It has been said:

“Teamwork is the ability to work together towards a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments towards organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

There is no greater bonding experience for a sports team than travelling together on tour. Yet social capital theorists will tell you that there are two types of bonding – exclusionary and inclusionary.

Exclusionary bonding is harmful and sets teams up for an ‘us versus them’ mentality. The classic example cited in research is football hooligans, who hijack the team dynamic as a vehicle for their own prejudice and status.

Team building used to be characterised by things like requiring new members to complete inappropriate tasks, ‘hazing’ new members by treating them negatively and harshly, and putting senior members on a pedestal.

When taken in isolation, these acts may not be harmful per se; however, drawn out over extended periods may cause serious damage to individuals. It can potentially cause problems with alcohol, stress, illness, injuries, academic and relationship difficulties, and problems with the law.

Even at their best, they reinforce behaviours that are hardly desirable in a civil society – the tour setting should not be used as an excuse to waive these basic human rights.

Rather than resorting to traditional techniques, inclusionary methods such as encouragement and support will genuinely bond the team. Principles that might guide these activities include:

  • treating others how you want to be treated;

  • being respectful and polite;

  • encouraging inclusion and participation;

  • being supportive and uplifting; and

  • helping each other out.

Quite often, this will only require a subtle modification of current practices – play the same games and pull the same pranks, but with a clear appreciation of the boundaries and the fundamental respect for all.

As a team manager, you can be the key influencer in this regard.

Have fun, have a laugh, but help people get to know each other on a deeper basis and your team will excel greatly. Even if not on the field of play, you will become a family rather than a team, and that lasts longer than the buzz of a medal or trophy.

But the best intentions in the world will rarely guarantee perfectly smooth sailing – the next topic is crisis management. It looks at what to do when things go wrong.

Source Andrew Carneige