Is Extreme Team Building Right for Your Company?

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By Jessica Genereaux

Are your employees disengaged in your organization? If so, you’re in the majority of American companies – and it’s nothing to brag about.

Given that  70% of American workers feel detached from their professional roles, companies who make even minimal strides in improving employee engagement will be ahead of the pack. Effective teamwork keeps companies afloat, and if team members are not all working efficiently, the company ultimately suffers in terms of employee retention, recruiting and productivity

A Stanford study shows 75 percent of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.  Facing these grim statistics, the call for extreme corrective measures has never been greater. Where to begin? Fight fear and establish trust.

The Stanford study exposed fear and lack of trust in one organization when one middle manager reported that some members on his team knew two years before their project was abandoned that the plan would not work. Yet nobody reported it to leadership and the project continued. That’s two years of wasted time, money, productivity … the list goes on. All because team members feared reporting the inevitable truth.

If employees fear facing leadership and are reluctant to offer criticism, it’s crucial for leadership to step in and in sync with the team. It’s time for extreme team building –a time to build trust between leadership and team members. And that means leadership has to get directly involved in training and reinforcing relationships if th.

Extreme team building may take the form of simulation exercises, such as survivor programs, or involve activities with a high perceived risk, such as rock climbing or ropes course activities. It is important that not only the teams but the leaders involved in interactive team building exercises in order to build trusting relationships.

Extreme Team Building Essentials

Driving fear out of the workplace is no easy task. Corporate trainers leading extreme team building programs do not dance around the facts that are inhibiting productivity at work. Before the program even begins, the team involved must understand the problem that exists and volunteer to take an active role in improving the workplace. There are four areas of focus to help create a happier work environment of involved, cooperative employees committed to working together.

  1. Trust – Leaders inspire trust by exhibiting strength, reliability, fairness, competence, and compassion for team members reflecting a range of differences. Effective leaders are available and approachable. Likewise, team members must agree to cooperate with one another, stay open-minded and trust one another in accomplishing goals. Accountability is essential for each team member to keep the team on track.
  2. Listening – Are you listening or merely hearing? When you listen, you are putting yourself in your colleague’s position, casting aside judgment. If you are asked for an opinion or for your input, it is o.k. to let the information settle and get back to the employee in a day or so.
  3. Risk Taking – A trusting environment is one in which risk taking is encouraged, in terms of innovation, problem solving and adapting to change. Team building activities that parallel real life risks provide good metaphors for common situations at work where the consequences are not so dire as life and death.
  4. Respect – All employees like to feel valued and appreciated. When leaders express appreciation to team players on an individual basis, it bonds the leader-subordinate relationship. When leaders and teammates recognize colleagues on a one-to-one basis, they are reaching the heart of the forces that make a successful team.

How Leaders Drive Fear from the Workplace

If leaders fail to participate in training to build relationships the essential part of the equation is missing. If they say they are too busy, or they can’t get change their schedule, whether valid or not, they send a clear message that their teams is not a priority. It affirms the “us & them” mentality and the training with teams alone may do more harm than good. Team team members may build stronger bonds amongst themselves, possibly in opposition to leadership. Worst case scenario, they abandon ship as a team and work elsewhere to compete against the very company that trained them.

If leaders instill in employees that they are respected, that each of them offers unique talents and ways of thinking that bring success to the team, trust becomes easier. Leaders who inspire their teams find they become more creative at problem solving and innovation when the fear of criticism and rejection are tossed aside.

The only real barrier to inspiration is fear. A fear-filled work environment shows a disconnect between management and staff, inhibits the creative flow and exchange of ideas that propel an organization’s success. Extreme team building is an intensive way to combat the fear problem quickly and effectively. But leadership must be involved on an interactive level to drive fear out of the workplace for good.