Since the dawn of the computing age, workplace culture has been moving away from the focus on a single employee’s output. Today, we emphasize the work and success of the team. But how do you get the best results from your team? In a column for InformationWeek, Paul Korzeniowski discusses one practice most managers have too much faith in and offers a better solution.
Korzeniowski points out that many managers and leaders are spending good money to hire professionals and consultants with the aim of improving team collaboration. These outsiders come into the workplace with ideas and strategies for ‘forced fun’ and a one size fits all mentality. In some cases, these exercises might help improve your team’s willingness to work together. But, Korzeniowski cites management consultants who point out that these types of exercises are out of date.
A better way to build a team culture is to start with the physical layout of the work space. At many companies, employees who work as part of a team sit in an open floor plan where collaboration is easy. Beyond that, he recommends encouraging your people to visit at the water cooler or in the break room. Allow them to take a break for 10 to 15 minutes to talk about their personal lives. Their discussions about being up all night with a sick baby or cheering their kid on the soccer fields build a personal bond that can’t be easily duplicated by an outsider who is running a team-building exercise.
These casual employee conversations can often lead into discussions about work problems the team is trying to solve. In these cases, you don’t want to put on your traditional manager hat and hurry people back to their desks. Instead, make sure there’s a conference room available where they can strategize without disturbing the other team members in the common area.