Want to build your team? Don’t go bowling, create a constitution.

Create a constitution - People Development Network
Create a constitution - People Development Network

Create a Constitution

A friend of a friend asked me recently about doing some team building for his small department. “They’ve outperformed themselves this year,” he said. “They mostly work independently. I want to help them gel as a team. Would a bowling night do that?”

I’m not a big fan of team building sessions. I didn’t want to quash his enthusiasm so I suggested he ask the team what they’d like to do.

Why am I not a big fan? Most team building events don’t actually build a team. Activities such as paintball, whitewater rafting, ropes courses, simulations, cooking competitions, and the like are common team building exercises. The hope is that these team activities will help improve relationships, increase cooperative interaction, and boost team productivity.

The reality is that many of these team building programs do not generate long term benefits. How many of you have gone to a team building program yet found that little had changed when the team returned to the workplace?

It takes intention and attention to ensure your group reaps legitimate benefits from a team building activity.

If you’re determined to do team building, start by planning exactly what outsomes you have for the session. Ask yourselves, “What do we want to accomplish with this activity?” and “How would team members be behaving differently if this program is a success?” Find a provider that has experience delivering your desired outcomes to help embed take-aways, ensure beneficial agreements, and help teams demonstrate desired behaviors back on the job.

Even better, defer team building for the time being.

An organizational constitution is a formal statement of your team’s present-day purpose (it’s “reason for being” beyond making money), it’s values and observable behaviors, it’s strategies, and it’s goals.

Once you define and publish these four elements, team leaders and team members members will know exactly what contributions are required (through clear performance expectations) and what citizenship is required (through clear values standards, in the form of valued behaviors).

Most leaders spend all of their time and energy focused on results – not on the quality of workplace interactions. Values defined in behavioral terms specify exactly how you want team members to treat each other – and how you want them to treat customers.

Clarifying your team’s purpose helps align team leaders and team members to the team’s “reason for being,” to the customers your team serves. Clarifying your team’s valued behaviors helps align team leaders and team members to respectful treatment of each other, daily. Clarifying performance standards help align team members’ skills and energy towards consistent contribution and service.

Formalizing an organizational constitution and specifying the four elements is only the beginning of a safe, inspiring, productive workplace. Aligning everyone’s plans, decisions, and actions to these agreements is the hard part.

You’re going to be there anyway. Do the right thing by creating and aligning behavior to your organizational constitution.

Does your team have formalized values and behaviors to ensure everyone is treated with respect and dignity? How well do team members cooperate to exceed performance expectations? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo © BlueSkyImages – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

(Originally published on Driving Results Through Culture in August 2010.)

S Chris Edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration. He writes books and articles and records podcasts. In his free time, he's a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.
S Chris Edmonds
- 5 hours ago
S Chris Edmonds