What better time than close to 15th August, the Indian Independence Day, to talk about the concept of ‘unity is strength’ in the corporate space? Any workplace is a mixed bag of people who are a sum total of their experiences, innate temperaments and environmental conditioning. And the more diverse the mix, the greater the chances of lack of connect between the team members. So what does a smart manager do in order to build that dream team that has him laughing all the way to the stage where the team collects its bronze statue on the awards night?
Well for starters, he/she could indulge in some team building. Enough has been written and said about the importance of team building. While the generic principles surrounding team building workshops remain the same, there isn’t any one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, an internal team building workshop that we conducted threw up a lot of interesting insights. Even before we started, we knew that internal camaraderie was very strong within individual teams but feeble when it came to cross-team connect.
So our agenda was simple. We needed a start point to make inter-team synergies a little more fluid than what they were presently. The motive was clear – to move from being a circumstantial team to a community team.
Since the motive was to make a cross cultural connect between the members of unrelated teams, we chose to steer clear of a slideshow and conference room environment. Instead we used just a white board and were informally seated around tables in the cafeteria.
The seating plan
The seating plan was important. People were made to sit in pre-decided groups of eight. These eight were drawn from different departments and were not quite familiar with each other. And while they were reluctant to sit next to someone they had only seen and not talked to, as the session progressed, they were all exchanging high-five’s with easy familiarity.
Our primary aim was to get different team members to be familiar with each other, so we did a quick easy quiz with one question for each person. All questions were personal and participants had to respond to ‘What was your first school, first crush, favourite sitcom, number of girlfriends’ and so on and so forth. Each question was designed keeping in mind the person’s personality, how open he/she would be to share a certain detail with a group. Once all questions were done, different people were asked if they remembered which school Vishnu went to? Or how old was Sumant when he first started dating? Or what is Madhav’s favourite drink? This easy interaction invited a lot of spontaneous laughter and nothing like humour to catalyze the success of any workshop.
While a lot of conversation flew back and forth between people conducting and people participating, we knew that we had to offer some tangible takeaways in terms of recommendations. So we enumerated the following:
- Know each person in the other teams by name
- Make eye contact when you pass by each other
- Have a positive greeting or a non-verbal signal, like a smile or a wave of hand when you see each other
- A handshake always helps
- Make an effort to reach out to at least 2 people in a fortnight’s time to connect, maybe during lunch or post lunch or breaks
- Give feedback, and without being hostile ask questions to whoever you think is in an appropriate source to answer your query
- Contribute your ideas towards getting more hygiene into the workplace
- Share the social media activity of your organization
The connecting link for future activity
At the end of the workshop, each participant was asked to name two individuals with whom he/she had least interaction with. Each person was given a time of a fortnight to make his/her acquaintances with two such people and build familiarity as an ongoing process within the organization. It was decided that for the next workshop, each participant would share one interesting fact each about the persons he/she interacted with.
Like any corporate process, team building also has to be a sustained, scalable activity. It has been proven that cohesive teams are more effective teams. But before any team building activity is undertaken, it is important to identify the exact objectives that you aim to achieve and then design a set of activities to create an impact. In that light, our workshop is showing incipient but positive results, in the form of a cheerful hi and a beaming smile that we all greet each other with. The rest, as they say, shall follow.