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Team development or team-building?

by in Team building

If you were to ask ‘what is team development’, I wonder what responses you’d get? Would people focus on personal development, learning new skills or would they think of it as team-building and conjure up images of themselves on an obstacle course?

What we’re really trying to achieve is the development of the team with a focus on improving outcomes for the patient population. To do so, it’s best to start with the definition of team development which is:

“A group of people who are working through collective endeavour toward a common goal”[1]

So, you’ve got your team, but what is the aim, the goal? What are you trying to achieve? At this stage, you may perhaps be trying to form a cohesive team, who are supportive of one another, and a team that’s willing to go that little bit further in support of their colleagues and the patient population. So, you need to be clear about what areas of development you’re focusing on.

Remember, there’s a clear difference between team-building and team development. Team-building events are those one-off, usually fun events that focus on the team bonding and getting to know one another. Whereas team development helps your team to grow and strengthen over a period of time, while facilitating personal and organisational development to enhance confidence and improve service delivery.

What team development ought to do is switch each individual’s focus from personal success to team success. A phrase which is most apt is: “There is no I in team”. Your practice team should be working towards achieving the aim (remember, you need to specify that aim) collectively and cohesively.

Maybe there’s an opportunity here to conduct two exercises – that is, a team-building event (let the team bond through a well-led team-building event such as an Escape Room experience), before introducing your planned team-development programme.

I say ‘programme’ because it’s exactly that; it’s not a quick, one-off event (that’s team-building), it’s a much more detailed sequence of events that takes time (I know, a precious commodity in general practice!). But while it does take time, there’s a real need to allocate time to your team-development programme.

There are usually four key steps to consider when planning team development:

  1. What is it you’re trying to achieve – what’s the common goal?
  2. It’s an opportunity for everyone to have a voice, an opinion and to share their thoughts and ideas. Be ready to listen and let your team members make contributions (there’s no ‘I’ in team)
  3. Draw from the strengths that exist in your team; how can individuals support the team-development programme?
  4. Be mindful of strong personalities; set ground rules to reduce the risk of internal conflict! Remember, the focus is team development not personal success

For team development to be successful, you need to know what success looks like; this can be identified by having a clear aim or goal, for example:

The aim of this team-development programme is to enable all non-clinical staff to undertake all administrative duties across the practice.

Of course, further specifics are needed, but they can be communicated to the team – think, step one, achieving the common goal, and step two, what do the team members think?

Hopefully now you can see how the four steps are intrinsically linked and how, by following the steps, you can make your team-development programme a success.

Are you ready to introduce team development and move away from what may be described as a dysfunctional team? Do you want to begin the process of creating a truly effective and cohesive team at your practice? This will undoubtedly increase productivity and enhance patient outcomes and experiences.

[1] Introduction to Team Development – NHS Leadership Academy


Helpful documents:

Staff development policy [PLUS]

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