience was positive but the exercise was very closely related to our field of work and I think this made the difference.
Paul Duxbury Louise, I have found that the greatest gains come from being away from the office environment and having the opportunity to talk. It is in that talking that honesty starts to be triggered and some of the issues that need to surface start to surface.
Louise Jaggs There's always the pub then!
Tim Pickles The learning comes from something new - but the new is intrinsically risky whilst team development seems to require trust and safety - there's a contradiction here!
Paul Duxbury Tim, absolutely.
Paul Bridges Funny you should say that the best meetings we had have been there - but its not exactly confidential.
Andy Waterworth Don't knock it Louise I believe this is the number 1 team building event in small companies.
Qudos Broadley Agree but if it is done with "trust" people start to see a different perspective.
Paul Duxbury Paul - no, but strange how much you achieve!
Louise Jaggs Don't misunderstand me - I'm no knocking it - I just need a little convincing of its merits.
Paul Bridges How can I take the "pub effect" back to base so that we can do some deeper work? For example, people sharing their own fears and concerns...
Paul Duxbury If teams are more disparate and more remote from each other aren't some of the social activity type events precisely what is needed to build a sense of belonging?
Tim Pickles Several years ago my then employer adopted an interesting approach to team dynamics. We held our regular team meetings, but periodically they were attended by an external facilitator who would interrupt or summarise from time to time to comment on the team processes he was observing. Strange, but illuminating, experience which brought quite a lot into the open.
Louise Jaggs Sounds logical Paul.
Paul Bridges Perhaps, may be as team leader I have a different agenda than the team members?
Andy Waterworth I think the "pub effect" is that people are in an environment where they are used to relaxing. Ask yourself the question is the workplace a place where teams feel relaxed?
Qudos Broadley That's why a facilitator is so important.
Louise Jaggs Good point, Paul B.
Tim Pickles And one issue which arises with pub/social events is the exclusion factor on those who don't want or can't attend.
Paul Bridges If a facilitator is the answer - anyone know one that will work for free!!
Paul Duxbury LOL Paul.
Louise Jaggs Surely that also applies to outdoor events - perhaps to an even great extent.
Qudos Broadley We are back to building inclusive trust again.
Andy Waterworth As we move increasingly towards virtual and remote teams is there a new type of team building where the members never meet?
Tim Pickles Interesting point.
Paul Duxbury Andy that begs the question again - why Team-build?
Louise Jaggs How about organising online team briefings via Training Zone?
Tim Pickles Inter-personal issues become less important, whilst communication and collaboration becomes more important.
Qudos Broadley I disagree I think there is more need for inter personnel relations.
Ken Why make a distinction between collaboration and a team of two?
Paul Duxbury Tim, I agree in part - I think there is a danger that inter-personal issues actually become more accentuated
Paul Bridges I wonder if we can learn anything from the homeworking networks or chat group. Do either of these have a good team feeling and if so how and why?
Tim Pickles The opportunities to run online events with voice communication (not this jerky text chat) is one solution (and we hope to provide that here before Easter).
Louise Jaggs Don't inter-personal skills and communication skills go hand in hand?
Paul Bridges As a mediator I hope so.
Paul Duxbury Paul I certainly find some of the Chat facilities I use very much have a sense of Community.
Paul Duxbury People come together with a common interest and because they want to - what makes that happen?
Paul Bridges Is that because you share a common interest or have you got to know the members?
Paul Duxbury Paul I would think a mixture of the two.
Qudos Broadley Hey sound like good team building stuff.
Louise Jaggs We've cracked it then!
Paul Duxbury LOL Louise.
Andy Waterworth Haven't we all communicated for the last 45 mins? Do we know each other? Do we need to?
Qudos Broadley See you then team, regards, Jack.
Paul Duxbury We have a common interest Andy which is sharing ideas isn't that what today's "teams" are about as well?
Paul Bridges Well okay I don't know if any of you are Arsenal fans but I have learned a bit - for example, Paul D has a sense of humour!
Paul Duxbury Thanks Paul.
Paul Duxbury But seriously, we can actually use very new mediums in ways we hadn't thought about might be a lesson from today?
Louise Jaggs Absolutely.
Paul Bridges So if we have cracked it and we need to have a shared interest and a knowledge of one another , how do we go from a poor team to a good team?
Tim Pickles I'm needing to depart - but thanks to everyone for their debate on this issue. We'll publish the transcript later today on the workshop page. You're welcome to stay chatting if you wish. Thanks to everyone - chat again with you soon.
Paul Duxbury Thanks Tim.
Louise Jaggs Thanks Tim - have a good day.
Andy Waterworth I agree Paul. Just because it's new or different we should try it. I know of at least one company that instead of having team meetings runs an ongoing meeting on the net.
Paul Bridges Thanks Tim.
Paul Duxbury Yes, and using Discussion Threads in teams can create that sense of "talking" that Louise referred to.
Louise Jaggs Bye everyone - my 2.00 p.m. just arrived early.
Andy Waterworth Thanks all. Go make your teams a better place.
Paul Duxbury Take care all, speak soon.
Paul Bridges Bye - nice chatting to you all.
Paul Duxbury And you, Paul.


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