Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Team Building Fail

One of the hidden failings of leaders comes disguised as a perfectly legitimate request of the human resources team:

"I'd like for HR to do some team building for my employees."

Now you may be wondering how this seemingly normal, and perhaps even complimentary request could be considered a failing on management's part. Well friends, more often than not this is an epic failure.

Dig Deeper
Before any team building session is conducted a series of questions need to be asked in order to ensure the needs of the group are identified, the challenges they're currently facing are clearly articulated and the desired outcome of the leader making the request is made clear.

What often comes to light during this process is that the behavior of one or two employees is the real problem. The group is not in need of team building at all, in fact a program that is promoted as a team building exercise may backfire on the leader because it won't be a secret to any of the employees as to what is really going on. 

Step Up
Credibility is the primary issue at play in this situation both for the struggling leader and now for Human Resources as well. Here's the problem...because the leader doesn't have the courage to do their job and hold the problem employees accountable for their behavior, the entire group has to  participate in a team building program they don't want or need.

"Everybody knows who the problem employees are, and everybody knows the leader looks weak as hell by not doing their job."

Maybe it is fear of confrontation, or maybe they just don't understand what is really going on, but in the end it is the leader whose credibility suffers; and, if HR agrees to provide the team building in that scenario their credibility will be compromised too.

Say no to team building, and provide real employee relations support to the leader because that is what they need from human resources.

How About You
Do you jump at the opportunity to provide team building thinking that the leaders in your organization believe you're the best? Before jumping on the 'HR-Ego-Express' you better ask some questions first. I'll bet you that the leader definitely needs your help, but not in the way they think they do.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit


  1. I think you nailed it Jay, first "seek" (or ask questions as you stated) before jumping to solution providing - like in your team building example. HR has earned its seat at the table and the way to keep it to be a consultant first; solution provider second.

    1. Love your perspective Kurt...thanks for commenting.

  2. We are always encouraged to "Think Customer" and in those occassions I get asked to help with Team Building, I ask the simple question: "What problem are you trying to solve?" The Leader is my customer, but sometimes they ask for what they think they need, and we need to help them clarify what the need is. We keep asking "What" and "Why", and then we work together on a solution - that may or may not include any team-building.

  3. You go right to the core of the issue, Jay; does the group leader have his or her hand on the "pulse" of the group, and is she or he able to address the fundamental issues of the group? These are issues that should be addressed before a team building session is conducted. The team building session will be most effective when they are.

    1. Thanks Jim...knowing what the real issues are before diving in has helped me a bunch over the years (after I learned the hard way initially!)