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Teambuilding on a Budget

Dan Bobinski
December 2, 2004 -- By Dan Bobinski 

Want your people to act more like a team?  Don’t want to drop a lot of money on the effort? Although bringing in a consultant to coach you through the effort will boost your results, much of what is needed to build teams can be done in-house with minimal budget impact. The main prerequisite is a clear vision that is passionately—and regularly—communicated throughout all levels of the organization.
By definition, a team is a group of people brought together to accomplish a goal or an ongoing purpose.  Usually, each person on a team is assigned specific responsibilities.  For this reason, teambuilding is not necessarily a specific training (although training can and should occur), but rather an organizational effort by management that creates a culture of focused cooperation. 
Essentially, three factors work together:
    1.      Everyone on the team must know the big picture—the purpose of the team
    2.      Everyone on the team must be equipped to perform well in their specified roles
    3.      Everyone on the team must work together—cooperatively—to meet the goals
If management will ensure these three factors are in place, then teambuilding is taking place.
Let’s look at these factors one at a time.
Big Picture
One reason teams do not perform well is because team members are not focused on the team’s objective. We go where we’re focused! If a team is assembled to complete a project, the expected result, with all its parameters, should be reviewed on a regular basis. If a team is tasked with an ongoing operation, the purpose of that operation should be reiterated and reinforced on a regular basis. 
The good news: This component is pretty much budget neutral.  The bad news: It’s rarely done.
It is not enough for leadership to create a general mission statement for the entire organization and leave it at that.  Each department (which is a team) and each work center (which is a team) needs to have a clearly defined purpose that supports the organization’s mission.
People don’t usually make the mental connection of how their work directly affects the organization’s mission.
Get everybody involved in this.  Mission or purpose statements should be brief and to the point, and they should support the organization’s mission. The creating process needn’t (and shouldn’t) take months – but it does need earnest support and top of mind awareness. Why?  Reviewing our purpose keeps us focused, and we go where we’re focused.
Equipped for Specific Roles 
On a football team, each player is taught the roles and responsibilities of his position.  The same should apply to every person in your workplace.  Usually the costs for skills training are already in the budget, so this factor shouldn’t affect the budget much, either. Unfortunately, I come across many organizations that fail to provide employees anything beyond basic job skills.  In some cases, I’ve seen mid-level employees receive two hours of training and that’s it. 
Football players and coaches devote hours and hours of practice each week for the purpose of playing one sixty-minute game on Sunday.  And on Sunday it shows. These teams operate like well-oiled machines. 
Teams should meet on a regular basis to discuss strengths and weaknesses. Team leaders need to listen carefully, and develop strategies to address the issues that come up.  Companies that rarely have such meetings are companies that usually have morale problems and lower levels of productivity.
NOTE: Be careful not to have meetings just for the sake of having meetings.  Each meeting needs a clearly defined purpose with a specific desired outcome!

Cooperating to Meet Goals
Many people fail to see the strengths in work styles different than their own.  Too often the tendency is to criticize the way others do things instead of looking at how differing styles bring value to the team.  
This is the one component that may need a line item in the budget. A little investment in “personality assessments” (I shy away from calling them “tests”) can help team members understand the different ways people approach work. 
Various assessments exist, and each one measures different aspects of “personality.”  DISC assessments measure behavioral styles, Myers Briggs Type Indicators (and it’s cousin, the Kiersey Temperament Sorter) measure more of the cognitive processes, and the Belbin Teams Roles assessment measures one’s preferred role on a team. 
When team players know each other’s strengths and can strategize to make up for existing weaknesses in order to achieve the team’s goals, cooperation grows and synergistic solutions start to appear.
Teambuilding doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  It simply needs a vision communicated with passion at all levels of the organization, it needs an ongoing effort at refinement, and it needs people cooperating.  All three are possible without killing your budget.

Want some teambuilding help? Check out our Teambuilding Basics and Teambuilding: Beyond the Basics workshops. You may also want to consider some assessments that help build workplace cooperation.  
Email an inquiry, or call toll free: 888-922-6224.

© 2004 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development, Inc. You may freely forward this information on condition that you send the text as an integral whole along with complete information about its author, date, and source.
Dan Bobinski is President and CEO of Leadership Development, Inc. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at dan@leadershipanswers.com
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