Team Building exercises do one of two things.  They energize a group who needed a little bit of a jolt to get excited about projects or …

… They make a team …

…. Fall deeper and deeper …

… Into a disenchanted funk.

— Resulting in mass exodus and gossip.

A while back, I was involved in one of the coolest team building exercises.  Our team went online and took a quiz.  We were supposed to answer each question with our first-impression answer – therefore, allowing the quiz to generate a score supposedly reflective of our strengths.

It was really cool to hear what everyone’s strengths were.  We were validated in knowing some people were in the right positions but what was even more telling was how many people were being misused and underutilized in their roles.

Numerous times, as strengths and weaknesses were read aloud, it was overwhelmingly apparent some were in roles of authority they shouldn’t be in and others were in roles so elementary to their skills, there wasn’t even a question as to why they were bored and discontent in their positions.

The HR person who did this exercise was descriptive and direct in giving us all the information needed to utilize our strengths and also gave information on how to pair people up to make sure maximum efficiencies and productivity were optimized.

At the end of the exercise though, when our team was still slightly abuzz with discovering strengths and hoping for internal change to make our jobs more conducive to satisfaction and fulfillment, someone on our management team said ‘Well, it’s nice to learn all of this. But unfortunately, we can’t all always do things were strong in.”

As the balloon of hope in the sky slowly deflated and fell to earth, we all sat around and wondered why we had just wasted our time for an entire morning, only to be shot down mid-flight and put right back in our places.

In an air of silent protest, a few of us took our strengths, printed them out and hung them outside our workspaces – so we were sure they’d be seen by management every time someone walked by – but alas – there is no helping bad management of your people and their talents.

When you hire, you have a list of requirements you want a person to match before you interview – and if you’re smart, you have a strategy in place to find out the truth behind the candidate’s adaptability and work ethic.  You also ask questions so you’ll get some insight into a person’s personality and their attitudes.

A good manager has a strategy in place to hire people who are more than willing to get a job done and get it done well.  He also knows what it takes to motivate these people and to keep them interested in their job.

Often times, managers throw their employees into the fire simply because their lack of strategy and preparedness mandates it.

This is no way to harness team and employee potential.  This is no way to foster trust and instill a winning work ethic. It’s honestly, cowardly and sad.

Becoming a manager is not a ticket for you to ride the easy train while your team gets the work done. It is a place of responsibility and authority where you are working later than your team and getting in earlier.  You’re constantly looking for ways to improve work product AND improve your team’s morale and productivity.

One of my favorite managers of all time said this to me years ago and I’ve never forgotten it:  “A good manager surrounds herself with people who make up for her weaknesses.  She creates a well-balanced team.”

To this day, I find this to be a mission statement for team building.  When I assemble a team, knowing I am creative, extremely motivated and a doer, I look for people who are process driven, creative, a little more technical than I am and who also have drive.

In this economy, we are constantly in competition to find jobs and keep jobs. And this is even evident when managers interact with their teams.  It is a terrible state of morale when you can blatantly see managers short-changing team members because of insecurity or job safety.  The good work that could be done and the wins brought to the company as a whole are overshadowed by management’s lack of ability to let the TEAM take credit vs. a single person.

Many things can be learned from the situations I have described and I am thankful I was able to be involved just for the sheer fact that I learned exactly what NOT to do as a manager and was able to see the after effects on it is it pertained to a very talented group of people.

People’s strengths are your company’s greatest assets.  If you can build your strategies around utilizing them appropriately, you will find quite quickly, where your organization is lacking and where it shines.  A wise employer will fill those gaps with new hires that can you take the next level.  A foolish leader will fill those holes with people who are unfortunately ill equipped to even be a temporary solution.  In those situations, it’s not always the employee’s fault the team fails.  It’s the managers – because he didn’t take the time to understand his people and did not bother to create a winning team strategy to utilize his people to their potential.



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