A corporation’s staff of employees, i.e., corporate team, can sometimes literally make or break its business. The “right” corporate team for an entity cannot be purchased in a store, or at auction via eBay, as an effective corporate team doesn’t simply just happen–its creation is typically both purposeful and highly strategic to the particular entity. Designing the “right”, i.e., effective, corporate team generally requires the assembly of a group of people who are willing to, a) work together, sans individual agendas; and, b) be creative and non-judgmental. After the “right” corporate team has been selected, one of the quickest and most effective ways to foster the quality, seamless, superlative development often required of said team is through tailored, team-building sessions conducted by a trained, experienced, and truly neutral, third-party Facilitator.
A team-building Facilitator is essentially skilled in the art and science of group dynamics. Such a Facilitator, in actual team-building exercises, is essentially the process expert in the particular session(s), whilst the corporate team members of the entity client are the content experts in said sessions. E.g., a trained, team-building Facilitator can typically create, employ, and manage exercises designed to foster the effective, cooperative development of new ideas. For instance, if the corporate client’s goal is to develop a new snack food for kids, the typical Facilitator can construct, implement, and manage sessions designed to inspire cooperative, efficient creativity amongst the subject-knowledgeable corporate team members–often through the lens of particularized effective communication and problem-solving techniques–that would ideally produce the new food product for their employer.
A team-building Facilitator essentially, like the combination of a sports organization and a referee, creates the rules, and oversees and corrects the team interactions-inclusive of ensuring that team members are:
a) not harming one another, or, the objective;
b) are playing on the correct field; and,
c) adhering to the requisite time-frames, until the overall objective of the exercise is achieved.
Additionally, a team-building Facilitator assists that “right” corporate team in learning how to creatively use any interpersonal friction toward the common entity goal–essentially merging the varied experiential levels, knowledge, and energies for a common purpose. A few important duties typically conducted by a neutral, facilitative, team-building Professional include the following:
o Gathering Appropriate Background Data:
o What the current opportunity or problem is;
o Who is involved;
o How long the opportunity or problem has been occurring;
o What has been tried before;
o When a solution is needed; and,
o How success will be measured;
o Designing Well:
E.g. Understanding that,
o Good process doesn’t just happen, it is designed; and,
o A dynamic design takes into account desired outcomes, people involved, culture and climate of the organization, and the strengths and weaknesses of available problem-solving processes;
o Setting and Communicating the Agenda and the Big Picture:
E.g., For each meeting,
o Reviewing the situation background both in general and specific, current terms;
o Expressing what is expected to be accomplished at a particular session; and,
o Providing a big picture view of the context, purpose and desired outcome of the entire project;
o Setting and/or Assisting The Generation of Team Rules:
E.g., Employing and managing meeting ground rules, such as,
o The turning off of cell phones and other meeting-intrusive devices;
o Attendance and timeliness;
o A Two-Minute Rule for verbal participation (i.e., if any one person speaks for more than two consecutive minutes, it is likely that s/he is getting off-track and may therefore need to yield the floor);
o Holding one conversation at a time;
o Deferring judgment when generating ideas; and,
o Judging affirmatively when evaluating ideas;
o Supporting The Team in the Management of Group Dynamics:
o Managing conflict;
o Supporting team member honesty and openness;
o Valuing everyone’s opinion; and,
o Being transparent in discussions.
Climate Changes for Optimal Team-Building Collaboration
Facilitated team-building can occur, e.g., at the client’s corporate site. However, often, a climate, i.e., setting/staging change can quickly establish a fresher, more novel tone for team collaboration. In newly formed, as well as established, teams it is often necessary to shake things up a bit in order to avoid habitual, ritualistic performance. Namely, a climate change can provide new perspective amongst team members, toward existing, reoccurring, or currently unimagined, opportunities. Such can be obtained by something as simple as, e.g., sitting in a different chair during the next meeting, or as seemingly complex, as, e.g., meeting in a different location. Atmospheric variation can particularly be achieved by meeting at the offices of a strategic partner. For example, an air ambulance service could consider holding a series of team-building sessions at a local hospital for which it provides services, in order to achieve the desired novel, brain-storming effect of its corporate team.
Typical off-site choices for climate variation have included, e.g., hotel conference rooms, specialized retreat venues, resort areas. More contemporary off-site options for climate variation have included, e.g., rock climbing, adventure treks, sailing, erecting dwellings for the economically challenged, and even meal preparation. When rock climbing/trekking, building a house for the poor, or engineering a new pasta dish, the unknown, e.g., the possibility of encountering a wild animal, experiencing a hammer-smashed thumb, or discovering a strange spice forces the team members to use all of their senses, to be more mentally and physically prepared, and to, a) rely on the strengths, and, b) understand the weaknesses, of themselves and their teammates. Essentially, climate-changed, facilitated team members often quickly learn to merge their own individual points of light–into a blinding bolt of energy that can streak past any competitor.
Virtual Facilitated Team-Building
Optimally, facilitated team-building occurs in face-to-face settings. However, increasingly, employees are finding themselves physically distanced from their counterparts. Electronic team-building facilitation, as conducted via the Internet, can restore higher levels of communication, responsibility, and productivity among, especially, distance-challenged teammates.
Virtual team-building facilitation can be, similar to face-to-face facilitated team-building, targeted toward discreet meetings, continuous projects, and/or strategic planning. Numerous Internet-based tools are available for any need or budget. Some popular search engines, in fact, offer free virtual meeting space. Providers of more complex virtual tools typically charge a fee for their offerings. However, when compared to e.g., the costs of airfare, hotel rooms and incidental expenses required to produce some face-to-face facilitated team-building sessions, virtual facilitation fees are in hindsight, relatively nominal.
The advantages of facilitated, virtual team-building include the practical facilitation of large groups/teams, automatic documentation and updates, uniform use of various tools, file-sharing, and the ability to generate, evaluate, and develop action plans. Input to virtual team projects can be parallel or asynchronous depending upon the collaboration product selected. In addition, anonymity is available if needed. The potential drawbacks to facilitated, virtual team-building are: the requirement of computer literacy, the elimination/reduction of sometimes critical face-to-face social interaction, data overload, and any requisite user fees. Overall, however, facilitated team-building success, whether virtual or face-to-face, is dependent upon quality input and the strategic follow-up of the session participants.
Facilitated team-building sessions can be designed for almost any budget. One beauty of using a skilled, team-building Facilitator is time efficiency. An experienced team-building Facilitator may be able to reduce the time needed to move from problem/opportunity awareness to solution in a mere matter of hours. Therefore, a focused eye should be toward value as opposed to costs. Generally, team-building Facilitators may be hired by the hour, half or full day, or on a total project basis. Often, team-building Facilitators have set fees for typical sessions, and are willing to negotiate fees for long-term projects. Expect to cover additional costs if the team-building Facilitator is requested to secure a venue and/or audiovisual or other specialized equipment.
Generally, corporate teams that participate in quality, tailored sessions with an experienced, neutral, team-building Facilitator-regardless of the venue–tend to be more focused, goal-oriented, task-invested, responsible, tolerant, and duly satisfied with their ultimate objective outcomes. Facilitated teams also tend to collaborate more, provide higher levels of commitment, and. tend to be less constrained by habitual behavior–resulting in more satisfactory outcomes. A team-building Facilitator can streamline corporate team interactions, thus reducing time and the costs necessary to complete projects. Effective team-building, therefore, is a crucial process that can result in a measurable, competitive edge for the contemporary business.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes and therefore intended to convey the opinion of the author only, and not intended to convey statistical information or advice. Further, the opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Publisher. Each state and/or locality may have specific guidelines and/or laws governing the above subject matter(s). Be advised to consult a relevant professional for guidance regarding the guidelines and/or laws regarding the subject matter(s) in your state and/or locality.
Developing Highly Effective Corporate Teams: The Relevance of Facilitated Team-Building in the 21st Century Business
by Toni S. McNutt, PhD, Facilitator; Owner, Synapse Decisions, LLC