Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Team

Nowadays it's very common for organizations to send their people to team building training. The objectives are to instill teamwork and trust among team members so that they can function more cohesively back in their workplace. But is an off-site team building event effective in building team spirit? What do you think?

Just yesterday I was in a team building event which I organized for my company. Everyone had a lot of fun and were able to work in a team. Despite coming from different work teams, everyone worked together throughout the obstacle course cohesively. I was very impressed.

However something got me thinking. One of our members fell down and twisted her knee. Initially we all thought she might have broken her knee bone. I personally heard a loud cracking sound! We stopped all activities momentarily to make sure she got treated. A few members were on hand to make sure she was comfortable (despite being in great pain). A majority of the members couldn't be bothered and went on to do other things like sitting under a tree, making joke of the situation, analyzing how the accident took place, etc. What was disappointing to me was the injured member's superior didn't even volunteer to accompany her to the hospital for treatment. Since I was the organizer I decided to go to the hospital together. At the hospital we found out that she only sprained her knee. Thank God.

The final event was a game called 'big foot' where 10 people have to tie their feet to a giant ski and walk a distance. 2 teams managed to finish quickly while 1 team was clearly struggling. The ideal scenario would be the 2 winning teams quickly came forward to cheer and rally the struggling team to finish the race. But the reality was the 2 winning teams gathered around the water station and sat there watching the struggling team and waiting for them to finish. Leaders must lead by example, right? I ran towards them and cheered them on to the finishing line. But none seated at the water station followed. Sigh! More work needed to build team spirit.

After the team building, almost instantaneously people fell back to their old habits of hanging out with the same group of people during lunch and each having their own private discussions. It was as if the teamwork and comradeship experienced earlier has become history. I hope I am wrong here. Perhaps the lessons from the team building have been ingrained in their subconscious mind already. Am I ever the optimist, eh?

My reflection from this event? A team building event is a useful tool to show management's intent to build team spirit and teamwork in the organization. However, don't over rely on it and assume that after the team building everyone will be able to work as a cohesive team. So my action plan after this?

  1. Immediately follow up on the participants of the team building by broadcasting the pictures and experience to ride on the 'afterglow' effect.
  2. Continue to send positive messages regarding teamwork and follow up with positive reinforcement actions such as broadcasting good examples of teamwork among the colleagues.
  3. Plan for the next team building session. I'm a firm believer that team building is a year round thing.
Have you been to any team building events lately? Do share your views.


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