Building your home team
CTALK - Cito Beltran () - January 30, 2012 - 12:00am

By the time this article is published, I will be somewhere between Manila and Cebu, hosting and partly conducting a two-day team building event for a globally successful corporation, involved in developing and managing computer software and programs for major corporations as well as mid-size businesses.

For more than a decade I have seen the evolution of team building events go from “Bull sessions”, “Group Dynamics”, “Sports-based/competitive inter-action” and its current form of “Fun and emotional motivation”.

I have also noticed that the concept of team building has gone from a formerly “New” and thereby popular management tool, to something that has now slowly been identified as an important tool primarily for high stress organizations in highly competitive markets. Generally it now appeals to sales and marketing companies in industries such as Information Technology, Automotive industry, Broadcast, even hotel and luxury tourism.

Whether it is sales, service or product development, the industries I’ve mentioned all have an almost palpable atmosphere of pressure. While most of us don’t see that when we enter hotel lobbies or car show rooms, all you need to do is check out the rate of attrition of their employees and managers as well as extent or duration of stay. Second to that you can review their industry competitiveness and timelines will show a downward route.

Unfortunately, many companies and senior executives conduct their “Team Building” exercises the same way they operate businesses; all based on bottom lines or sales quota.

More often than not, Team building events are “AIMED” at improving sales not necessarily improving Team Work, management or other areas such as inter-dependency, sense of ownership, individual growth and long term “visioneering” and commitments.

The second mistake is the philosophy of “getting two for the price of one” where the Team building is both the carrot and the stick. It’s not a carrot on the stick, but the carrot and a stick. Management uses the event as a tool to get the team in shape but also makes it the “reward” in the form of an outing, an overnight stay out of town.

But the serious damage is when management fails to make a distinction between “correction” and reward. The team often gets the “building part” of the event but don’t really recognize or appreciate that the outing is a “their” reward.   

Time and again I have seen such events especially those conducted by manufacturers or distributors of consumer products where the convention is part learning, part fun. What happens is that participants tune out or are turned off and sneak out in between sessions to buy souvenirs, go “Malling” or go for a swim.

Just like with raising children or training pets, the trainer needs to make clear what is training and which is the reward.

Having been an “employee” on several occasions and being a participant in these events, another common mistake of Management is to designate one of their own, usually the Division head or some Vice President to handle or manage the “Team Building” event. Sometimes it works, most of the time it’s a disaster.

If the team is not together, the first people I would put on a line-up for “questioning” would be the team leaders. You don’t make suspects in charge of an investigation.

One problem with executive leadership in the Philippines and other places as well is that leaders tend to be defensive and protective of their “character”, their authority and their position. This cascades into the even bigger problem where they don’t welcome new things or new ideas. They are often last to admit that there is a problem under their roof.

I’ve even coined a phrase; EPA which stands for Employment Protection Agency, an organization where executives are so protective of their turf and afraid of new ideas, new people and most especially afraid of change.

This is very visible in the Broadcast industry where, the same old faces have held on to the same old positions and then some, for DECADES. While technology make monumental changes in the industry, the same old officers and same old talents hold the premier positions. In effect, they establish operational and management Cartels.

At the end of the day, Business leaders and owners must go back to the fundamental meaning of the concept before making any attempts at Team Building. Strength is not just based on goals set, but must reflect contributions made, that results in motivational changes. 

If a team is to become strong, they must first determine who, why, and what it is that makes them weak. In this age of Preferred False Positivism, many managers have become afraid of admitting and confessing weakness. A doctor can’t help you if you won’t tell him your symptoms or what you feel.

Even the players or employees themselves need to be open about their perceive strengths and weaknesses even ideas or options they may have, such as lateral transfers, external assistance or internal realignments.

In similar fashion, Team players must realize the importance of recognition and rewards as small as they are. In the material world of premiums and incentives, too much value has been given on the word “Bonus”.

But recent events have shown us that even movie stars and celebrities leave TV Stations because they did not get the work promised them or the recognition and commendation they were rightfully expecting.

Whether it’s Hotels, IT, Motoring, Hospitals, I have heard people say: the reason I left was because they didn’t appreciate me. It was not about the money, it was about the respect. Thus I have learned that just like a good talk show host, we all need to listen as well as speak out when needed. That’s what you build teams on: Respect.

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