If it was fun, did it do much for the business? Can team building events actually work?
What are the benefits that team building events are supposed to deliver, what stops them from being achieved and how could you get more from your team building events?
Communication in the team
Spending time with colleagues in a different setting can change the way people talk to each other. That sounds like a good thing, people in different states, talking differently, gives an opportunity to learn something about each other as they’re using different language to normal. It might challenge some people though; they might lose the familiar and comfortable, they may feel insecure and not like the different communication.
Motivation of the team
Having fun as a group of you can be motivating and motivated people do more, right?
Learn more about individuals in the team
Having seen each other doing stupid things, or in scary situations you now feel more comfortable with each other back in the office…really? Isn’t that the same justification as the (often disastrous) office Christmas party?
Can team building work?
Yes! A team that understand each others role more fully than before can:
- operate more efficiently
- create positive improvements in processes
- improve customer service (have you been on the phone to somebody that doesn’t really understand what their colleague does?)
- enjoy working together and feel more motivated (leaving Maslow and other motivation studies for another day)
- reduce staff turnover. People that are happier working, stay for longer; that’s a direct saving to the bottom line.
What are the problems with team building events?
Yesterday I was listening to an employee talking with total boredom about what her senior management thought would be a fantastic way to set up a new senior management team and generate strong team dynamics. What was worrying was that she knew two colleagues that were actively going to avoid going, as they were afraid of / hated the idea of the activity suggested.
The plan was to have a team meeting and then all go paint-balling, in the hope that this would be a good thing – it plainly won’t be! It was also being seen as just a way to skive for a few hours that was being tagged into a normal day, and nobody could see the value (which could weaken the company drive to focus on value and saving money).
Lesson 1: Ensure that the activity you plan does have a general acceptance in the team
Lesson 2: Ensure that all members see value in the activity, and how it will help in their normal roles.
I know of a group that sent a team out for a half day activity outdoors (essentially a treasure hunt); the people didn’t want to spent time together, didn’t like each other, argued about what they were doing and afterwards were even more dysfunctional than before.
Lesson 3: Ensure that the concept of working more closely together is one that people aspire to and value. Deal with pre-existing conditions first.
Lesson 4: Have a plan to deal with any tensions should they arise.
At another company there was an entire team who were talking with enthusiasm about the idea of raising money for charity together; they were generating this activity themselves, with no push from senior management. Even just the planning was creating excitement, improved communication and better awareness of each other. There was no cost to the company concerned.
Lesson 5: Activities generated from the ground upwards can be more powerful than ones imposed.
What team activity am I advocating?
Am I advocating any particular type of team activity? No, I’ve seen teams gel more strongly by doing something as simple as a charity fund raising “bake a cake” for work day, to all going abseiling or painting school toilets. Activities can generate a sense of camaraderie and there are benefits to be extracted from that.
If you’re interested in the ideas around some team activity that will also help raise money for charity (and could get your company good PR into the bargain), contact the Spinal Injuries Association who have just started a team challenge called the SIA Accumulator challenge, you could get more details from them on 0845 678 6633 extension 220.
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Ideas to improve your team building.
So as well as few lessons to prevent disaster, some ideas to maximise the power that you get from an activity. It should:
- be clearly linked with work (it isn’t just a chance to go and have some fun, it’s a serious work activity)
- have some communication support available (perhaps looking at communication styles prior to / after the event, or even just having an open discussion on them)
- create some positive shared language and stories that will keep the activity (or at least the benefits of the activity) locked into the company psyche for time.
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees. Click here for your copy.