Teambuilding Tactics That Get Results

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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As much as people in a typical IT department may seem to have independent roles and responsibilities — some doing help desk, others managing security issues, for instance — they all must feel part of a team.

When employees have a connection to one another and share a common goal, the payoffs can be huge, not only for the individual but also for the department as a whole: better communication, enhanced productivity and greater on-the-job satisfaction.

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Whether you’re trying to bring together the entire IT staff, a group within the department or specific work teams, the strategies for building unity are the same:


If the team’s goals are to “optimize productivity levels” or “implement technology more efficiently,” chances are participants will not be as motivated as they could be, if at all.

Vague objectives filled with business-speak fail to excite most people. Instead, give your staff a concrete objective that’s easy to understand: “Earn the company’s award for the department with the highest customer service levels.” The mission should be one that directly affects their daily work so you can generate buy-in to the idea and hold everyone’s interest over time.


When you’re initiating a project, make sure everyone within the group understands his or her role. Again, be specific. Rather than saying, “Joe and Maria will help select the new desktop systems for the accounting department,” narrow it down: “Joe will be in charge of reviewing the department’s needs and will then make recommendations to Maria. Maria will make the ultimate decision about the best products to purchase.”

The better people understand the parameters of their work, the less risk there will be for misunderstandings and conflict.

Share Power

Also, make sure you’re giving team members the authority to fulfill their responsibilities. Avoid micromanaging and allow people the freedom to test ideas.

When a group encounters a problem, encourage participants to work together to develop a solution. It’s OK to serve as an advisor during challenging situations but be careful not to rush in and solve every issue for them.

When employees work in partnership and are responsible for the ultimate outcome, they’ll gain more out of the process, both in terms of bonding as a group and building problem-solving skills.

Build Camaraderie

Team members who understand one another make the most effective collaborators. In the haste to meet tight deadlines and simply complete the task at hand, though, many companies fail to allow sufficient time for people to make a personal connection. Be sure your firm isn’t one of them.

One strategy that can help is to ask individuals in a particular group to cross-train one another so all members can learn about the responsibilities, pressures and priorities of their teammates. Also, don’t be afraid to shake up the typical makeup of a unit to encourage people to bond with others outside their immediate circle.

For instance, when forming a project team, you might include employees who wouldn’t normally be asked to participate, such as junior staff or individuals from a different specialty in the department. This can help the group formulate new ideas, build rapport and foster a greater respect for what each person brings to the company.

Hold Effective Meetings

Teambuilding exercises outside of the office also can be a great way to motivate a group; however, these events can have the opposite effect if they’re not managed correctly.

For starters, make sure you’re not planning activities that require physical strength or endurance; you’ll only make those with health conditions or limitations feel excluded. Strive to keep a balance between work and fun activities.

If events are too serious or difficult, people may find them draining, while ones with no clear connection to situations at the office may be viewed as a waste of time. Off-sites should be scheduled during slower periods so people aren’t constantly checking their Blackberries and cell phones to keep up with work.

Set The Example

Finally, remember, as a leader, you set the tone for any group. If you complain openly about how difficult it is to accomplish objectives when forced to rely on others in the company, you’re effectively telling employees that teamwork is more harmful than helpful — make sure your words and actions encourage effective collaboration.

Teambuilding goes beyond just planning a special outdoor activity or assigning a group of people to solve a business problem, it takes long-term strategy and refinement.

Even in the best of groups, problems can arise and changes in motivational strategy may need to be made. For instance, removing a team member who’s damaging morale often can spark renewed energy among remaining participants.

If you periodically re-evaluate what’s working and what isn’t and make appropriate adjustments, you’ll help sustain a group’s motivation over time and generate the best possible results.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.