Building a work team in the professional services environment has seen some radical changes in recent years. Where once the idea of working from home was an occasional event, professional services firms have witnessed increasing numbers of seasoned staffers defect to the life of full time telecommuting or even working independently from home. The ability to keep work teams together in a practical way has become increasingly challenging as the rise of the virtual team becomes more prominent.
Team building draws on the collective experience and the psychology of individuals in groups. The effort itself appreciates the fact that effective teams are made, not born, and that success depends on having a mix of skills and roles within the group. More importantly, different tasks require a variety of mixes of those skills and roles.
By definition, team building requires a set of activities that encourage groups of people to function well together – so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the professional services environment, this takes on a meaning of its own since at its very core, a professional services firm relies on individuals with highly specialized skill sets.
It’s all too common for strong personalities on the staff to suffer from conflicts of interest, power struggles and sometimes even the “lone wolf” syndrome. Working in the isolated environment of the home office can only compound these difficulties. This makes team building all the more important as a deliberate choice for work teams.
To address these hurdles, team building can be done offline, outside of work hours or even away from the workplace. It also can be done ahead of a major project in real time where the team’s cohesion is built as the project timeline progresses.
Typical roles needed in effective teams include formal ones – such as a chairman or leader, for example – and informal roles that help to keep the team functioning at a high level. Generating ideas, finding resources, keeping the group happy and defusing conflicts are all objectives in good team building efforts. Many approaches are based on the analysis of the individual team members, considering their personalities and preferred roles, helping the group make best use of these as assets and not liabilities.
There is no guarantee that any one method of team building will be successful, and circumstances can change dramatically over time. From one company to another, and from situation to situation, professional services firms need to come up with their own unique brand of team building in the workplace.
A great place to start when deciding how best to promote teamwork is to get an understanding of these factors:
Why it is desirable
Why it is not already happening
What kinds of teams are required
It is important that relevant expertise and a working model are developed for future teams. If team building has been successful for the firm up to this point, then it makes sense that the spirit of teamwork needs to be fostered as one of the firm’s greatest assets.