Pump them up: Tips for building a strong agency team

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Trust falls, obstacle courses and sharing personal anecdotes are activities that can be fun aspects of traditional teambuilding, but their impact can be fleeting once employees return to the daily grind. Sometimes, more substantial measures must be taken to ensure a team is working together effectively and achieving agency goals.

In this e-newsletter, we’ll describe a few tactics your agency can implement to build an even stronger team with a unified focus for the future. Bringing your staff together is the first step toward achieving any agency goal – small or large.

When to focus on team relationships
A few agency forces can merit the need for teambuilding, including:

  • A significant staff layoff due to decreased resources or funding
  • A natural or other disaster that impacts the agency, its function or its employee base
  • Continual appearance of conflict or negativity among workers
  • The unveiling of a new policy that will affect management and employees alike

Assess what you know
After you’ve determined the need for teambuilding, go deep. Traditional teambuilding exercises can forge positive relationships, but if they don’t address the foundational problem that has merited the need for teambuilding, their effect can be limited. First, hone your focus on your team’s knowledge.

According to Authenticity Consulting, which specializes in cultivating high-performing teams, the core of teambuilding resides in a clear understanding of certain internal structures, including:

  • The purpose of the team
  • How decisions are made and problems are solved, and how communications will be done
  • Each member’s current roles and responsibilities
  • What authority and resources the team has to work with

Start off any agency teambuilding with allowing individuals to take this pre-assessment of their agency understanding. Post the questionnaire online using a web-based survey program to better assess the final results and pinpoint any issues of confusion. The results will showcase what areas employees and management may be unclear on.

Boost survey participation by sending out an e-mail reminder that includes a link to the survey, as well as providing a nifty tech-themed reward for their efforts. Try something thrifty and useful like an iSticky Pad for electronics or a Five-song Music Download Card.

Get to the root of the issue
After locating where communication and information gaps lie, move on to assess why it matters and what effect the misinformation has on your agency and its constituents. The Help 4 Nonprofits & Tribes Institute® shares a very useful three-question process for teams who are looking for real answers to why they may not be functioning productively:

“When the idea of teambuilding or a discussion of morale arises, or when infighting or all those bad behaviors rear their heads, use the following diagnostic questions to get to the root of the problem:

  • What is this stopping us from doing?
  • Why is this important?
  • How is this keeping us from better helping the community?

Using these questions as a guide, agency teams will stay on the issues at hand rather than individuals or personalities that may seem responsible. Train your team on the above process and encourage them to consistently put it into action to build stronger relationships and team camaraderie. Always-visible Retractable or Vinyl Badge Holders imprinted with the message, “Building strong teams is easy at 1-2-3!” can be a great reminder to use the three-step assessment.

Facilitators can help
We understand that sometimes an outside third-party force is necessary to make a teambuilding process run more smoothly and effectively. That’s why Harvard Business Publishing recommends hiring a facilitator in extra-sticky situations to help your team navigate the turbulent waters – one that fits with your agency’s internal culture and has experience working with government entities.

Consider holding a day-long team session with the facilitator to avoid any workday distractions. Build positive buzz surrounding the day’s activities by promoting it like you would any other important event. Use in-office Countertop Banners, distribute “Save the Date” Mouse Pad Coasters and send out reminder e-mails throughout the preceding weeks to keep it front-and-center.

In-depth teambuilding fuels the fire under a productive and cooperative agency staff. Once you are able to take a true assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses as a team, you can then move onto the solutions. And, as you know, savvy solutions are the driving force behind all positive internal and external interactions!

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