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Recently we asked a team what sprang to mind when they thought about team building. Do you know what they said? “Water!” Water!! How have we got to a place where team building in business prompts thoughts of building rafts?? We think we can do better than that.

There has to be a better way

Raft building. It’s like taking a rowing team and, to prepare for the Olympics, putting them through a business simulation exercise. Maybe, just maybe, if there was a very specific reason.

But before that, in the first place, there are some very straightforward team performance principles that are worth establishing. These are simple and in most cases pretty easy to apply. They’re all about performance. And we mean performance, not results.

Are you better than that?

Take team performance seriously

The chances are you have individual targets/goals/objectives. You have individual performance reviews (you’re probably pleased with yourselves if you do these monthly. Tell Andy Murray he can catch up with his coach monthly and he’d think it was a joke) and you have individual pay and reward. Chances are you don’t take team performances seriously because you don’t have team targets, or do any team performance reviews (ever) or have team reward and recognition.

But it matters

The chances are that your organisation needs teams to perform well in order to achieve what it needs and wants to achieve. But your organisation is probably investing no (zero) time, energy or effort in helping teams to perform better. Setting a team target doesn’t count. It’s like telling a premier league football team you want them to win the league but never giving them (any) time to practice.

Teams in search of a purpose are strictly forbidden

Think about your team for a minute. What are your levels of confidence that if everyone wrote down the purpose of the team they would write the same thing? If it’s less than 90% then there’s work to do. And that’s the sort of work that’s more useful than building a raft or making cup cakes together. And agreeing a purpose needn’t take as long as trying to figure out what sort of knot will securely lash a barrel to a log.

What’s your performance improvement strategy?

The strategy of hope is probably best as a last resort rather than a first choice. Hoping your team(s) will somehow discover what it takes to perform is not the strategy of anyone with an ounce of intelligence or degree of responsibility.

You’d be better off understanding the basic principles of team performance – starting with a clear, motivating purpose that everyone is aligned behind – and then making sure this understanding is robustly applied.

Water is for drinking, cooking and putting out fires. Preparation is for team performance.