By Anna Slocombe

This holiday season many of us missed out on something that used to be part of our lives – office parties.

Or did we?

There is a split into two camps – those who are happy to have missed the yearly gathering (or at least do not regret it) and those who will say that they enjoyed the fun and camaraderie the parties used to bring (the latter most likely did organise a party, at least a virtual one). The difference between the two will be the difference between the real team spirit, and the absence of it.

And that is exactly the point! Teams are not getting built BECAUSE of a party, the party is fun only because the TEAM has been built.

“Teaming” has to happen at WORK. (This is the term HBS Prof Amy Edmondson coined to describe the active process of people coming together to do work). Just spending time together is not enough, not always the conditions for a great team appear spontaneously. What are these conditions?

Firstly, teams can succeed when people know WHY they are together and when they are clear about their responsibilities and deliverables and those of all other team members.

Then, we are at our best and happy when we have healthy relationships with people around us – when we feel safe to express our ideas and talents and are supported in trying – and sometimes failing.

And lastly, we can be bigger than the sum of our parts when there are efficient processes that connect our work into a meaningful whole, and not put into silos. We can achieve wonders when the communication flows freely and honestly.

Really good leaders know how to consciously get the team to develop all of these dynamics. Even in “pre-Covid life” they did not just throw money and time at bringing people together in a hope that they’ll sort themselves out, they invested in building conditions to success. The pandemic not only diminished budgets, but also made our time together really precious. Are we putting it to a good use?

And yes, it is great to get to know each other better, so informal and inclusive parties – virtual or not – are a wonderful way of doing so.

Yet they only support TEAM building, not replace it!

If you want to develop your team this year (and have a great party at the year end), we’d be happy to help, coaching your team and using the  Dynamics of High Performing teams diagnostics. For more information, get in touch.