Teamwork is not something that is easy to teach. While you may know certain teamwork principles, it is something that needs to be developed in each team on its own. If you take 5 people from separate organizations and try to put them together into one team, there will be a certain amount of learning that takes place, regardless of how skilled each individual is at teamwork.
When it comes down to it, most of learning to work together as a team is learning to communicate with and trust your fellow team members. When you are creating a team, keep this in mind and try to create an environment where people can learn how to communicate and trust each other.
Often, you can improve your team by creating a temporary environment that requires everyone to learn to communicate and trust each other. Many of the infamous corporate games and simulations help attempt to achieve this. You just have to know what you are trying to accomplish. Corporate games and team building exercises get a bad name when they are done without any particular end in mind. If you don’t know why you are doing them, there are probably better uses of your time.
One of the easiest ways to improve communication and trust is put people in a difficult situation and let them work their way out of it. In day to day business settings, we have a lot of ways to avoid communicating directly or learning to trust each other. You want to look for a situation that doesn’t lend itself to these types of avoidance mechanisms.
Here are a few ideas of ways to help create a temporary environment to help your team grow:
Take an afternoon and go work on something together where it is easy to see what you’ve accomplished. For example, take your team out to paint walls at a local charity. Painting works well because it is easy to see how much you’ve accomplished. Many of our business activities are difficult to quantify, so we are deprived from a real feeling of team accomplishment in our day-to-day work. Painting is also good because it gives people a chance to talk while they paint and get to know each other better outside of work conversations.
Do a ropes course or something similar together. This gets everyone working together in a hands-on way and solving problems. With the right activities, it can really help strengthen the trust in a team. I’m not just talking about the activities where you close your eyes and fall backwards and let another team member catch you. There is a lot of benefit in just forcing people to work through problems together in a different type of setting.
Do one of the survival simulation type games. In these types of simulations, your team has to work together to rank the most important objects to take with them after an airplane crash or similar disaster. The point is that they have to reach a consensus about what items to take, and they aren’t allowed to just take a vote and go with the majority. This forces people to explain themselves and helps them work through conflicting opinions.