From a client:
Hi, I'm the manager of a mechanical engineering department and late last year we won a contract for a huge contract. Now I supervise some really smart, technically minded people but I had some concerns about their ability to work, communicate and cooperate together as a team, and this project is so big, we really need everybody to be on the same page. So I worked with HR and we scheduled a two day team building off site with a reputable consulting firm.
At first everybody was skeptical but the consultants knew what they were doing. They had some great icebreakers and it seemed more like a friendly get together than work. But we did learn a lot of things and by the end of the weekend I felt that we were clicking on all cylinders.
The problem is that for some reason, everything we learned and all the exercises we did don't seem to have transferred over to the project. I'm being proactive, learning as much as I can to build a team but I just have the sense that our team is falling apart. The project's behind schedule and it's not because of lack of technical expertise... I just don't know what it is... I'm at my wit's end, feel like I'm a failure as a manager and don't know where to turn to.
If you have any insights on how to build a team that I haven't looked into please let me know.
First off I want to say that you're not a failure as a manager; it's obvious how much you care and that you're going out of your way to learn and make things better (which unfortunately is something I can't say for most of the people in your position). The problem isn't you, it's that you haven't been given the information and resources you need to succeed. What you're finding out the hard way is that 'team building' doesn't work.
I'm not saying that relationships, and communication and cooperation aren't important, they most certainly are, but going to a team building workshop... that's like explaining the concept of friendship to two strangers and then expecting them to be friends... it just makes no sense. Great relationships and teams naturally happen when people trust each other, see eye to eye and take responsibility for what's expected of them.
The foundation to all of this is good communication. Think about any of the positive relationships you've had with another person. How often did you communicate and what was the quality of that communication like? Where there's good communication there's trust, respect and responsibility. Groups of people will work together and get through challenges, which build even more trust and bring the group even closer.
Start by getting a better idea of who your people are, their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams. This will take some one on one time but the return on your investment will be well worth it. The more you know your people the more they will trust you, respect you and be inspired by you. The more you know your people the easier it will be to know who to delegate what to and what kind of feedback to give to motivate each person. The more you know your people the easier it will be to solve conflicts and build a team.
So in conclusion:
- Teams can't be built in an artificial environment. Don't waste your money.
- Members of the most effective teams always say how much they trust each other and that they'd do anything for each other.
- Trust comes from we feel that somebody knows who we are and has our own best interests at heart.
Make one-on-one time with your director a priority so you can learn how to:
- Delegate different tasks to different directs based on their strengths and weaknesses
- Make goals and responsibilities clear
- Ask for your director's input when making important decisions
- Give negative feedback in a way that's motivating
- Give positive feedback in a ways that's inspiring, and reward both performance and open communication
Think back to a time when you were part of a really special team that got along and got results. What were one or two behavioral factors that had a major role in your success?