Is building trust about doing fun activities together – the kind that often passes off as “team building” in many offsite meetings? If you have been for one of those, then read this…
He was the new boss. He had just joined the business and was dismayed to see that he had inherited a team that was dysfunctional to say the least. While the team members displayed great bonhomie in public. Yet, the members of the team would say nasty things about each other behind their back. It was hard to get agreement on anything. The team spent hours debating the ideas and delayed every project. If at all they were forced to choose some options, they would give it a half hearted push. Their peers returned the favor in course of time.
“I have just taken over as the head of this team. Most of the fellows have been with the company forever. They will never agree on anything. It is like herding cats. When I have brought in people from outside, the same fellows will gang up to make the new hire fail. I need some team building done. You know the usual stuff … trust falls and the whole nine yards.”
I was trying to understand the background of the C-Suite. The new boss continued…
“We can go to some place close by and put them up in a golf resort. Did you know that I have won golf tournaments. I invite people to play golf with me. Good golfers are great people to have in the team.”
“That tells me something about them. But no worries… I will teach them. It can give me great insights about their learning agility.”
“Why golf? Lets teach them how to play a musical instrument. That will be a level playing field.”
“Nah, I hate music. It is too hard to learn an instrument in a short while. How long will you take? I am going to bring them together for a day. There is a business review to be done. But you can take an hour or maybe even the first half of the day to build the team.
I told him, “If I could do it in half a day, I would be very rich and famous as someone who could pull off a miracle.”
“I could tell you some great games. I was the trust walk … the other was … never mind. You should know all these games. Useful stuff. It keeps it light. Nobody wants to listen to anything serious…”
Does having fun together build trust
Anyone who runs team building workshop has gone through this kind of a conversation. For everyone who wants to run a team building workshop, may I suggest that you listen to Adam Grant’s podcast. It answers some basic questions about team building workshop design and comes from the podcast.
Q: My team does a monthly lunch. We have a beer bash every Friday. Is that a fun way to build a team?
Answer: That sounds like fun. But that may not be getting the team to become more effective. Strong bonds are built in the most challenging situations. In the office parties people don’t really mix. They hang around with people they already know. When people meet after an interval, they have to start again. Trust building exercises need 10-11 days of being together. It gives time for colleagues to know each other’s “stress triggers” and competencies. Being able to predict who we can rely on for what builds trust.
Q. We did some “Trust Falls” (where one team member pretends to fall and a colleague prevents the fall). Does that work?
A. Many of these exercises show fake vulnerability. They do not work. Being able to find similarities (especially rare similarities) creates bonds.
With colleagues we are afraid of showing our vulnerability. We wait till we trust someone before showing the chinks in our armor. In reality, being vulnerable builds trust. Real vulnerability comes from solving a high stakes problem together. Example: Mountain climbing. Survival depends on collaboration.
Q: Forget the warm fuzzy feelings, what is the business case for running a 10 day team building workshop?
A: Having stronger bonds and trust between team members lets the team work with trust and be agile. It builds speed in the team because we know no matter what we do, the other team members have our back.
What are some ways you have built trust in teams?
You can use “ORIGIN STORIES” to build trust. If you don’t know how that works, listen to the podcast
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