Team Building is one of those emotive terms. It conjures up images of executives either building bridges out of logs somewhere in the highlands of Scotland, while being bawled out by a former sergeant-major, or else having heart-to-heart conversations about their ‘issues’ with each other in what one HR Director I know called “a festival of inappropriate disclosure”.
It doesn’t have to be like that, though, and I am a believer in team coaching for many of the reasons given in this article. As the author says, you can get so far by coaching individuals but there are some ‘roadblocks’ that need to be dealt with by the team as a whole.
I would add another roadblock to the six that Doug Riddle identifies. It’s the silo mentality. In organisations with the silo mentality, when you get chatting to an executive and ask him how he gets on with his team, he almost always talks about himself and his direct reports, rather than his peers on the executive management team. These managers come to the executive meetings not as members of the team but as representatives of their various functions and business units. The suggestion that they, along with their peers, should be collectively managing and leading the business instead of just looking at their own bit of it is, surprisingly, a revelation to many managers. Usually, it’s not because they are being deliberately territorial, it’s just that it hasn’t occurred to them to do anything else.
Often, that simple shift in understanding what the executive meetings are for and what the members role in them should be can lead to changes in attitudes and behaviours. When you reach that level of the business, you are no longer just a functional specialist, you are a business manager too. Sitting in a meeting and zoning out until your bit comes up for discussion is not just lazy, it’s a neglect of your duty as a senior executive. It’s also a lot more fulfilling to manage the business rather than just be, say, the IT Director.
In my experience, getting management teams to shift from this silo attitude to one of a joint approach to managing the business can only be done through team coaching because the whole team needs to sign up to the new way of doing things.
None of this is to say that team coaching is the cure-all for dysfunctional teams. It isn’t and, as Dan McCarthy warns, “it’s never effective to try to use team development to address individual performance problems!”
Alas, I have seen this happen too. An executive team sits in an off-site meeting discussing any number of issues, while the one it needs to tackle, and keeps avoiding, is whether some of the team members should be there at all. It is often in situations like this where team events become, as Dan says, excruciatingly painful.