Jun 4, 2016
There was an episode of House of Cards where Frank Underwood's henchman kept cutting off a colleague from speaking, with words to the effect of 'you are here to listen, keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking.' Frank gets angry and tells him that he should stop playing office politics when there is a crisis at hand. That is definitely not how a good team works.
Google 'team building exercises' and you come across a corporate wonderland–paint ball fights, getaways, events with food and games. Now not many of those are available for those of us working in Bangladesh. But the importance of a team to be able to work together, co-operate and not want to kill each other every time someone opens their mouth cannot be over emphasised if you want the work to get done well.emphasised if you want the work to get done well.
Office politics are unavoidable; there will always be conflicts between individuals and their opinions on everything ranging from how best to staple a bunch of papers together to whose duty it is to get that coffee maker fixed. But when a team is so unstable that any project turns into an episode of Game of Thrones, things need to change.
Now, the result of team building exercises is to unite a team, develop its strengths based on individual capabilities and address weaknesses. But for that, the exercise, be it a dinner party or a game of tag, needs to have a strategy and a goal. If at the end of the exercise, nothing changes in the office, it was money ill spent.
The saying goes that one should separate the personal from that what is work. But taken to its extreme, this could mean that team members do not know each other, and such are not on friendly terms. Team building exercises should, therefore, focus towards bridging conflicts and divisions within a team; getting the team to know one another; enhancing problem-solving and decision making; facilitating communication and turning lone wolfs into a well-working pack; and of course, boosting team morale.
One session involving a weekend in Gazipur will not address all the issues–it takes time for individuals to be able to work together, trust and depend on team members. For improving communication, the old game of Chinese whispers seems a good place to start. Dividing groups into groups of three or four and playing games like Pictionary–or anything similar, which needs teams to communicate better, works just as well.
For strengthening team cohesion, a trip outside Dhaka, an informal party, or even a simple dinner where they talk to each other outside the formal atmosphere of the office can be organised.
The internet abounds with suggestions on what activities or events can be undertaken as team building exercises. But what's important is the issues it aims to solve. Teams don't become amazing wholes in one day–this is a continuous process and a part of corporate culture. An important thing to remember is that these exercises should not be competitive. You don't want the group to try to outdo each other. The role of the leader is the most important–if you are not arranging these exercises just because you have to, then remember, identify a core issue you want to solve, make a plan and then take it from there. Of course to do that, you need to involved with the team so you know which issue needs to be dealt with. Know your team to understand what works, what needs to be improved, and what needs to go.
The writer is a junior at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka
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