Running a team development day

By Pelican director Cheryl Bennett

What collective noun would you use for the people you work with? A team, or just a group? You might think there’s little distinction, but from a business there’s a very important one.

A team is a group with a unified aim, people pulling in the same direction to achieve a common goal.

If this doesn’t quite describe what’s going on in your workplace, read on…

Do we need a team development day?

  • Do you need to bring a new team together quickly?
  • Has your team changed recently, either because of new-starters or because someone has left?
  • Are there performance or personality issues within your team?
  • Do you need to get your team motivated for, or focused on, a specific task?
  • Are you looking for a motivational and rewarding way to celebrate a team achievement?

If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, a team development day could be the perfect solution.

What happens on a team development day?

As the name suggests, it’s an opportunity to bring your team together for a day to help them work more effectively, increase their motivation and help them address new or existing challenges.

A combination of classroom-based and outdoor exercises often works best. Videoed activities to be reviewed and discussed can be helpful too. The facilitator will often have a variety of games and activities appropriate to the issues to be tackled. Tools such as psychometrics or questionnaires might be used to help mutual understanding and consideration which can be taken back to the workplace.

Whatever the reason for your team development day, when you bring a group of people together they go through four stages, as described by Dr Bruce Tuckman in his 1965 team development model. These stages give a good indication of what happens during the course of a team development day.

Stage 1 – Forming

Forming is the bringing together of a group of individuals into a team. Equally, this stage could be used to describe an established team encountering a new or significantly different task.

Stage 2 – Storming

This is a necessary stage in the team development process. Storming is about bringing to the surface conflict-related issues and discussing them in an open, honest, adult and controlled way, to avoid issues festering beneath the surface

Although storming by its very nature causes conflict, personal stress and embarrassment, it cannot be omitted from the team development sequence and requires skilful facilitation to generate an open and honest discussion. An external facilitator can often achieve things the manager can’t as the manager may be part of the problem!

Stage 3 – Norming

This stage is the development of the team into a cohesive unit with a developed sense of purpose. At this stage, team behaviour establishes team norms and effective inter-team relationships are developed. The team is characterised by the existence of a common goal and there is a strong sense of team spirit evidenced by consensus group action, co-operation and mutual support.

Stage 4 – Performing

This is the final stage of team development and completes the building of the team. At this stage the team is a fully cohesive unit, performing well with a high rate of achievement. This is the desired end result.

What does the facilitator do?

The facilitators’ job goes beyond getting the group through the four stages by the end of the event. Lessons learned during the day need to be transferable to the workplace, and the facilitator is instrumental in making those connections. This is a skill and requires an understanding of how people think and behave along with the ability to quickly build rapport and create a safe, enjoyable and beneficial event.

Tips to get the most from a team development day:

  1. Think about the purpose and end result; what do you want to achieve and how will you know if you have been successful? This will help a facilitator design the day’s activities.
  2. Consider the participants; skills, energy levels, physical capabilities. Outdoor activities are often a fun and energising way of building a team and tackling issues, as behaviours can be seen and addressed more easily and objectively, however everyone’s physical capability needs to be taken into account.
  3. Review various venues. If budgets allow, running an event off-site helps stop business distractions. Sometimes a night away can allow social relationships to be built.
  4. Timing: there is never a good time to take a break from work, but some points in the year/month are better than others. Make sure peak workload is avoided and ensure staff attending have adequate time to prepare and ensure they can release themselves from the workplace.
  5. What will happen afterwards? Make sure you get feedback from participants so that you can review success and take that learning forward.

If you need help transforming your colleagues into a team or would like further information on the many benefits of a team development day, get in touch with Pelican today.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSR, food, packaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategy, design, content creation, public relations and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.