Four steps that boost a firm's performance


Nation Media Group (NMG) engage in some skip rope exercises in team building exercises during the launch of NMG Corporate Values held at a colourful ceremony at the Safari Park Hotel. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

In Kenya, we love to utilise team building initiatives to improve organisational performance through team cohesion arguably more than any other country on earth.

As the end-of-year season for organisational team building is currently upon us, thankfully the extreme demand for company team building meets with an excessive supply of team building providers here in our Republic. 

However, contemplate for a moment if your organisation sat down and assessed the results following the team-building initiative you last undertook. 

Did team building prove useful?  More importantly, does the benefit after holding the team building exceed the monetary and time cost of providing it?

Every firm should assess results, but few do so. Most executives are satisfied that at least the staff got together, ran around on the field playing games, shared some meals, and had fun.

The executives, in turn, assume that such fun sharing adds value, even if they cannot pinpoint exactly how.

The painful answer regarding team building is: good team-building initiatives boost firm performance while bad team-building initiatives make performance worse.

Poorly planned and executed team-building programmes may solidify team biases and stereotypes and further entrench already dysfunctional teams.

So, before you engage a team-building consultant, initially pursue the following four steps.

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First, you and your leadership team must decide what you desire to accomplish from the team building. 

Sure, allowing your employees to engage in fun activities seems important, but that is an output and not an outcome. 

To delineate your outcomes, you must first decide what team norms you hope to instil in the team. 

Team norms encompass informal rules and expectations that a team establishes to regulate member behaviours. 

Norms develop through explicit statements, critical events in the team’s history, initial team experiences, and the beliefs and values members bring to the team. 

Managers must manage and often shift the norms that develop in teams.

As the manager, you may desire that the team value punctuality and integrate team norms surrounding on-time arrival for work and meetings.

Another team value that you hope to incorporate as a norm may include integrity.

So, a manager’s first critical step before engaging a team building consultant or implementing team building directly must involve deciding all the norms you hope for your team or teams.

Second, go onto Google and perform a simple “team building activities” search.

If the consultants sending you proposals only contain the basic shallow information that anyone may find through Google, then what value can they do for you? 

Such consultants should be referred to as hacks. Do not engage them lest they often cause more harm than good.

Third, look for depth amid proposals. Team building professionals should assist your employees to understand themselves and their strengths and weaknesses when engaging with their team members. 

Professionals then help team members understand and then solidify their roles on the team and learn how to work with the roles of others on the team.

Fourth, ensure that the consultant intends to create solutions to freeze your group norms, goal setting, problem-solving, and types of interpersonal processes that you decided on in the first step. 

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The team building professional must not assume that they know what you desire to achieve from the sessions.

In terms of specifics, team building professionals may utilise a plethora of techniques to achieve your goals, ranging from role play, pre-event staff questionnaires, statistical analysis on team habits and preferences, skits, movement activities, obstacle courses, intentional debriefing, and proverbial trust falls.

Then, once you conclude your team-building activities, work with the consultant to develop tools to monitor the results of the team-building. 

Do employees report higher job satisfaction on surveys? 

Your team-building consultants should also retain in-depth organisational development knowledge that enables them to build explicit and unobtrusive monitoring techniques.

Managers may also find follow-up team building useful.  Most important, managers during staff meetings and one-on-one coaching should refer back to the team-building activities and highlight memories from those events when making points.