09 May Five tips to avoid failure in teamwork
SIMON MCAULIFFE – DIRECTOR
BBA TRAINING – 20 YEARS OF TEAM DIRECTION
As much as any individual wants to think they can do everything themselves, for real benefit, a team is needed and with that great teamwork. There is a lot of justification within the saying “many hands make light work” and a good team enables you to be productive both as a group and as an individual.
Over the past two decades, I have seen the transformation of teams. It is very important that leaders grasp the fact that Millennials are going to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, meaning today’s teams are more dispersed, digital, and diverse. But while the collective faces new challenges, their success still depends on a core set of fundamentals that make a team a good team.
Here are 5 tips to avoid failure in your teamwork.
TELL A STORY
Say what?? This is great, let me explain.
There is a fantastic study that was carried out by Uri Hasses, a professor at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute that studied the mechanics and responses behind conversations. It discovered that a speaker’s brain waves generate a sound wave that influences the brain waves of the respondent and brings them into alignment. It is called brain coupling and the stronger the coupling the better the mutual understanding.
I have used this with many teams. After defining their strengths and personalities, I then created an exciting and relevant story based around them. A true driver of employee performance is storytelling and can make the members feel, think, and respond like the characters in that story.
LISTEN TO ONE ANOTHER
I know this might seem like a simple tip, but amazingly if I were to pick one thing in my experience that is detrimental to good teamwork, it is the inability to listen to each other. Two ears and one mouth and yet the amount of talking rather than listening that occurs is astounding. This has also been validated by the great folks at Google. They conducted a ten-year long experiment to discover the ingredients needed to make the perfect team. After millions of dollars and considerable man-hours, they discovered the key to success within teams are when members show sensitivity, and most importantly, listen to one another. They really should have hired BBA, it would have been a fraction of the cost!
UNDERSTAND THE END RESULT
It is so easy to fall into the roundabout of your own thoughts and very little productivity and a team must get out of this space quickly. Their immediate surroundings such as the personnel and their environment can become the premier thought process and if they don’t like either, by god, they will let the others know about it. Remember the story tip, well this applies here and if the story is negative, it soon catches on. What is very important is that from the beginning, which is the Forming Stage, the focus is put firmly on the goal – the end result! This needs to be expressed and explained constantly. Roles and actions must always be on the path to the end result.
TECHNOLOGY ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH
Businesses around the globe are investing in the latest and greatest technology. This is not a bad thing, on the contrary. I love technology and believe that it has enhanced our lives tremendously. What I have found though is that through the incorporation of technology, industries are forgetting about their most important communication tool and asset – their employees. The amount of project management, communication, and CRM tools that companies use to increase communication and yet in a recent study 86% of employees and executives cite ineffective communication for workplace failures show us that something is not adding up. This figure is not surprising though.
Leadership and management have absolutely grasped technological communication but most are failing with human communication. A communication tool that we always use in BBA Training is the Forté Team Pulse Report. An industry that has been around for over 4 decades and specializes solely on validated human communication, their Team Pulse Report is a powerful and insightful team coaching tool that accelerates team performance through better communication and interdependencies. Remember teams are not made from technology, they simply use it. Knowing how to have great human interactions, communication, and relationships are far more valuable than any storage, processing and information flow within an organization.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Think about it, unless the members of your team have grown up playing team sports, their experience of working together with a winning attitude would be very, very little throughout their lives. This is where practicing how to be a good team member comes into play and it is up to management to ensure that this happens. It is a rookie mistake to just put a team together based on their skill set and experience and not validate how this team is going to function together. So how do you practice? Team exercises and my advice would be to do this every Friday for up to 2 hours and once every 3 months have a team building day. This may seem like a lot but I guarantee you, the productivity will soar! Existing and new members will bond and develop relationships that will trickle into their productivity and collective as a group.
Take a look at 6 team building activities that I use with teams and if you would like more, head over to Workamajig who have a huge list to pick from;
1. Code of Conduct
This team building exercise is based around shared values and creates the core values and code of conduct for that team.
Materials needed: Whiteboard, whiteboard markers, sticky notes
Number of participants: 10-30
Duration: 30+ min
Objectives: Build mutual trust, establish group values.
How to play
1. On a whiteboard, write down the words “Meaningful” and “Pleasant”
2. Ask everyone in the group to shout out what will make this workshop meaningful and pleasant. Alternatively, ask them to write their ideas on sticky notes.
3. Record each participant’s suggestion in the form of a mind map.
4. For each suggestion, ensure that all participants have the same understanding of the idea. If not, change the suggestion until it has consensus from all participants.
5. Go through each suggested item and ask participants how they would ensure that the idea is carried out during the workshop. Record these on the whiteboard in sticky notes.
6. All ideas mutually agreed on as being “pleasant” and “meaningful” make up the Code of Conduct for the group. The group has the responsibility to uphold this code through the remainder of the workshop.
For any team building activity to be successful, the team has to have a few common values and beliefs about what makes a successful team meeting. Establishing these values early in the workshop/team meeting can make the rest of the workshop run much smoother.
2. Campfire Stories
A classic activity that inspires storytelling and improves team bonding. Teams gather in a circle and share their workplace experiences. Along the way, they learn things about each other and relive old memories.
Materials needed: Whiteboard, whiteboard markers, sticky notes
Number of participants: 6-20
Duration: 45 minutes
Objective: Informal training, encourage participants to share, and establish common experiences
How to play
1. Create a set of trigger words that can kickstart a storytelling session. Think of words like “first day”, “work travel”, “partnership”, “side project”, etc. Add them to sticky notes.
2. Divide a whiteboard into two sections. Post all sticky notes from above on one section of the whiteboard.
3. Ask a participant to pick out one trigger word from the sticky notes and use it to share an experience (say, about his/her first day at the company). Shift the chosen sticky note to the other side of the whiteboard.
4. As the participant is relating his/her experience, ask others to jot down words that remind them of similar work-related stories. Add these words to sticky notes and paste them on the whiteboard.
5. Repeat this process until you have a “wall of words” with interconnected stories.
Storytelling is at the heart of the community experience. It is also how information gets passed on informally. A storytelling session focused on work-related stories can get a large group to loosen up and share their experiences.
3. Low-Tech Social Network
Map the connections between team members on a whiteboard. Teams create their “avatars”, then draw lines to show how they know other team members. This can work great as an ice-breaker at events where teams don’t know each other well.
Materials needed: Whiteboard, whiteboard markers, index cards, tape
Number of participants: 5-50
Duration: 30 minutes
Objective: Introduce participants to each other and establish relationships between them
How to play
1. Give participants markers, index cards, and tape. If possible, use markers of different colors.
2. Ask participants to draw their “avatar” on the index card – their “profile picture” on this social network, so to say. Add their names and positions to each card as well.
3. Stick each avatar card on a large whiteboard. Make sure to leave plenty of room between each card.
4. Ask each participant to draw lines to avatar cards of people they already know in the room. Also, specify how they know them (“worked on a project together, “lunch buddies”, “went to the same college”).
This “social network” works best when you’re dealing with people who don’t know each other. Establishing the relationships between them will break the ice. It will also help others map connections between participants for the remainder of the event.
4. Back of the Napkin
Draw the solution to a problem on the back of a napkin, like all entrepreneurs of legend. Teams will have to work together and solve problems creatively for this game to work.
Materials needed: Whiteboard, Napkins, pens
Number of participants: 6-24, divided into teams of 3-4
Duration: 10-20 minutes
Objective: Promote unconventional thinking and teamwork
How to play
1. Come up with a bunch of open-ended problems. These could be related to your business, an imaginary product, an environmental problem, etc.
2. Divide all players into teams of 2 to 4 players – basically, what you would see in a team of startup co-founders. Ideally, these would be people who’ve never met or worked together.
3. Give each team a folded napkin and a pen.
4. Ask the teams to draw a solution to the problem as a flow chart/sketch/graph on a whiteboard. Evaluate all solutions and pick the best one.
Optional: Offer prizes to the best solution
The “back of the napkin” is where so many great product and startup ideas first came into being. This simple team-building exercise replicates this tiny canvas, giving participants something fun to do while promoting teamwork and outside-the-box thinking.
5. Office Trivia
Sometimes, you need a quick activity to break the ice and get people involved in an event. Asking relevant “trivia” questions about your workplace works well in such situations. This game doesn’t require any equipment or significant preparation. It can also be held indoors or outdoors, with small teams or large teams, making it a flexible option for team building.
Materials needed: Question cards, prizes
Number of participants: Any
Duration: 30-60 minutes
Objective: Get people engaged and improve team bonding
How to play
1. Come up with a list of trivia questions related to your place of work. Questions like “What does the poster in the cafeteria say?”, “How many people named ‘John’ work in the IT department?”, “How many people work in the accounting department?”, etc.
2. Write all questions and their answers on index cards.
3. Ask questions to the whole group and solicit answers out loud.
4. The participant who gets the most answers right wins at the end.
Optional: To make it more competitive, consider dividing participants into teams and adding ‘buzzers’ for each question.
Your workplace is the one thing common to all members of the team. The objects and people in your office tie your team together. A game like this is not only fun and easy to run, but also highlights the things common to everyone in the room, improving team bonding.
6. Back-to-Back Drawing
This fast, fun activity is a quick take on Pictionary. You can do it outdoors or indoors, though the physical nature of this activity makes it more suitable for relaxed outdoors environments. Use it as an interlude between longer activities or at the very start of the event to get people in a relaxed state.
Materials needed: Stock images, paper, pens
Number of participants: 6-20 people
Duration: 30 minutes
Objective: Improve communication skills
How to play
1. Head to your favorite stock photography site and print a number of vector shapes on separate sheets of paper. These can be shapes of signs, objects, or even abstract shapes. Think “Statue of Liberty”, “Formula 1 car”, etc.
2. Divide participants into teams of two people each. Make them sit back-to-back.
3. Team Member A gets a pen and a sheet of paper. Team Member B is given one of the printed shapes.
4. The objective of the game is for the Team Member A to draw the shape using only verbal instructions from Team Member B. B cannot state what the object is; he/she can only describe its uses or give instructions on how to draw it.
5. Give each team 2 minutes to draw the shape.
6. Teams that get the most shapes right win.
This game focuses on communication skills – giving and listening to instructions. At the end of each game, evaluate what went wrong, what went right while communicating. This is not only great for getting people involved, but it can also highlight flaws in how your team members communicate verbally.
Keypoints to take away; Develop a story based around your team – Learn to listen to each other – Focus on goals and roles – Invest in your people and not just technology – Create a culture of teamwork through teambuilding.
Connect with Simon – email@example.com – 0872774122