"Team Building" has become part of corporate vernacular in recent years. Parodied in movies, mocked in skits, and often thought of as unavoidable, the use of team building activities seems to have been relegated to just another item on a human resource department checklist. Despite their less than ideal reputation, however, team building activities can be some of the most important events your corporation hosts.
WHY ARE TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES SO IMPORTANT?
Effectively done, team building can increase collaboration, build trust, reduce conflict, and encourage communication. For corporate teams that are looking for ways to maximize their talent, these activities can improve the bottom line, engage employees and foster a positive corporate culture.
Strong teams lead to a stronger company, which leads to enhanced customer care and higher profits. If you want to improve the culture of your company, want to maintain a positive culture, or simply want to improve your customer relations, team building is one of the most successful methods you can use.
WHEN SHOULD TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES TAKE PLACE?
Depending on the size and makeup of your team, scheduling quarterly team building events may be sufficient to maintain a cohesive team. For other companies, monthly team building activities are necessary to maintain team harmony. Mind you, in sales driven companies, even the daily sales meeting could be considered a team building activity. Each company must determine their own team building needs.
Pivotal moments within the business may lend themselves to team building activities as well. Opportunities for team building can occur after corporate mergers that result in the addition of new team members, the hiring of new employees, the loss of key team members or after the company has experienced a setback.
Whenever the makeup of your corporate team has altered, a team building exercise can be appropriate. To be effective, however, team building should happen regularly, through both formal and informal means.
WHAT KIND OF TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES ARE EFFECTIVE?
Formal activities include:
Professional Development. Schedule trainings, workshops, or other professional opportunities for your team to attend together. If possible, arrange for the workshop to take place outside of the work environment, allowing for team members to meet on neutral territory, away from the distractions of the office.
Team Building Seminars. Organizations that offer team building activities and workshops can be beneficial when used appropriately. Contrived team building activities can backfire, however. (Remember ‘trust falls’?) Use common sense and take the personality of your team members into account while planning any targeted team building activities. A ropes course may sound like fun to you but be terrifying to other members of your team. Ensure that the activity will be beneficial to everyone who will participate.
Informal activities include:
Volunteering. Working together outside the workplace is both personally rewarding and is a great way to support a community effort. Select a cause that your entire team can rally around, and spend a day supporting their endeavors. It creates opportunities for team members to spend time together in a more relaxed environment and is something everyone can be proud to participate in.
Field Trips. Spending time together outside of work is a great way to see team members in a new light. The trip can be work related – a tour of a major supplier’s facility, for example – or just for fun – taking in a local spring training game. Scheduling an event that gives people the chance to mingle with other team members is an easy, cost effective way of team building.
Corporate Events. Hosting a corporate picnic or BBQ is another informal means of team building that can be fun and effective. Provide opportunities for physical activities (inter-department kickball, anyone?) that team members can participate in, as well.
TEAM BUILDING IN ACTION
Since business seems to take a lot of interest from the sports world regarding team building, winning and mental strength, this story may drive home the effectiveness of team building activities.
In the late 1970’s, American gymnastics teams were considered mediocre on the global stage. There had been modest gains in Olympic achievement; the Americans were beginning to win medals for individual events around the world.
As a team, however, they were no match for the stronger, better trained foreigners. That is, until 1982. That year, the Karolyis opened a gym specifically geared toward gymnasts. Defectors from Romania, this couple had achieved notoriety with the stunning success of Nadia Comenichi and their subsequent defection to the United States. Their place in gymnastics history was secured, however, when they took a group of gymnasts and turned them into a powerhouse team.
Here is how they did it:
Tasked with coaching the American female gymnasts, they set about to perform what business analysts would recognize as team building activities.
To begin, they selected individuals who were at the top of their game, skill-wise. These were athletes who excelled in their individual events, now they simply needed to become a team. To accomplish this, the Karolyis brought the girls to their ranch in Texas, where they would spend several weeks, sequestered away from outside distractions.
During this time, they would work together, play together and test each other, forming bonds based on their appreciation of each other’s skills. They focused on one common goal: win the gold medal. Over the course of several years, they would continue to get together regularly in anticipation of the upcoming Olympic games.
The gymnasts, equipped with new uniforms, a new team unity and a new resolve, were ready. Their efforts paid off. In 1996, the United States brought home the gold medal in gymnastics, and a new era of Team USA gymnastics was born.
Without their purposeful, targeted activities designed to build a cohesive team, would the USA have won a gold medal? Perhaps. Their strategic efforts, however, revolutionized gymnastics in the US and transformed it into a team sport for the first time in the country’s history.