I noticed in the papers that one of our local football teams, Aston Villa, had taken their players on a " team bonding day " which resulted in several of them having to be pulled apart during a drunken brawl following a paint - balling session.

I must admit it made me smile - I've seen so many of these team events go wrong ( though not quite as spectacularly as this ). Take a group of people who don't like each other, give them alcohol and weapons - what could go wrong?

It raises the question of what makes a team. Of course, there are lots of answers, including -

• a common goal
• a shared interest
• a concern for each other's welfare
• an interdependence, one person can't succeed without the others
But there also has to be a sense of identity - people have to believe they're a team. It doesn't work if someone just says, " We're a team ".

Here's a typical example of what I mean.

When I worked for a large organisation, I used to go to a lot of conferences where some bigwig from London ( notice the prejudice there ) would tell us all how the firm was doing, where we were heading and how we were all one big team, working together, etc. etc...

The problem was...I didn't believe it.

I didn't feel like I was in a team with the person speaking - he worked in a different office, in a different city, in a different department. I'd never seen him before. He certainly had no idea who I was.

One thing I could be fairly sure of was that he probably earned 10 or 20 times what I did. We had very different lives and different priorities. I also felt that, however much money the firm made, he would get a lot more of it than I would and, if the firm did badly, I would be far more likely to lose my job than him.

That may not have been fair, but it was my perception. And that meant I certainly didn't feel like I was in a team with him. I didn't identify with him. I identified with my own department, my own office ( to some extent ) and some other people around the country who did the same job as I did.

This is very important because leaders of big organisations often want to use a team mentality as a motivator. They appeal to it in order to get people to work harder and to get better results. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's perfectly valid. I have no problem with it as an approach.

My point is that it often doesn't work - and the reason, in many cases, is because the people " on the ground " feel too remote from the leaders, too far removed from their world. They don't feel a shared interest with them, only with the people they work with on a daily basis, the ones in their own department or branch. In some cases, they may not even feel they're in the same team as their local managers.

So, if you're a manager or business leader, you need to ask yourself - who is really in your team? Do those people identify with you? Do they feel you understand them and their situation? Do you actually, in your everyday work, rely on each other, respect each other, support each other? How much do you know about them and what they do?

For a team to work, everyone in it has to believe they're in a team and act as if they are. It's no good just having a " leader " saying, " we're all in this together " if no - one else feels that way.

Author's Bio: 

Alan Matthews is a trainer, coach and speaker who helps people to be successful managers and leaders - people who can bring out the best in themselves and those around them. For more articles and a free copy of The Book Of 100 Management Tips, visit http://www.manageleadsucceed.com