There are lots of ways that team building helps teams deal with conflict better. From working on communication skills, to building a solid foundation of trust, to simply spending an enjoyable time together–here’s how team building can prepare your team to handle problems in healthy and productive ways.
Throughout this month we’ve been looking at different aspects of conflicts and how to solve them. We’ve explored the different frameworks of dealing with conflict, discussed conflict resolution and management techniques, and pondered the potential of conflict transformation. We also took a peek into mediation and learned about ways to have productive discussions.
For our last blog of the month, though, we want to connect conflict on teams to our own forté: team building. There are numerous ways that team building helps teams deal with conflict. It not only prepares them for the conflicts that may arise, by pointing out weak points or drawing attention to aspects of the team that need work.
Team building helps teams deal with conflict by forging strong team foundations as well. Core aspects of teams like team unity, trust and empathy all get reinforced through team building. So when conflicts do arise (which they inevitably do, and not always in a bad way), teams are more capable of handling them and using them in productive or even transformative ways.
With this in mind, here are 8 ways that team building helps teams deal with conflict…
How team building helps teams deal with conflicts
1. Understand conflict as potentially productive and beneficial
One of the most important ways that team building helps teams deal with conflict is that it allows them to understand that conflict is not always a necessarily bad thing. As we discussed before with conflict management and conflict transformation especially, conflict can be beneficial and even necessary.
Having the right attitude about conflict–one that is more positive and open–can allow teams to really grow as a result of it. Team building helps teams understand this crucial point by making conflict fun. Or rather, team building presents a number of different fun challenges that are then associated with learning and growing.
Teams therefore come to the understanding that conflicts and challenges can lead to the growth and success of the team, as long as they are harnessed toward that purpose. It’s a lesson that will help teams deal with more serious conflicts and challenges in the future.
2. Work on communication and decision-making skills in a low stakes environment
What we were basically describing in the last section is that team building provides a low-stakes environment in which teams can test their skills and deal with conflict.
By low-stakes, we mean an environment that is less stressful and anxiety-ridden. Regular work, for example, is a high stakes environment, where the success of the company, as well as individual career success, are involved, which makes taking chances harder.
But raising skills like communication and decision-making, which are essential to dealing with conflicts, require taking risks and being vulnerable. So team building helps teams deal with conflict by giving them a safe and fun space in which to practice and experiment with these vital skills.
3. See each other as individuals, and part of the same team
Another way that team building helps teams deal with conflicts is by getting to see team members as individual people, and not just “coworkers”. During team building events, teams learn more about their team members, and are able to see them in a different light than how they normally are at work.
This makes dealing with conflicts easier because team members will be able to negotiate based on a common understanding of where each side is coming from.But it also, ironically, leads to greater team unity as well. When teams understand each individual and their skills better, they are more likely to see everyone’s place within the whole. Therefore, team building creates a stronger sense of “being on the same team”, which can help limit disruptive conflicts and lead to quicker resolutions.
4. Focus on solutions rather than problems
An additional way that team building helps teams deal with conflict is by getting them to focus on problem-solving rather than the problem itself. This is an important aspect of handling conflicts, especially conflict mediation. Focusing on solutions moves the team forward to finding a productive way to end, while focusing on the problems will lead to getting stuck in the same conflict, or getting distracted by personal dramas.
Team building accomplishes this with the challenges. The challenges in team building activities, like those at Invite Japan, force teams to concentrate on the problem at hand to get ahead. Teams that bicker or focus on their drama end up not being able to succeed. So team building is a great way to challenge teams to stay focused on what’s in front of them in order to meet any challenge productively.
5. Build empathy and trust
Empathy and trust are probably the two most important virtues related to conflict that teams can have. Empathy helps teams see the other side as more than just an enemy, while trust creates a solid foundation wherein team members can open up, take risks and feel vulnerable without fearing retribution or marginalization if there is a dispute or a misunderstanding.
In other words, both of these virtues de-escalate conflicts on teams naturally, and without having to necessarily go through a mediation or resolution process (although they help in those situations as well).
Therefore, team building helps teams deal with conflict better by emphasizing empathy and trust-building skills. Both of these virtues are also present in team building, which brings teams closer together in the challenges as a team and gets them to learn more about each other. Teams that trust each other and have team cultures that are empathetic are most likely to come out ahead, and to have the most fun doing it.
6. Negotiate under a time limit–and deal with the effects
Negotiation is a large part of handling conflicts. From conflict resolution that focuses on producing an agreement, to conflict mediation that is all about negotiating and discussing, to even conflict transformation that requires at least a negotiation with “the way things are” in order to change team structures.
But negotiation often takes time–time that many teams often don’t. Team building teaches teams to negotiate, but with a time limit. Teams have a certain amount of time to complete all the challenges. Within this time period they have to make decisions and settle disputes about how to proceed. The effects of these negotiations are also clearly seen in the following challenges and stages of the activity.
As a result, team building helps teams deal with conflict by teaching them to negotiate quickly and deal with the consequences. This isn’t to say that negotiations should always happen quickly (they should take as long as necessary). But within the low-stakes, fun-filled words of team building, making negotiations quickly can be a way to practice managing conflicts and coming to productive solutions together.
7. Become aware of your team’s pressure points
As conflict transformation emphasizes conflicts–especially those on teams–are almost always indicative of underlying issues. Conflicts are therefore not just composed of the episode or signifying event of the conflict, but also the underlying context and history that produced it.
This all means that one reason why conflicts are beneficial is that they point out these greater underlying tensions and pressure points. Team building does the same as well, which means that team building helps teams deal with conflict by making them aware of issues before they erupt as conflicts.
8. Laugh together
The last way that team building helps teams deal with conflict is simply that it gives them the opportunity to laugh together. Spending enjoyable, quality time together is one of the best ways to build better empathy and trust (see above). It also lightens the mood when there are conflicts going on, which allows the breathing room needed to resolve conflicts.
Laughter really is the best medicine, then. And with fun activities that take teams out of their ordinary routines, team building activities like the ones at Invite Japan can be just the thing that pushes your team to look for creative solutions to its conflicts.
So that was our list of 8 ways that team building can help teams deal with conflicts. Team building has so many benefits for teams, and giving them solutions for dealing with conflicts is only one of them. However, since conflicts are such a natural part of teams, scheduling regular team building sessions can ensure that your team has the capabilities of handling conflicts and ensuring that they are used to productive and even transformational ends.