In today’s tight labor market and challenging economic environment, it’s more vital than ever to not only attract great employees but also keep them engaged. So what’s the secret to building and maintaining extraordinary teams?
According to Harvard Business Review:
“When it comes to building extraordinary workplaces and high-performing teams, researchers have long appreciated that three psychological needs are essential: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Decades of research demonstrate that when people feel psychologically fulfilled, they tend to be healthier, happier, and more productive.”
Of those three needs, relatedness—connection to others—is the most challenging for organizations to develop. The difficulty has been compounded as organizations have moved to remote and hybrid work models since March 2020.
The HBR article lists several things that high-performing work teams do differently which help to foster connection, including being more strategic with their meetings; bonding over non-work topics; and giving and receiving recognition.
Professional development trainers and team building facilitators can help in all of those areas. Here’s how to recognize the need and then use those resources strategically to help create and sustain high-performing work teams.
Signs of Trouble
Obviously, any falloff in team performance is a source of concern worth investigating. Employee complaints are another sign of trouble, whether those relate to coworkers, tasks, strategy, the work environment, or other issues.
However, if those complaints are followed up by an acknowledgement of the employee’s role in the problem, and ideas for solving it, that’s actually a positive sign. It shows that the employee is engaged, concerned, thinking about the issue, and taking at least part of the responsibility for making things better.
Silence can be more dangerous than complaining, according to Roy Charette, a leader in the fields of team building and professional development training, and managing partner at Best Corporate Events, “A key sign of trouble is disconnectedness. When employees stop caring enough to complain or identify what’s wrong, they just go silent. That’s a big red flag.”
If you’re seeing any signs of performance or engagement issues, it’s vital to look for ways to build or rebuild that sense of connectedness among team members.
How Team Building Creates Connections
Team building activities can help any work team to do those things that high-performing teams do differently, as identified above, even in hybrid and remote work environments.
Be more strategic with meetings: Professional development programs like our in-person Meeting Management workshop or online Conducting Better Virtual Meetings program equip your team leaders to run meetings that are more effective, productive, and valuable for everyone involved.
Bond over non-work topics: Every type of team building program creates memorable shared experiences, particularly corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, which have a profound emotional impact on participants.
That common experience is one type of shared interest, which “fosters deeper liking and authentic connections” per HBR. Organized team building events develop relationships that lead to more ad hoc employee conversations and gatherings.
Professional facilitators explain to managers how to bring the energy and enthusiasm of team building activities back to the work environment. This is even more effective when combined with personality assessments and leadership training workshops.
Give and receive recognition: Per the HBR article, “recognition is often a more powerful motivating force than monetary incentives.” Recognition, appreciation, and acknowledgement are key elements in team building activities.
Roy shared a remarkable story about the power of team building for recognition and connectedness: “One of the nicest compliments I ever received was at the end of a workshop, when a woman came up to me and said, ‘I wasn’t going to attend this workshop because, unknown to my boss and everyone here, I was planning to leave the company tomorrow. I had my resignation paperwork all written up. But after what I just did with my team, I’m staying.’
“And she stayed. She told her team a year later that she had planned to quit that week but then changed her mind, and that the impetus was the workshop I had led, because she had so much fun with her team. She hadn’t thought that was possible anymore, but it happened. And then she hired me to work with her team again. That’s a great compliment.”
Programs for Creating High-Performing Teams
Any of our professional development programs are excellent for building team effectiveness and cohesion. Options include:
Competition to Collaboration®: This is a unique series of team collaboration activities with a powerful message of organizational synergy. This engaging session will impart to your group coaching and mentoring skills, and highlight the positive results of sharing best practices, while celebrating the success of colleagues.
Igniting Team Performance: A fun, fast-paced, and dynamic training series that measures and defines your group’s current teamwork ability while imparting lessons on goal-setting, leadership enhancement, and communication skills. This program challenges your team to complete a series of progressively difficult challenges. Guided conversations uncover strengths and areas for improvement.
Total Recall: In this challenging and multi-faceted event, sub-teams of five are assigned specific roles while working together to replicate a pre-built structure—to be assembled in a totally different location—utilizing communication skills only through a chain of conversations. This is the ultimate activity to drive home critical lessons that can be applied immediately to enhance clear communication in the workplace.
What’s most important is the value of creating a shared experience. As Roy notes, “When you have a life-changing event and then try explaining it to someone who wasn’t there, it’s hard to make them understand why it was so powerful. But when you share an experience with your team, you develop connectedness, a shared understanding of why the activity was so impactful. It’s something everyone can relate to, look back on, and apply lessons from in the workplace.”
Bringing It All Together
Regarding relatedness, that most challenging need for organizations to address, the HBR article notes that, “Members of high-performing teams were significantly more likely to express positive emotions with their colleagues. They reported being more likely to compliment, joke with, and tease their teammates. In emails, they were more likely to use exclamation points, emojis, and GIFs.”
That paragraph caught Roy’s attention, who added, “When we deliver live programs, we share laughing and good times. That’s a smiley face emoji in real life. Participants will tell each other, ‘Great idea! That’s exactly what we needed.’ And then they will implement that idea. It’s the in-person equivalent of the exclamation point.
High-performing teams share several attributes: bonding, recognition, strategic meetings, phone calls, direct communication, and positive interaction. Team building delivers the equivalent of smiling emojis and funny GIFs in a live, three-dimensional experience.”
As the HBR article concludes, “Creating a high-performing workplace takes more than simply hiring the right people and arming them with the right tools to do their work. It requires creating opportunities for genuine, authentic relationships to develop.” Team building programs are among the most effective and fun ways to create those opportunities.