The Specificity of Team Building
Conventional wisdom holds that team building is a vital component of success for any kind of activity in which workers can be divided into teams. Sport is an obvious example and I have participated in such activities as a player and organised them as a coach. Last season, for example, we hired a company to organise a two day team building session that included half a day on a high ropes course. It was great fun, the guys spent time together, we were tested and challenged and had to work together to achieve those goals. However, when I did my season review, I couldn’t in all honesty say that I could see the fingerprints of that team building session on our final performance. All of the issues we had that impacted on our performance, both positive and negative, were things that arose during our everyday training/travelling/playing environment. When the time came to plan this season, I thought about what kind of team building I should do, but always with the idea in the back of my mind that I’m not sure if it really works. So I did what you should do with all conventional wisdom – challenge it.
Our goal is performance. To achieve maximum performance we need to work effectively as a team. To work effectively as a team we need to communicate well and trust each other to fulfil all our individual functions. So communication and trust are the keys.
What do we need to communicate? We need to communicate what we are doing on the court, during and between rallies. We need to communicate fast and efficiently, probably using some kind of shared shorthand and jargon.
How do we need to trust our teammates? We need to trust that they will a) do the right thing at the time (i.e. follow the tactics of the team) and b) do it well. Confusion on the court is caused when one player doesn’t think his teammate will play the ball or will play it but play it badly.
All of those aspects of communication and trust are specific not only to volleyball, but also to each team and can only be improved on the court.
To paraphrase Gary Pert ‘Culture is what you do every day’. Team building is not AN activity of the team, it is THE activity of the team. If you want to build a effectively performing team, create good systems, practice them, enforce them consistently, practice them again. The first and therefore most important point… create good systems. There is no way around that.
Producing performance is a process, you can’t do it with tricks.