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Team Building, by Cathy Bolger, PhD

Many companies have adopted a "team" approach in the belief that it is a more efficient way to work. When clients request a training on team building, they are often not sure exactly what they want. Usually what they are asking is "help us get along better" and "help us work together better."

I have approached team building at least five different ways, all seemed successful at the time. Following are five approaches to team building:

  1. Present the Tuckman Model and its four stages: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. The goal is to move the team to the Performing stage in which the members have the trust, training, and motivation to get along and at the same time get the job done without much direction. Help team members determine methods of recognizing each stage and strategies for maximizing team effectiveness in each stage. For instance, Tuckman points out that all teams go through Storming, a stage where members are not getting along, and there are communication tools to help the team move through this stage.

  2. "Cathy is a true facilitator, her expertise as a skillful questioner is unsurpassed."

    Christine Cecil, EdD
    Chapman University
    Organizational Leadership

  3. Help team members understand that not everyone is the same, and help them to determine strategies for dealing with people who have a different "style." With this approach, use a personality or style assessment such as the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) or if time and resources are short, the Pace Color Palette.

  4. Facilitate experiential activities. Sometimes it is most effective to get them out of their seats, often outdoors, and into experiential activities. The team is given a task and the facilitator observes what happens. Skillful questioning is a must for the facilitator/trainer in order to help participants determine how their behaviors help or hinder team effectiveness. I find it best to precede the experiential activities with a training on what an effective team looks like.

  5. Give team members a team assessment to determine how they compare to a highly effective team. Then determine strategies for improving low areas. One of my favorite team assessments is "The Team Effectiveness Profile." Team members assess team effectiveness in five areas:

    1. Mission, planning and goal setting
    2. Group roles
    3. Group operating processes
    4. Interpersonal relationships
    5. Intergroup relations

  6. Have each member of the team complete an anonymous feedback instrument on other members of the team followed by individual coaching on the results. Meet with each team member to interpret the results. Based on the feedback, acknowledge what the person is doing well to be a good team member. Then help the person determine what to do differently to be a more effective team member. Coach each team member to set individual goals for improvement.
Sometimes a client will request a specific approach such as "an outdoor team building experience." However, many times you must ask the client, and possibly the team members, several questions in order to determine the best approach to conducting a training on team building.
Cathy Bolger is an outdoor facilitator for the Center for Creative Leadership. She has designed and delivered training in team building to clients ranging from manufacturing and healthcare to one of the top five accounting firms.

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