The One Thing That Really Builds a Team

I like teambuilding retreats.  I design and facilitate them regularly.

And I believe in the power of seemingly unrelated exercises or activities to surface interpersonal and group dynamics that have significant relevance to workplace productivity and performance.  

DiSC and other instruments, ropes courses and other group activities ... all good, particularly when debriefed thoroughly and their implications for actual workplace issues are identified and discussed.

But in my experience too few organizations focus on the teambuilding that Edgar Schein asserts as essential: deep, honest conversations about the interdependent relationships required to get things done.

"... knowing how to work with one another as equal partners in an operational setting ..."

Fourteen words that pack a profound punch.  They alone could be the catalyst for compelling teambuilding conversations:
  • What more might be possible if we all felt we could/were contributing as equal partners?
  • What does being an equal partner look like in action to you?
  • When have you most felt like an equal partner and why?
  • When could you be a more equal and effective partner, but have felt blocked from doing so?
  • What do you most need from me, from others, in order to contribute as an equal partner?
  • What do you need to know about me in order to be an equal partner in our efforts?
  • What do we need to agree on with each other about how we will partner?
  • How do we act as equal partners when our respective resources and requirements may be unequal?
  • If I believe I could help you, how would you like to be approached?
  • What feedback do you have for me that could help me be a better partner?  
We try to create teams in order produce results.  The one thing that may best do that is talking about the work itself and our respective contributions to it.  Do you agree?


Here are a few outtakes from Helping that have had staying power with me:

  •  Helping is a basic relationship that moves things forward.” 
  • Successful helping depends on a degree of trust and a degree of understanding between the helper and the person helped.  
  • “Trusting another person means that 1) whatever value I claim for myself in interactions with that person will be understood and accepted, and 2) the other person will not take advantage of me or use my revealed information to my disadvantage.”
  • “All human relationships are about status positioning … We are rather trying to get ahead or stay even, and we measure all interactions by how much we have lost or gained.”
  • “The helper’s intent should always be to build status or give face.”
  • Three helping roles: the expert resource who provides information or service, the doctor who diagnoses and prescribes, and the process consultant.  Start with #3 before shifting to the doctor or expert resource roles.
  •  “Any helping situation must begin with the helper adopting the process consultant role in order to do the following: 1. Remove the ignorance inherent in the situation. 2. Lessen the initial status differential. 3. Identify what further role may be most suitable to the problem identified.”
  • Help reveal as much data as possible to let others choose.


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