I recently wrote a blog about the value of team building for consulting teams — including members from both the consulting firm and the client — to help prevent the “breakdown and rescue” that almost always seems to happen at some point during a project. As I pointed out, this costly cycle can be stopped with some solid upfront team building work focused on the core team competencies: engagement, collaboration, empowerment, awareness and trust. Here’s how to structure the team building program in a one-day workshop.
The workshop should have four components:
- An opening session to explain purpose, value and expectations. — In this session, participants are introduced to the benefits of teams, the concept of a team charter and expectations — including behavioral expectations — and the concept and importance of the core team competencies. They come to clearly understand the benefits of real teamwork and loyalty rather than an us vs. them perspective.
- A simulation-based session on engagement, collaboration and empowerment. — In this session, participants are trained in three of the five core team competencies. First, these competencies are explained in a presentation, then the the session facilitators demonstrate use of the competencies in simulated, scripted discussions. Finally, the participants use role-playing exercises to practice the three competencies in small breakout groups under the guidance of the facilitators.
- An assessment-based session to develop awareness. — Before the workshop, participants are asked to take personality-based assessments which show individual thinking styles. We use a non-judgmental assessment for this purpose, generally the Neethling Brain Instrument, emphasizing the positive contributions which each participant can make to the team’s work. In this workshop segment, the assessment results are given to the participants who participate in a team feedback session where they learn about different thinking styles. This helps them better understand their individual approaches to project work and interpersonal interactions as well as what to expect from their colleagues.
- An action-learning based approach to develop trust. — For this session, we divide the team into groups of five to eight participants, moving them to different tables in the room. We have them play a game, which we call Trust, which emphasizes the need to depend heavily on other team members to score points and win prizes. The game creates strong temptations to hoard information (e.g. short term prizes), but the real rewards only go to the winning team. In fact, if your team finishes last, you forfeit all short term prizes. Moreover, the game is designed so you can’t easily tell how your team’s results compare to the other teams’ output until after the game is finished.
This represents a one-day investment in creating a real team. It will add a little up-front cost to a project. It will help save substantial rescue costs in the long run while paying meaningful dividends in better client relationships and stronger client references.