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Updated: 4 min 32 sec ago

How to Team-Build – Without Trust Falls or Lengthy Off-Sites

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 07:00

When we hear about team-building, it’s often in the form of cringe-inducing exercises like trust falls, athletic events like rope-climbing that many people dread, or other practices that can easily cross over into violating people’s comfort and even dignity. (Read about 10 of the worst team-building exercises we’ve heard of here.) So what are you to do if you’re a manager looking for a way to build a sense of team on your staff?

First, ask yourself whether team-building is really what’s necessary. Managers sometimes turn to team-building to fix communication, cooperation, or morale problems, but it’s rarely the right solution for those kinds of challenges. Those types of problems usually require a solution at the management and systemic level; an afternoon playing paintball or doing ice-breakers isn’t going to mend management challenges. And in fact, introducing team-building in those contexts can actually make the problems worse, because employees will be frustrated that they’re being asked to spend their time on activities that read as frivolous while the real issue goes unaddressed.

But if you’re sure that cultivating more of a sense of team and unity is truly what your staff needs, then think about team-building through measures like the following:

  • Creating ways for your team members to get to know each other better, without violating anyone’s privacy or dignity. This means remembering that what’s fun for some people (like public performances or athletic competitions) is misery for others. Look for things that are voluntary and low-key.
  • Creating opportunities for team members to get a deeper understanding of each other’s work. People don’t always have a good sense of what their colleagues are working on or what value they’re bringing to the organization, and increasing that understanding can make people appreciate their team members in new ways. But be careful – the solution to this isn’t to institute lengthy staff meetings where everyone recites a list of what they’re working on (which tends to just put people to sleep or make them antsy to get back to work). Instead, try using your role at the hub to spot opportunities to share information or connect people.
  • Creating ways for team members to have meaningful input into the direction of the team. This doesn’t mean that you should open up every decision to a vote, but rather you should seek out and truly welcome people’s feedback into strategy and process, as well as whatever problems you’re grappling with at any given time. In fact, many artificial team-building exercises are built around group problem-solving, like having to solve a maze or build a balloon castle; skip the artificial activities and delve as a group in real-world problems your team is facing.
  • Establishing rituals. Any positive, shared experience can become a ritual. For instance, you might start holding optional monthly brown-bags about interesting developments in your field or start doing champagne toasts after major projects finish (with non-alcoholic alternatives available for those who prefer them).

And for anything you’re doing with the intention of team-building, ask yourself: Specifically how is this going to help our team get better results? If you can’t answer that, that’s a flag to rethink the plan.


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Make a Team More Productive and Motivated in 5 Minutes

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 07:00
Managers often have the best of intentions when it comes to motivating their teams or revamping unproductive processes, but then run out of time and energy. But what if those changes could be done...

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6 Ways to Give Your Flagging Product a Boost

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 07:00
We can’t all be market leaders, but there’s nothing stopping us from employing certain smart techniques to bring us closer. My six-year-old son said to me the other day: “Mommy, I want to be the...

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4 Keys to Building A Team That Delivers Results

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:00
You’ve heard it plenty of times – as a manager, you’re only as successful as your people. But when your success relies on other people, how do you put together a dream team that will get you great...

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The Top Project Managers – The Skills PM’s Need to Succeed

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 07:00
For the fifth post in this series where I talk to the “Top Project Managers to Follow on Twitter“, I asked each of them about the skills that all project managers need in order to be...

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Spreadsheet Horror Stories

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 06:30
Can a single spreadsheet mistake in one cell add up to millions of dollars, a fired CEO, and other calamities? Sadly, yes. These and other tales of woe come from several sources that have a bit of...

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Workplace Success – What You Need to Know this Week

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 07:00
Here are three stories people are talking about this week. 1. Is the 40-hour work week dead? Technology was supposed to make our work lives run more efficiently, but as anyone who’s ever been...

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When Teams Collide: How to Merge Two Teams into One

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 07:00
Your company has decided to merge departments, each with multiple teams and different processes, competing products, or dissimilar cultures. In other words, before breakfast you’ve become the proud...

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Why Playing Dumb Can Be a Smart Career Strategy

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 06:30
Think back to the dozens of conversations you have had over the last 24 hours. Did anyone say anything dumb? Well, yeah, you may think. Now, think about how you responded. Did you jump in to correct...

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Mari Smith – Is Facebook Still Relevant for Business?

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:35
With millions of teens shifting their attention away from Facebook to other forms of social media, the question in everyone’s mind is: is Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild still relevant for business? I...

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How to Make Performance Evaluations Useful to Your Team

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 06:30
There’s a reason so many people have come to dread performance evaluations: They’re often handled as an obligatory bureaucratic exercise that takes up far more time than they’re worth – if they have...

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The “Top Project Managers” – How the Cloud is Changing PM

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 07:00
For the fourth post in this series, where I talk to the “Top Project Managers to Follow on Twitter“, I asked each of them to tell me about their views on cloud-based technologies and how...

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Penelope Trunk on How to Stand Out at Work As a Woman

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 06:30
I spoke to Penelope Trunk, the influential and often controversial serial entrepreneur, about how women can stand out at work and what their priorities are. Trunk is also the founder of Quistic, her...

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How to Keep Other Teams from Being Your Team’s Roadblock

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 07:00
If you’re working with other teams outside your own who are not involved in your daily meetings (or Agile standups), they’re not always on the same page as you regarding priorities...

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Switch from Microsoft Access Drives $120,000 in New Revenue

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 12:58
Based in Valdosta, Georgia, Taylor Insurance Services (TIS) is a family-owned employee benefits and financial services firm with a focus on client service. With more than 85,000 policies to manage...

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Tips for Staying Productive When Traveling on Business

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 07:00
Traveling for business is often frustrating and exhausting, but you still have to get work done or face an avalanche of tasks when you return to the office. But by being a bit savvier about how you...

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4 Steps to Keep Your Project in Scope

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 07:00
Your project is underway, and one of your stakeholders decides to change things up. How do you prevent the situation from spiraling out of control? The key is to manage it from the very beginning....

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Small Business Drives 99% Efficiency in Lead Management

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 07:57
Physical therapy practices live or die on their ability to convert referrals into patients. PRO-PT, a multi-site physical therapy group in California, has reached an incredible 99% conversion rate...

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10 Things You Wish People Would Stop Doing at Work

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 07:00
You’ve probably had your share of mild frustrations with coworkers – the guy who takes all his calls on speaker phone, the woman who monopolizes meetings and makes them take twice as long as...

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The “Top Project Managers’” Approach to Managing a Project

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 07:00
For the third post in this series, I talk to the project managers who made up the “Top 14 Project Managers to Follow on Twitter” List about what has been their own approach to managing a project with...

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