If you’ve noticed that your team is suffering from low morale or growing tensions, you’re first instinct is likely to hire a consulting firm that specializes in team building. The concept has been ingrained in corporate culture and you’ve likely encountered wonderful promises to get your team back in line after only a few hours of activities.
But the reality is, there are teams that dread the thought of team-building exercises. Many of them are geared towards athletic feats that have nothing to do with an office environment, or maybe they’re just uncomfortable (sharing personal secrets to “build trust” simply doesn’t work). Or maybe you have a group of introverts that don’t like being in the spotlight, so they spend the whole day nervous trying to avoid it.
So what can be done to build genuine relationships and resolve issues?
Reflect on your own leadership style
Sometimes a little introspection and readjustment could be all it takes. It’s easy to get into a stride as a leader and continue to do things that were successful before, but as situations and challenges change its necessary to take a step back occasionally and reassess.
Take time to evaluate your interactions with your team and, if your brave enough, allow them to challenge you by discussing their needs and issues with your leadership style directly. You’ll need to be able to distance yourself from the instinct to be defensive, but there’s a good chance you’ll gain useful insight.
Tackle the problem head-on
If there are growing tensions, it’s best to not dance around the subject. This is where team building exercises often fail – some might be a little helpful in talking about how to handle conflict, but they still don’t address the problem as if it will magically work itself out.
If the issue is between two people or a group, step in as a moderator and don’t be afraid to make a tough call. While you naturally want to make everyone happy, there are times when it just isn’t possible and middle ground isn’t achieved (for instance, if someone is frequently pushing boundaries). Be sure you aren’t playing favorites, either. Be sure to thoroughly hear out each side of the story and make sure they know you’re actually listening.
Take a break
Sometimes all it takes is to just get people out of the office and let them be themselves. It doesn’t need to be some grand adventure in hiking or water rafting – once again, the environment should be neutral to all personality types. Something as simple as a team picnic where they can invite family or friends could boost morale drastically. Just make sure to schedule it on a weekday – your team will more than likely be frustrated if you ask them to take a day of their weekend to attend what is still ultimately a work function.
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