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Are There Team Building Activities That Truly Promote Collaboration?

Team building exercises have become a buzz word in corporate circles. Done effectively, they can help improve morale, enhance leadership skills, and increase productivity. Employers routinely use team building as a way to promote corporate development and encourage teamwork. Which team building exercises are most likely to exact change in an organization? Which exercises are most effective for organizations?

There are dozens of team building exercises that can be used effectively depending on what you want to get out of it : ropes courses, community involvement days, cardboard regattas and more. Each exercise has its own strengths and weaknesses, and can be used for a variety of situations. However, the most effective strategies have common characteristics that can be identified.

What are the criteria for successful team building?

They take place at a neutral location. There is something powerful about taking employees to a neutral location that helps them focus on the task at hand. Simply changing locations for your team building activities will ensure that you have everyone’s attention, and communicates that the activity is serious enough that you are willing to sacrifice worktime to ensure they attend. It is easier to let your guard down and try something new when you are in a neutral location.

They don’t push people beyond their capabilities. There is a difference between being unable to accomplish something and being unwilling to do something due to fear or embarrassment. Finding the balance between the two is essential. You want to encourage your employees to stretch, but you don’t want to set unattainable goals for them. Before planning your team building, take into consideration the physical limitations your employees may have.

They have clearly defined expectations. Want to promote cooperation? Choose activities that require cooperating with others for success. Need to stress attention to detail? Look for activities that offer opportunities to think small (in a good way!). Clear goals and expectations will lead to greater team building success.

What are the components of a successful team building exercise?

Communicates your culture
The core values of your organization are what drive your success. While your employees may be able to relay the specifics of their job descriptions, would they also be able to explain the what the company’s values are and how their job relates to those values? Want to build community within your organization? Plan team building exercises that identify and reinforce the key components of your core values.

Aims for 100% contribution
An effective team requires 100% buy-in and participation. Anything less than 100% will hamper your success rate, and can breed animosity, resentment, and frustration. When your company has total participation, you will reach higher levels of success. To facilitate a company that includes 100% commitment, use team building exercises that focus on working together. To encourage cooperation and determination, structure the exercises so that success is measured in task completion, rather than beating other teams.

Promotes both your culture and your team
It is impossible to build a team around a shifting corporate culture, and it is equally as difficult to find success without teamwork. Once you have established your corporate culture, you can focus on strategizing activities that support both components.

Team Building Success Stories

In one example of astonishing change after team building, an organization found itself facing losses of over $2 million a day. A series of events led to the walkout of over 1500 employees at a large manufacturing company. Determined to regroup and recover, the organization identified key personnel to attend a custom designed team building exercise.

The outdoor, survival-type program identified a weakness within the organization that led to the walkout. During the team-building exercise, strategies for defusing potential problems in the future were developed and implemented in the workplace. As a result, there have been no more mass walk-outs and confidence within the workforce is high.

A second example demonstrates the power of team building during a corporate transition. Taking a group of employees from various backgrounds and converting them into brand enthusiasts has been mastered by the United States Marine Corps. The Marines bring busloads of new recruits to their training facility and through highly regimented team building exercises, they turn them into Marines in less than 100 days.

They take them to a neutral location, communicate the core values of their organization and then promote team unity by highlighting the rich history the organization has. In addition, they stress corporate buy-in by 100% of their new employees. If a potential problem is identified, they address it immediately and take steps to correct it. In some instances, it is necessary to remove someone from the Marine Corps if it becomes obvious they will not align themselves with the Marine value system.

Does your organization seem disjointed? Are you facing issues within your company that are hindering your success? Plan a well-thought out team building activity to help generate team enthusiasm and promote team building.

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