Most of us in this biz are aware of the importance of effective teams. Many of us have done teambuilding. I think of teambuilding as helping team members better communicate, relate, appreciate, and work with one another. Effective teams with interdependent team members is an important aspect of accountability…
It is teaching the soft skills and helping people understand interpersonal dynamics that allow people to build trust, form tight bonds, and create a sense of commitment and obligation. I learned how to do this many, many years ago while a consultant with University Associates.
Today, teambuilding seems to be fading away. Companies don’t want to spend time or money on in-person events. Everything is moving to the Web. I know some very bright people who are creating virtual spaces where teambuilding is done online. Participants interact through avatars. As intriguing and fascinating as that is, it’s not the same thing as people interacting with one another in person and observing body language, facial expressions, and the forming of bonds.
I bring this up because teams are vitally important to effective accountability. The research is very clear. Even though organizational expectations are clearly articulated and reinforced by managers and supervisors, it’s the daily, close interactions within teams that have the greatest effect on behavior. Teams are most likely to predict when and where accountability forces are formed and to be the strongest. It’s been demonstrated time and again that organizational policies will not be anywhere near as salient as work group pressures generated from team norms and expectations enforced by the team members themselves.
Perhaps you’ve heard of “organizational citizenship behaviors”. These are the voluntary efforts of employees that exceed what’s written in job descriptions, go above and beyond what is required, and are done so because of an internal commitment to team members. You’ve probably seen this or even done it yourself. There’s something inside you that drives you to take the extra effort.
I’m one of those types. I’m internally driven to do really great work. I may not always do that, but I try. I’m sure many of you are the same. But, what really gets me going is knowing that others are depending upon me. I work the hardest, am the most creative, and produce the best work, when others count on me to do so. It’s that “others” element that adds juice to my giddyup.
Tightly knit, closely bonded teams of coworkers generate internal feelings that lead to OCB. Accountability is the strongest in these types of teams. If you truly want to have employees that not only do well, but feel obligated to do well, then you need to do all you can to build the relationships within and among your teams. And in my 40+ years of experience, live face-to-face teambuilding is the place to do it.
Finally, it’s important to recognize that effective teambuilding is an art, a craft. It requires exceptional facilitation skills, deep understanding of group dynamics, group processes, and psychology. It is not training. It is not just learning communication skills or playing games. It’s dealing with emotions, beliefs, and attitudes. It is difficult, yet extremely rewarding work.