Even the most carefully created team building plan may fall prey to mistakes. Because people are all different, what works in one group may be less successful in others. There are some common mistakes that occur when team building. Being aware of these mistakes ahead of time can help you avoid them. And if they do occur, you’ll be able to quickly spot them and correct course.
Allowing Cliques to Develop
One of the most common errors when team building is allowing cliques to develop. This happens when a group of people become insular and only want to interact with each other. They may exclude others, gossip, or simply keep themselves apart from the rest of the team. Clearly, this is exactly the opposite of what we want to happen when we are engaging in team building. The other side of cliques developing is that certain people may be consistently left out, ostracized, or otherwise excluded. Be attentive if you see cliques developing. Some signs that cliques are developing may include:
- People only wanting to team or pair with each other
- The same groups or teams consistently forming
- The same person being consistently left out or left until last
You can help avoid clique formation by encouraging (or even requiring) people to team or pair with different team members. Encourage interaction with the whole group. Also make conscious effort to include everyone and invite everyone to participate.
Not Delegating Tasks
A failure to delegate can undermine team building. Be sure to delegate tasks when you facilitate team building. Also make clear that, when working in groups, tasks should be delegated. It is not uncommon for team members who are very focused on “winning” or “being the best” to take over group activities and not delegate to their group members. Reinforce how important this is, and that the goal is not winning at all costs. You might include activities which teach and reinforce delegation skills. When tasks are not delegated, the team does not get the experience of working together – they are simply led by the “expert.” This can create resentment and lead to negative feelings and interactions among the team.
Rewarding in Private/Criticizing in Public
Feedback is a key component of team building. A common mistake people make when team building is to only give negative or developmental feedback when with the whole team, while reserving rewards and positive feedback for private times. This is especially egregious if there are one or two team members who are consistently criticized in public but only rewarded in private (or worse, not rewarded at all). Developmental feedback is important, but if a team has a sense that they do nothing right, or that they are going to be called out or humiliated in public, they develop resentment and low morale. Be sure to save individual developmental feedback for private meetings with the person. You can give developmental feedback to the whole team when you are together. And make sure to praise as openly as you offer developmental feedback.
Disjointed Plans of Grandeur
As dangerous as it is not to have a team building plan, having a plan that is too complex or grandiose is also something to avoid. A common mistake when creating a team building plan is to pack the schedule with too many activities, trainings, and meetings. This makes your plan unnecessarily complex. Also be wary of expecting miracles – that one session of broomball or one potluck will solve any interpersonal problems in your team. Keep your team building plan interesting, but avoid making it too ornate, multi-faceted, or complex. Plans like this are frustrating to administer and manage, and even more frustrating for the team members who have to engage in the activities. They may result in resentment of you and the program, which does little to build your team!