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Team-Building is More than a Feel-Good Exercise

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Whether you manage a team in sales, marketing or the technical side of the house, having a team that “clicks” is one of the keys to success. Sometimes it is more important than anything else.

Over the last decade, I have experienced something that most “people managers” in high tech have not: low employee turnover. In fact, 75 percent of the team I built 11 years ago is still with me today.

Every one of them is talented. Smart. Highly skilled. Motivated. An envelope pusher.

They also happen to like each other. And me, too, it seems.

Whether you manage a team in sales, marketing or the technical side of the house, having a team that “clicks” is one of the keys to success. Sometimes it is more important than anything else.

That is why I count myself lucky. Ours is an industry with a high turnover rate, where team dysfunction can run high, according to some studies. So what is the secret sauce?

It’s “cohesiveness,” according to an article titled: “High-Performance Teams: Understanding Team Cohesiveness” by Daniela Molnau, posted on iSixSigma’s website.

Molnau wrote, “Cohesiveness is the extent to which team members stick together and remain united … Morale is also higher in cohesive teams because of increased team member communication, friendly team environment, loyalty and team member contribution in the decision-making process.”

What she wrote resonated with me.  

By April of this year, it had been far too long since I’d held an in-person team meeting with my entire global organization. Timing and budgets always got in the way. Over time, some team members felt disconnected. Others were unsure of their value.

So I put the worry of cost and bad timing aside to host a development meeting at our Palo Alto offices, for the entire team.

What a difference just three days can make.

I intentionally kept the agenda light on project work and planning. I didn’t want to spend time looking at PowerPoint slides and rehashing projects and plans. I wanted the team to bond and develop. I enlisted guest speakers who spoke to us about professional development, like taking charge of your career. We covered topics like coaching and mentoring and developing your personal brand. We also created a team mission and vision together.

Team-building blossomed over dinners, wine tasting at a colleague’s house, and Bocce ball. A “Go-Game” scavenger hunt in downtown Palo Alto had us working, and laughing, as we competed for points by doing oddball tasks all over town to score points. 

Many of us had worked together for years, but meeting in person made it more gratifying and extremely effective. The next week, the tone of our virtual meetings was warm; we were productive. The feeling of unity was palpable. The team felt connected again, re-energized and motivated.

Build Your Team, Even When Your Team Rocks
Recently I attended a workshop at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Leigh Thompson, an expert in leading high-impact teams, underscored the importance of constructive collaboration, especially in distributed teams. What may seem obvious, but is often overlooked, is that conflict and miscommunication in virtual teams can be mitigated when you humanize members, socialize, and align everyone to a simple team charter.

I truly believe that a team-building experience can make a big difference in how your employees feel about their work, their colleagues and your leadership. Commonalities are discovered, friendships formed, trust and respect developed.
 
As a leader, this is good for you: A high-performing team not only helps you succeed but can also provide you with a high level of personal satisfaction.

The more you do to foster connections across the team and make each person feel that they are a part of something truly special, the more likely you are to build a cohesive, successful team.

And, if you are as lucky as I have been, your team will be highly innovative, productive and effective … and may eventually become more like friends and family than just colleagues.

Ira Simon (@IraASimon) is global vice president, Partner & SME Marketing at SAP. Learn more about partnership opportunities at: http://go.sap.com/partner.html

 

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