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Build Successful Teams & Relationships

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." –  Eleanor Roosevelt

If you want to build successful relationships with your people, you must be able to project yourself as more than just a person with authority. People need to respect you, not fear you. In the earlier section, empathy and emotional intelligence were discussed lengthily. You will need to use these two to set up a stable foundation for your relationships with your team members. It also starts with having a good relationship with yourself. This means getting to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, the potential for improvement, and how you react in various situations. Once you familiarize yourself with your personality, dealing with other people's personalities will be manageable.

Also, part of building a successful relationship with your team is to find out what motivates each of them to be more productive and find growth and self-fulfillment. No two people are the same.

One of the leader's duties is to make the whole organization productive. Productivity is undoubtedly essential in an organization looking for a competitive and successful edge. Productivity relies on the individual.

And team effort, both of which can be addressed by team building. Team building is supposed to produce a group of individuals that work together to execute different tasks. Trust and formidable team dynamics are needed to complete these tasks. 

What makes the team strong? 

A solid team must have a common goal. A team of members performing distinct functions can be formed, but they must always have one overriding goal to call themselves one team. 

The team members are supposed to do their assigned tasks, but they should depend on the other members to reach the common goal. They will help each other if necessary to realize shared goals. 

Even if they have individual goals, their purposes must be aligned with the common goals. Cooperation should always be ingrained in each team member.

Team building sessions should set up the team goals, recognize issues that hinder the team from achieving those goals, and produce ways for the whole team to reach those goals. 

There are guidelines for setting up teambuilding sessions, but how each session is designed still depends on the size and nature of the organization. 

For example, project-based teams usually change in composition constantly. Given these circumstances, teambuilding activities should focus on each person's skills that will enable them to become influential team members. In a team where membership is permanent, the focus will shift toward how each team member relates to the others. Relationships of the team members with each other will have a direct impact on their productivity. Thus, the nature of the team should be examined before designing a team-building session.

Your team building planning goal should make each team member realize the gravity of their tasks. Each member should also know why they are taking part in the organization. By the end of the team building, they should be reminded of their purpose in the organization.

When planning teambuilding activities, ensure activities are related to the people's tasks. It does not have to be an utterly technical skill but activities that ease team dynamics while employing their skills. 

For example, marketing executives can participate in a teambuilding exercise where they are organized into teams and given a certain amount of money to buy things. TUltimately, the participants must realize that they must think like their customers. hey must make the budget fit without compromising the quality of their items and the time constraints. Ulso, working on this activity in groups will encourage productive brainstorming.

Team building activities should also focus on conflict resolution. 

Various kinds of conflicts will plague the team members and threaten their relationships. Each member must be equipped with the necessary skills in handling disputes to secure a harmonious relationship amongst themselves, their leaders, and the people they deal with regularly. Although a section will be allotted for this, discussing conflict resolution regarding team building is worthwhile.

Conflict is not a total bane in an organization. It can ease the generation of brilliant ideas and strengthen relationships if the conflict is managed well.

Picture credit: Photo by fauxels:

One of the most sensible ways to manage conflict is to improve the communication lines among members of the organization. You may want to divide your team into pairs and let each pair position themselves back-to-back. One person should be holding a piece of paper and pencil while the

Another one holds an image of a shape (definite or abstract). The person holding the picture should describe the form to the person with the pencil and paper, giving out as details as possible. The pairs are given a time limit. Once the timer goes off, the teams are supposed to compare their depiction to the original shape. How did the person with the picture? Describe the shape. Was it described well? Did the person with the paper and pencil draw the image accurately enough? Were there any communication problems? These are the questions that conflict resolution should tackle.

Conflicts usually stem from the lack of trust, a significant team spirit killer. 

You can perform this activity if you are conducting a teambuilding seminar in a vast space. To do this, scatter obstacle objects (e.g., cones, chairs, boxes, blocks, tables) around the room. Again, assign the team into pairs. As a leader, note that this activity is geared towards fixing trust issues.

So, you may want to group two people struggling to trust each other. Blindfold one person and keep the other person out of the "obstacle area.” Put the blindfolded person in the middle of the area and let the other one give instructions to the blindfolded person on how to get out of that area. The blindfolded person cannot talk or speak under any circumstances. The blindfolded person must avoid the obstacles on their way out. Let each pair strategize for minutes before beginning, but only on how to communicate during the game. Do not let them see the area.

Leaders should ease solidarity, even outside team building sessions. 

As a leader, you should be able to find if any barriers are hindering people from working together as a team. Some teams, especially the big ones, tend to split into small cliques and groups. Leaders should be able to keep track of these things and recognize the cause, whether petty or severe. Sometimes, the reason can be as little as different dress codes per department. If this is the cause of conflict, there should be one dress code imposed on all the team members.

This phenomenon is common in large organizations (e.g., the marketing department getting into a conflict with the human resources department, one branch complaining about the head office, etc.). 

Leaders with managerial positions would be tempted to host a corporate social function to eradicate these boundaries, but this plan can backfire if not planned properly. For example, in a casual corporate picnic to which all employees are invited, they might still seek their friends and resort to cliques. Worse, this can start a fight since all the employees are in one venue.

Suppose you want to improve the relationships among members or co-workers. In that case, you can start by finding the barriers or the markers that divide the people before gathering them together in a teambuilding session or a social function. 

List down the specific conflicts amongst the team and work them out with the people involved. For example, cliques in the office could be caused by language and cultural barriers. If this is the case, you can occasionally group people of different races for specific tasks.

Encourage transparency and honesty in different but very highly technical departments too. Sometimes, the rift gets bigger when two diverse groups are assigned to collaborate, but one of them uses jargon terms when speaking to non-experts. Discourage this attitude from the employees, especially the technical personnel.

Team members are more likely to have strong relationships with each other if they have a good relationship with their leader. At the same time, your team is building relationships, guiding, and checking them accordingly. Knowing they have a leader they can consult and understand will make them feel secure and confident in forming relationships with their co-members.

Team building is a continuously ongoing process. Deciding on its success is not done in one sitting. And any organization that looks to stay in top shape should always look to fortify its teams. This cannot be done in just one team-building session. Ultimately, leaders should remember that team building is a long-term process. People usually join an organization hoping to stay, seeking growth and self-fulfillment.

The leader should make it a point to set up team building as a continuous and ongoing process. Setting up a team-building process is futile, only to return to normal activities as if no team-building activities ever took place. Teambuilding activities should be changed according to the members' competencies, strengths, and weaknesses as time progresses. Team building activities should be planned about the fruits of earlier team building sessions. There should never be an assumption that successful team building does not stop with one session. Executive teams and relationships need to be nurtured constantly if they are to remain progressive and stable at the same time.

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