, Team Building Part 2: Honesty is the Key!, Building Wrestling

The second in a series of 2 articles giving a slightly different viewpoint on effective team building, condensed from an original seminar presented by the author, John Roberts. John is a Freelance Training Consultant and director of JayrConsulting Ltd. Part 1 ( Another Brick in the Wall ) dealt with selecting and building the initial team. Part 2 deals with the culture that need to be in place to run the team really effectively. The ideas expressed are personal opinions built up from many years of experience in the Electronics/Aerospace industry, the Armed Forces, the Telecoms industry and the Training industry. There is no suggestion of this being a 100% solution applicable to or workable in all situations, but it is aimed at getting people to think outside of the norm and question the ‘normal’ way of doing things.

1. Honesty – The Key!

It really is that simple! The basic foundation of building and running REALLY successful teams is TOTAL honesty! Sounds simple, but it can be one of the hardest things to implement due to existing workplace cultures and peoples long-term conditioning to them. If you are not prepared to implement this culture change, you will only ever have functional ‘teams’ that are purely paying ‘lip service’ to the whole idea of team building.

Being honest starts here! You cant pretend to be honest, or only implement some parts of it, either as a team member or as a team leader. If you are not going to give it 100% – Give it up, because the rest depends on this to work properly!

There are two separate parts to honesty within the team scenario and both are equally important:

(a) Being honest with other people

You have to learn to be honest with everyone. If someone is not performing properly-Tell them as soon as possible, and help them to overcome the cause. If someone is performing well-Tell them as soon as possible, and help them to do even better.

If there is good news about the project/team/company-Tell people as soon as possible, without hiding things and deliver praise where appropriate.

If there is BAD news about the project/team/company-Tell people as soon as possible, without hiding things and discuss what can be done about it at a team and personal level-ask for input and ideas to resolve things. Most people can handle most situations well, as long as they feel they are being kept informed and involved.

Make sure that you are doing your share of the teams work, to the best of your ability. If the team are having to cover for you, you are not being honest with them.

If you make a mistake- admit to it, as soon as possible and if necessary get help to resolve it. If you try and hide your mistakes you are not being honest and it just leads to more work for others in the long run.

Don’t perpetuate rumours! It is one of the fastest ways to break down trust in a team culture. If you don’t know something is a fact-don’t repeat it!

(b) Being honest with yourself

For a lot of people this can actually be extremely difficult to achieve, due to long term conditioning in a competitive work place, but once started it tends to build on itself as long as everyone is really committed to long-term success of the team building process. You have to really look at yourself deeply and honestly and work at correcting your individual behaviour patterns and shortcomings.

If you can’t cope with something-tell someone and get some help with it. No one is perfect and we all need help sometimes. In a good team environment, nobody is going to think less of you for requesting help-just the opposite if it helps to get things done.

Be honest about your skills and abilities starting with your c.v. !). If not you will be found out eventually, but by that time, you may have let a lot of other people down!

Don’t steal credit/ideas from other people and put them forward as your own. Any gain for you is only short term and it is one of the quickest ways of destroying trust amongst your team.

Question your commitment and work ethos continually-Are you really giving 100% effort all the time? If not-why not -do you need to seek help or are you just being lazy?

Don’t lie! It’s infectious in a team environment. If you want a day off- take a leave day-don’t keep re-burying your grandmother!

Admit when you are wrong in a discussion-and apologise!

Don’t moan and grumble about work – if you don’t like being there -Leave!

2. Communication

Communication is one of the most important factors in successful teams. To be effective it must be continuous and completely OPEN – both between team members and between the team leader and their team. There should be no secrets. The team need to know how they are affected by corporate plans and decisions. Members need to know if they are doing things correctly. The team leader needs to know if their team members have any ideas or problems that should be acted upon. People respond better if they know the facts – even to bad news! (I had a team where they all volunteered to take a 10% pay cut to save a team member from redundancy, when the financial figures were explained to them openly!)

This DOESN’T mean that you need to have interminable ‘formal’ team meetings! People should be encouraged to talk to each other and to the team leader all of the time. A good team leader will set aside time every day, (YES, you can do it, if you are organised!), purely to get around and talk to their team. The better your communication is, the less meetings you will need to have!

3. Trust

Trust between team members and between the team and team leader MUST be absolute. If you don’t trust people to get on and do their job – why are they in your team? If you trust people to do a job, you have to relinquish power to them to make their own decisions – and they have to be responsible for those decisions! Team members must have trust in the team leader – that they have their best interests at heart and are working for team rather than individual success. In the ultimate team, people have to depend on each other for their lives – that can only be done with trust in your fellow team members.

4. Conflicts and Compromise

Teams are made of PEOPLE! You have to expect conflicts and confrontations. They should not be arbitrarily stamped upon – people have to be made aware that at some point they will have to compromise with other people in order to continuing functioning as an effective team. Members should be encouraged not to hide conflict, but to work it out and arrive at a compromise. The team leader should try and be aware of any conflicts and help to resolve them where necessary. Don’t expect your team to never argue – they are all different people, and just like in a family, there is nothing wrong with a healthy argument, as long as it is resolved

5. Chinese Councils

ALL team members should have an input to planning and decisions concerning the team. People in the team should be treated as equals. The team leader is not in that position because they are ‘better”, it’s just that they have different skills to the others. The team leader is not the only person that may have good ideas and should always be willing to accept input from others and where necessary amend plans and decisions concerning the team and its objectives. However, everyone should be aware that at the end, the team leader has the ultimate responsibility and therefore the final say in any decisions, having taken into account the input from other team members. This should be a regular ongoing procedure.

6. Assessment and reward

Forget ‘Annual Assessments’, Competency grids and pay rises based on individual performance! What matters is, “Is the TEAM successful?” The team leader should be constantly aware of how team members are performing and giving them feedback and assistance where necessary as the project progresses. It is no good leaving it until some later point to let people know if they are not achieving what is required or patting them on the back if things are going well. People need constant feedback -with honesty!

Reward should be based on the success (or failure!) of the whole team, not individuals, so that people are encouraged to make sure that everyone in the team is pulling together to achieve the team goals -not trying to score ‘smarty points’ for their own individual advancement. (This would not work in a ‘sales’ environment, which is why sales people tend to work as individuals rather than as teams!)

7. Buddies

Team members must all be ‘Buddies’ with each other. This doesn’t mean that you have to be close friends or socialise with each other! What it means is that team members have to support one another at all times. Everyone has ‘off days’, and team members should notice when someone else is not performing 100% and offer help and support to get them through this period. Sometimes all it will take is a joke or remark to buck someone up or they may need help with a particular task that is getting on top of them. All members should get into the habit of ‘watching out’ for each other. There is no shame in seeking or accepting help – we all need it sometimes. We all have different skills and abilities and team members should be encouraged to make use of each other’s skills to achieve the team objective as efficiently as possible. I was never very good at producing diagrams for presentations, but I had someone in my team who was brilliant at it, and I would always ask her to critique my work so that I could produce a better finished product.

8. No Blame – No Shame

EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES! The secret is to have a culture where people are not ashamed to admit to having made a mistake! That way, mistakes can be rectified quickly, and more importantly, learned from! If someone makes a mistake (deletes a file or something), you don’t want them to feel that they will be penalised or marked down in some way. You need them to tell someone and if necessary seek help to rectify it as soon as possible. (Needs ‘honesty’, as above!)

Summary

You may have noticed something in reading the above? No jargon, no ‘hype’, no ‘games’, no ‘exercises’, no ‘concepts’! – NOT NECESSARY! Successful teams are all about PEOPLE, their natural skills, abilities and relationships. Running a successful team is very much like running a successful family and most of the values are the same – BUT, it will not work WITHOUT HONESTY as above! Remember that is probably the hardest thing to achieve due to human nature and the conditioning that people are subjected to in the normally competitive culture of most work places, but it is worth the effort if you really want to achieve effective team building.

Think about all of the above – how much of it currently applies to teams in your workplace? Could you implement this? Remember – unless you start with HONESTY, it will not work, and you will always just be going through the motions of team building!

As always I am completely open to any comments – the whole idea of this seminar is to get people thinking and discussing what they do in their teams and how it could be improved.

Acknowledgements

Adapted from an original article by John Roberts, freelance training consultant, Director of JayrConsulting Ltd., www.jayrconsulting.co.uk. John can be contacted at john.roberts@jayrconsulting.co.uk

This article may be freely reproduced / modified and used in any way, providing this acknowledgement is left in its entirety.

, Ideas for Team Building at Work Meetings and Seminars, Building Wrestling

Team building activities can be hard to execute in work meetings and seminars. In such instances, the primary hurdle that is mostly encountered is the lack of resources. While it’s always easy to foresee this, coming up with a viable solution still remains difficult for some. Here is a set of ideas for team building at work meetings. These are simply suggestive and it would be great if you could improvise on them.

The foremost thing would be to develop a mutual comfort in the relationship between the members. Most people call this ice-breaking, but ice-breaking is a term suited in situations when things are really cold. Even smiling associates need some extra sparks flying between them to let the smiles delve deeper into each others’ hearts. Games like ‘musical chairs’ are apt for such situations.

Next, simple indoor games which are commonly favorites as leisure games can be efficiently used. Mind you, nonsense games must be avoided. Include some Sudoku games, and make them solve a Sudoku as a group. It boosts the team building process, since they are applying brains, working as a team and also competing against each other, not just as groups but also as individuals.

If these seem to be very radical to you, then don’t yet give up on this list of ideas. Take this hardcore activity, straight from the books of management gurus. Assemble the teams/groups. Brief them about the past progress/regress. Give them pamphlets and ask them to interact between themselves and thereby design the procedural course of action to improve upon the past results.

This activity may seem a very succinct form of their daily jobs. But the fact prevails that it would be far too effective, since they are now doing it within a short span of time, say 15 minutes. This implies they must brainstorm & they have extremely less time to analyze too much. This gives them less time to counter each other’s ideas and hence they would bond better. At the end of the activity, their mutual respect would have escalated by considerable margins.

, Design and Build Contracts, Advantages and Disadvantages, Building Wrestling

Anyone who has spent time working in the UK construction industry is likely to have strong opinions about Design and Build contracts. In the immediate future, it’s likely that activity within the sector is going to increase, and whilst the exact political flavour of the Conservative government has yet to be confirmed they have at least promised to invest heavily in house building. With that in mind, the following points highlight some of the thorny issues associated with design and build contracts.

UK House Building

200,000 appears to be the magic number; in March 2015, David Cameron promised to double the target of 100,000 homes aimed at first time buyers, and with his position now confirmed in No.10 Downing Street we wait with bated breath to see if this commitment will reach fruition. Across the UK, firms are experiencing a modest rise in construction projects and reporting a certain amount of confidence. Besides the always-nebulous claims of politicians a range of measures including a loosening of planning laws and assistance for first time buyers is buoying up the industry after last year’s lack of growth. For many developers, however the fact that an increased demand for labour and materials is likely to push up prices can make design and build contracts more attractive.

Design and Build Advantages

Design and Build [D&B] is a useful procurement route for developers in that it allows a certain amount of control over costs. In general, lump sum contracts result in a contractor agreeing to take on the responsibility for both the design and construction of a project for an agreed price. The contractor may have their own team of designers or may engage an outside firm. They will agree a design initially with the developer, but after the contract is signed the contractor will have full responsibility.

If the agreed-on design remains unchanged throughout the project, the developer can be reasonably sure that the overall cost of construction will remain unchanged. Of course, it’s possible that the developer will require some design changes during the project, but it should then be possible for the contractor to provide an illustration of exactly how any such changes will affect overall costs.

Another of the advantages of design and build contracts is the possibility of reduced construction time. If the contractor is entirely responsible for design a great deal of time can potentially be saved as the design and building elements will run concurrently. For developers the main benefit is that, once the contract is agreed the contractor takes on much of the financial risk inherent in a project; that’s increasingly attractive when prices of both labour and materials are looking likely to rise. When various political parties claim that an upswing in construction is just around the corner, it’s worth remembering that it’s not just the taxpayer who will be expected to contribute. The Conservative government will also need to rely on private investment.

Design and Build Disadvantages

Not everyone in the industry is a fan of design and build contracts and it’s therefore worth taking a look at their disadvantages. Those who dislike the system point out that if a builder is given a free hand to design a building based on a pre-agreed price, even if costs don’t rise during the project they will be likely to work to the lowest possible specifications [if the contract allows them to alter the specifications].

Secondly, there’s an inherent problem in that builders are not architects. An architect, as well as having years of training and a very specific set of skills not least aesthetic ones, will be up to date with both the legal and design requirements. There are also requirements that may not be written into law but will be at the cutting edge of what makes a building fit for purpose now, and years into the future. Giving a builder a set amount of money and most, if not all the responsibility for design is a recipe for a shoddy result, say some people.

Making generalisations about the merits of D&B versus traditional construction methods is dangerous. In the real world, both can and do result in some buildings that are successful and some that are a disaster. For developers, architects and contractors perhaps the most important point is to ensure that the contract whatever form it takes is fully understood by all sides, covers all legal requirements and has the flexibility built into it to allow a satisfactory result.

Construction Management

Recently there has been something of a trend towards construction management rather than design and build contracts. Here, an intermediary in the form of a construction manager is appointed and the developer takes more responsibility for the overall costs of a project. It’s possible, however that if private investors are effectively forced into taking more financial risk the supply of money for the promised housebuilding boom could begin to dry up.

, Different Building Materials for Different Climates, Building Wrestling

Building a new home requires a lot of considerations not the least of which is the materials you will build with. The environment and location of your home plays a major part in which materials and use and where. The aspect will dictate the best place for certain materials as well as which elements will go where. Your architectural designer will be able to assist you with the best place to locate your home and give your recommendations about it should be built of depending on your climate.

Glass is one of the most versatile of building materials as it not only allows light to enter into the building but it also the opportunity for many architectural accents. Glass not allows light to enter but also warmth, however it does not hold heat like other materials so the use of it needs to be countered with complementary materials to ensure your home does not end up cold. Particularly important when you are building in cooler climates.

Concrete is also another diverse product which not only absorbs heat but also releases it slowly as the temperature outside cools down helping to maintain a balance of warmth in your home. It’s a great counter balance to glass and positioning it in your home when the sun can reach it during the day and release it in the evening. The floor is an obvious choice as well as walls that may be subject to strong southerly winds.

Insulation is another vital component of ensuring that your home is perfect for your climate, if you live in a country that has primarily cooler weather ensuring adequate warmth during the winter months is important to the overall comfort of the people who will be living there. Additionally if you live where the weather is primarily hot and sunny having a well ventilated house to allow good circulation of air to keep you cool and your architectural designer will be able to ensure these design elements are included.

Solar Panels being incorporated into your building plans are also something to discuss with your architectural designer, this will be extremely beneficial for houses in warm sunny climates but also for those in other parts of the country as it helps reduce your power consumption by utilising natural resources.

Your architectural designer will be able to recommend many of the best building materials for your section, aspect and climate to maximise the natural assets such as sunshine, and minimise the negative one’s such as wind.