Teambuilding: It’s not just lip service!

Tell them, and they will forget. Show them, and they will remember. Involve them and they will learn.

– Ancient proverb


Our next venture in the 25 Weeks to Building a Successful Organization series is “Cultivating effective teams.” Teamwork, teambuilding, and an understanding of group dynamics—I believe—are fundamental to building an successful organization.  Far too often, we see leaders assemble employees into teams, allocate time lines, and expect high performance and high results. Intentions may be great, however, as many know, building effective teams is no small feat. It is challenging and involved. Group dynamics are complex!

In my research study, Professional Learning Communities and the Effectiveness of the Teams within those Communities, I examined how teams contributed to the institutionalization of collaborative school cultures. Although many published works have argued that team effectiveness was critical to the success of a school, they offered no empirical data to support this view.

In the study, data were gathered from 51 principals and 1,467 teachers in their respective schools. Not surprisingly, the evidence clearly demonstrated the schools exhibiting high levels of collaboration had better functioning teams than their counterparts. This sounded like plain common sense, but the point needed emphasis.

With that in mind, along with a true desire for collaboration as a norm, the leader has to function with a frame of mind that dysfunctional teams cannot be tolerated! Leaving teams in a dysfunctional state not only uproot the aim of building a culture of collaboration, but also eventually wreak havoc in the organization.

Why then do so many organizations fall short in bringing about change through essential teambuilding?

The answer is (drum roll, please):

Far too many people pay no more than lip service to the concept of the effective teams when, in fact, most team members are not schooled in team building techniques.

Knowledge of team building strategies (and group dynamics) may not be widespread. Consequently, the leader must allocate special time to develop and empower capable team leaders, who must be properly trained to facilitate teamwork.

Try this.

  1. First, you must set aside training time to model and speak openly about the team building structures, specific processes, and activities expected in your organization.
  2. Second, your team leaders must faithfully articulate these structures and processes with their own respective team members and implement them.
  3. Finally, you and the team leaders need to, again, regroup to examine findings, present feedback, and discuss the usefulness of the processes.
  4. Repeat step 1—and so on.

Teaching teambuilding is definitely not a one-time workshop. This exercise of teaching team building, having team leaders practice with their respective teams, and coming together for reflection must happen repeatedly. The process has no end because the task of continuously taking teams to a higher plane entails multifaceted study, practice, and reflection.

Try this.

Although there are hordes of teambuilding frameworks out there to help guide teams, I have always found the book, Building Teams, Building People, the most useful. The authors describe 17 characteristics that, when diligently attended to, can serve as a springboard for effective teams. Check it out.

Final Thoughts

If the expectations is high-functioning teams, the leader is responsible modeling successful teams by developing his or her highly effective, collaborative teams within the organization. To facilitate team development, I urge you to acquire a theoretical understanding of group dynamics and the processes necessary for building effective teams. With that understanding in place, you can then translate the information into concrete action via your team leaders. Become the change you want to see (Mahatma Gandhi).

Activities in a nutshell

  1. Teach your team leaders how to work effectively with their own respective teams.
  2. Get your paws on a copy of Building Teams, Building People by Dr. Thomas Harvey and Dr. Bonita Drolet.

Questions for you.

Please take the time to add any additional thoughts, ideas, or processes in the comment box. Do you feel that the teams within your organization are operating at their potential? What role do differences in experiences, personalities, and woldviews play in teams throughout your organization?


Next we will explore “Developing clear targets aligned with organizational and individual values, beliefs, and goals” in our 25 Weeks to Building a Successful Organization series. Hopefully you have spent some time exploring individual and collective purpose with your employees, which was outlined in the post titled, Re-inventing organizational values, beliefs, and goals.


Perry Wiseman, author, Strong Schools, Strong Leaders: What matter most in times of change

Strong Schools Strong Leaders Cover


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