Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do Sporting Team Building Techniques Work in Business?

Many a conference calls upon external, respected and often famous people from the world of sport as guest speakers to entertain and enlighten the attendees in equal measure. It's a no brainer, for an organiser.

Nobody ever got criticised for bringing in someone famous, who had video clips of himself or herself in his or her heyday - or, if the speaker is a coach rather than a performer, the clips may be of those under his or her tutelage.

But how appropriate is it to get someone from a totally different world to provide advice to a group of business-oriented members of staff. They may enjoy it and get a buzz even out of meeting someone who they may well have admired from afar from some time, but will they get anything useful to them at work from it?

My view is that it depends on what your objectives are for inviting the guest speaker along in the first place. If it is to motivate your people, to send them away raring to get back to work and get their teeth firmly into the jobs that will have built up while they have been attending the conference, then the answer is a firm "yes".

These kind of presentations are always fascinating and, in my experience, always leave people with a sense of "yes, I could do that" that uplifts a team long enough to have at least a small, and hopefully larger, impact back where it matters.

However, if you are looking at ways to develop teams and make them more effective the next day than they were before the speaker stood up, them I think I will have to answer "no". Indeed, it would not matter who the speaker is if that was your goal.

The only way for teams to make sustainable and significant changes to their working behaviours is for them to uncover the improvements for themselves. And as teams as well, rather than as a collection of individuals.

Speakers speak to an audience as individuals and never as teams. And the act of speaking, no matter how entertaining and no matter the degree to which the audience are invited to get involved, is fundamentally a one way and mostly passive thing.

Where the answer can become "yes" is when the techniques are not just talked about, but actually used with real teams in a team building environment. Conference speaking may be passive, but team building activities are, as the third word in the description implies, active. And active, in turn, means that the participants are involved as a team. That gives them a chance to learn for themselves and that is something I am very much in favour of.

If speaking at people, on its own, generated real and positive change in teams, then it would never be necessary to ever run a team building event. Having worked in the industry for many, many years now, there are few, if any, team sessions that deliver any surprised to me or my facilitation team colleagues.

Having had the benefit of a good briefing from our client contacts, we probably know what the team issues are well enough at the start of the activity to just stand up and say "Here are your learning points". But that would have no effect.

Learning is necessary for teams to take ownership of their changes and teaching is not learning. Learning involves proactive effort and understanding on behalf of those involved and positive change requires all team members to buy into it.

That's why team building beats speaking in my book when team development is required. Let the speakers continue to entertain and provoke thought. I'm all for action.

By : Alan_Hunt

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