When it comes to running a successful adult business, there are some things we all know are important, like customer satisfaction, employee retention and a healthy bottom line. Then there are other factors that we may not think about as much, or that we may have had a negative experience with, but that can still help take our business to the next level. One hugely underrated step that business owners can take to boost employee engagement, build trust, address conflict, increase collaboration and generally build a company culture that breeds success is: team building.
Why Team Building?
Approaching team building as an ongoing process encourages innovation and allows everyone in your company to learn, grow and blossom as they do their jobs.
Team building can help forge stronger bonds among your employees. When implemented well, it can result in everyone having greater respect for each other and appreciating their differences while sharing common goals and expectations.
A lot of companies engage in team building via retreats, activities and exercises. If you’ve ever done a scavenger hunt or even a group dinner with your coworkers, you’ve participated in a team-building activity. The problem is that team building is sometimes viewed with skepticism. Let’s look at why that is, how you can approach it differently and the rewards you can reap from putting in the time and energy to build your team.
Why Team Building Sometimes Goes Wrong
The phrase “team building” often inspires eye rolls and sighs because of the many corny attempts at creating bonds among staff members. Contrived games that don’t actually relate to what your employees do on a day-to-day basis, forced participation from employees who would rather be doing anything else, sending staff to distant destinations in hopes of correcting long-standing issues — these are some of the ways that team building doesn’t work but costs a lot of time and money.
What if we look beyond the company retreats and trust falls, and instead approach team building as something that can be done on a continual basis?
Team-Building Steps That Actually Work
Whether your office is an in-person space or a digital workplace, weave team building into the culture of your company. Here are some ways to make it a part of daily interactions, integral to the way that employees and management work together:
Maintain a fluid and affirming office culture. That means encouraging innovation, so everyone in the company can learn, grow and blossom as they do their jobs. It also means setting fairness and kindness as cornerstones of your internal business environment, which will encourage employees to stick with your company and inspire them to achieve and succeed in their roles.
Give your people space. Ruling your company with an iron fist and constantly looking over your employees’ shoulders might seem like the way to make sure work gets done, but cultivating a management practice that maximizes freedom can be a true game changer. Offering help when it is requested rather than jumping in and micromanaging will both conserve energy and demonstrate confidence in your staff.
Let your employees know that you trust them. This will help their confidence grow, allowing their work to continually improve. When you talk through conflicts with them, they see how to handle conflicts with coworkers. When you give them the opportunity to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, you can then work together to identify ways they can be most productive. Detecting a theme here? Enacting basic workplace values like respect and autonomy on a daily basis can do more to build a team than any exercise. So before you schedule that retreat, bring in that motivational speaker or announce that mandatory company outing, consider whether it might be more effective to first start thinking about team building on an individual level — starting with your own mindset and management style. Approaching team building as something you are continually engaged in may require a more creative and flexible form of leadership. For some, it may require a revamp or even a complete overhaul of existing executive skills. But I have found that putting in that effort pays off in terms of employee retention and loyalty.
When management models genuine investment in building a team and helping it flourish, employees learn how to maintain that kind of supportive interaction in their dealings with each other and clients. That’s good for everybody, and good for business.
Verna Meng is the co-founder and CEO of Blush, and the recipient of the 2018 International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation Award.