Many popular beliefs about team building practices are myths — here are just two of them:
Myth #1: You must hire a coach.
There is nothing magical about team building. Neither is it an art reserved for the select elite. The truth is that team building occurs when people make a specific set of realisations about each other and their work.
However, how these realisations are (or aren’t) achieved often slips the radar, so people see and the effects of team building, but fail to explain and reproduce them.
But because these realisations are observable, it is possible to learn to generate them. So by putting effort into noticing what the realisations that need to be made are, you can effectively create team building yourself: once it has been can be accomplished, then those realisations can regularly be fostered through conversation or other like activities.
In fact, it is often the case that the gains that are achieved with the help of a team building consultancy come from simply pursuing clarity about the group’s collective purpose or task. Yet obtaining clarity is hardly a miraculous feat, nor must one be a coach or consultant — or just a third party outsider — to demand that it be addressed.
Nonetheless, the team building consulting industry thrives on this myth. But companies can’t afford to perpetuate it. Thus, let us raise our expectations that smart professionals can and will see the need to align with one another as part of their accountability to each other. The professionals are just there to facilitate and quicken the process.
Myth #2: The first agenda in team-building is to get people to like each other.
There is a good reason for this myth. From the early part of the 20th Century and up until the seventies, researchers defined ‘group cohesion’ based on interpersonal attractiveness, i.e., how much people in a group like each other.
So psychologists developed personality inventories to help us understand people’s actions and behaviour, which allows us to thereafter pigeonhole them accordingly (because human beings are just such simple creatures that they can be fit into pre-defined categories). Consultants use these personality inventories to help us appreciate and embrace our differences. There is no doubt that such knowledge is valuable. However, just by how much can it improve your team? Not much, really.
Today’s scientific literature defines group cohesion on the basis of linked individual and collective outcomes. So what causes a group of people to cohere and act as a single entity is not so much their affinity for each other but their collective desire for a common outcome (task, result, mission, experience, etc.).
Hence, when a group of people are at odds with each other, do not automatically assume that personality awareness training will bring them in line. Instead, analyse the alignment of their goals and see if they perceive each other as a credible ally or credible threat.