A Manager's Guide to the Art of Team Building

Article excerpt

The quickest route to the bottom line is not always a straight path. Managers are turning to more peripheral ways to boost the profit margin and motivate employees. A process gaining support among many managers is team building. If senior managers empower staff members to use their individual talents in a combined effort, the entire organization benefits.

An intrinsic part of total quality management (TQM), team building entails training groups in process analysis and customer awareness. Group interaction provides a forum for the identification and resolution of issues. Many of these topics affect individual and collective job performance.

Any organization that develops a team-building process must have distinct objectives. One goal is to create an effective exchange of knowledge, ideas, and skills. A successful team combines the strengths and experiences of each member to produce a stronger whole. Each employee has the right to participate in and share the responsibilities of all phases of the group's endeavors.

This strategy of cooperation is an essential part of a successful work environment and the overall commitment to continuing improvement on all levels. For a team-building program to be profitable, groups should be created in each work area. In addition, companies should have a council with a facilitator in charge of monitoring the effort. The council evaluates work processes developed by company teams, and assists them in accomplishing the company's TQM objectives.

The work group approach will only succeed when senior management has faith in the concept and uses it as a tool to motivate staff members. Senior management may want to use a trained facilitator or management consultant to initiate awareness of team-building into the structure of the company.

The facilitator should encourage the following strategies to improve the corporate team process:

* Teams must be interdependent. Members should coordinate their efforts to meet the company's goals.

* Leaders must support the team concept.

* Members must be willing to try new ideas and identify ways to relate to leaders and peers.

* Communication patterns must be opened and improved so that the expectations of management as they relate to teamwork are easily understood.

* Team members must be willing to work with a facilitator to identify issues and options for the group's improvement.

* Senior leaders and group members must believe that the positive results of change are worth the challenge of disrupting the status quo.

It is helpful to hold a preliminary meeting with senior managers and the facilitator to define team building and determine why the company needs this change. After the senior leaders have agreed to the program, a meeting should be held with the employees to explain the team building concept. In doing this, the manager communicates a commitment to team development, stimulates interest, and creates an understanding of why the company has chosen to go in this management direction.

To take the first step toward developing working groups, the facilitator should gather information to organize a two-to-three day off-site meeting. Surveys can be used to prepare for the retreat by evaluating employee conceptions of team building. The facilitator should review the completed surveys and conduct interviews with managers and employees to determine what topics should be covered during the event. …