Updated: Apr 15, 2021
All too often organizations seem to view team development with frustration, picturing some team building icebreaker or energizer that feels like a waste of time, particularly with busy schedules and heavy workloads. This is an unfortunate misconception about what team development is and why it is important. Team development is much broader than one-off team building exercises, and when done properly it is one of the best investments organizations can make in long-term outcomes.
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Teams, like individuals, grow and evolve over time. They are complex and require both effort and intention to make sure they perform at their best. But what exactly does "best" mean? Organizations interested in operating at maximum efficiency and in retaining long-term employees need to focus not just on outcomes, but on team member satisfaction and wellness. This is where team development comes in.
Team building is just one aspect of team development. These exercises' main functions are to help build trust and camaraderie among team members, to help build common values and language, and to practice teaming skills that can be applied to real work scenarios. While these can be helpful in larger-scale efforts, they must be done with specific goals in mind to be effective, and they won't resolve larger issues on teams by themselves.
Team development is a comprehensive approach that helps teams grow and develop over time, communicate more effectively through challenges, and collaborate in more authentic, transparent, and equitable ways. This can include developing processes such as building templates and procedures for feedback. It also requires leadership skill-building to help team members communicate more openly, make decisions more collaboratively, and raise awareness of issues. When teams work to develop these skills, each team member is trained to recognize, manage and share responsibility for the way they work with one another.
Team development also allows for your workplace to confront problems affecting your employees, including unfair power dynamics and code-switching that some have to do to be accepted into the work environment. Allowing open, frank discussions in your team can create a psychologically safe space for them to report back on these problems, instead of avoiding them.
True team development requires real work; it can't be done in an hour here and there. It needs to be intentionally built into a team's routine, from how daily meetings are run to how big decisions are made and work is evaluated. The benefit of cultivating highly transparent, open communication is that you are always improving, regardless of the obstacles the team faces. When organizational leadership places a priority on team development, it conveys their commitment to creating better work environments and stronger more effective teams.
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