Peter is a recently hired manager in the consulting industry, facing a challenge: his team – if that’s the appropriate name – consists of 7 people, spread over 4 countries. And due to recent restructuring and changes in the organization, it is not really sure they all know each other already, so probably a team kick off or building or something was necessary. They must get to know each other and work together on projects, according to John, Peter’s boss.
Peter realizes that that part of the expectations towards him could have been clarified more in detail during the hiring process. Anyway, it’s a bit late now to mention that. So crafting a team would be one of his main challenges.
What could he do?
- Call each one of them for a one on one first?
- Organize a meeting to see who shows up?
- Explain them ‘his vision’ (provided he has one)?
- First listen to them and their expectations?
- Hope they become a team, or take initiatives towards that goal?
- And what initiatives precisely could he undertake?
Quite worried, he has started reading some articles on team building and team coaching and that made him decide not to take any impulsive initiatives, but to contact his HR manager to ask for some comments, advice and support. That HR Manager was me. I had the honour and pleasure to converse with Peter about his concerns. These are some of the topics we talked about.
Team building literally means the “building” process of a group of people into a team. The attention mainly goes to the roles being held within the team. Very often a trainers choses outdoor-activities that provide challenges the team needs to deal with. The team members will spontaneously take up certain team roles during the process of accomplishing these challenges.
E.g. if you put a group of people on a sailboat, you will quickly be observing who is starting doing what and how: who is taking the lead, who is making sure there’s a good atmosphere, who is coming with solutions, etc.
As of the moment the team has an insight in the available team roles, people will start to really see each other as being different and to experience complementarity in a way that you would probably never do in “normal” working circumstances.
A day of team building typically has an informal character and combines fun with serious activities. It clarifies relations and consolidates involvement among the team members.
Team building also improves the team spirit and challenges team members to see each other in one’s uniqueness and essence. Team spirit grows when the team members become truly convinced that they are more productive working together as a team, than if each one of them would work on their own. You recognize team spirit when you see team members who:
- like being part of the team;
- look forward to collaborate (again and again) with each other ;
- produce humor;
- return to a relaxed state, after more difficult moments.
Team coaching goes beyond team building. Team coaching is not about getting to know each other and each others differences and complementarity. It is about creating awareness about the (invisible, hidden) interaction, communication, relations, possible blocking factors and conflicts among the team members. This can only be effective after the process of team building. This means that there is already team maturity with e.g. the need to integrate new members. Becoming aware of these hidden things is one purpose; breaking through certain ineffective patterns and turning them into effective ones, a second.
Another way to say it:
- Team building clarifies visible, observable roles and their effect. With a metaphor: it stays above the water surface.
- Team coaching clarifies what’s happening under the water surface. It clarifies the invisible, hidden causes of certain ineffective behaviours, interactions or old habits the team members seem to turn around into. How and why precisely do they unconsciously trigger each other to a certain ineffective behaviour ? And how can these patterns be broken through and turned into effective ones ?
What about Peter ?
Through our conversation Peter realized that in a first phase he would have to organize one on one encounters with every team member. And his team members would have to get to know each other during an informal kick off allowing them to (1) physically meet, greet, listen and talk to each other; (2) playfully work together on nice, challenging team building missions; and (3) experience the chemistry of team work through all these activities.
Near the end of the first team meeting, he found a moment to listen to them about their ideas about purpose, goals, projects etc., to share (not impose) his ideas, after having carefully listened.
He suggested continuing physical meetings at regular timings, even though the international character of his team and budgetary realities would not always make that easy. But it was not an option to simply hope that after a first encounter, the group would automatically become a team and stay a team, without any further effort.
He asked me if I could support him as a coach with those eventual further challenges. Of course I accepted.
Peter was quite worried when he started this journey. I had helped him to discover the next steps and gave him a feeling that he was not standing alone in this challenge.