Team Building – More Than An Activity for Christmas Parties
At this time of year, many workers are compelled to take part in team building activities as an element of their office Christmas parties. Although such exercises are well intentioned, they often lack thorough planning and can be one-off events. The risk in limiting such initiatives to annual events is that instead of fostering or improving team relations, participants’ competitive nature is stoked. That’s not to say that isolated team building exercises can’t be beneficial, they simply require a clear purpose, such as improving a particular skill or addressing certain weaknesses or problems and ought to be designed to avoid conflict. The danger is that they can be perceived as merely a nice day out of the office and sometimes can do more harm than good. Poorly planned events can even be embarrassing, or physically and emotionally uncomfortable, for participants.
As the trend towards tacking on team building outings to festive celebrations continues to grow (venues such as escape rooms are increasingly in demand), we thought it pertinent to highlight the potential in these ventures and illustrate the advantage to replicating this impulse throughout the year. Hopefully, the following will incentivize you to use this year’s office party as a platform to integrate team building into your corporate culture in 2018 and beyond.
Even high-performing teams can benefit from team building exercises. They’re a means to improve communication, morale, motivation and productivity. More generally, they can assist employees in better getting to know one another and learning their strengths and weaknesses – something that is increasingly important for virtual teams. Team building activities can be used by businesses of any size to promote better teamwork in the workplace. Such endeavours are not just beneficial to individual employees but also directly contribute to a company’s success.
Team building activities are typically broken down into 4 categories:
- Communication activities
- Problem solving/Decision making activities
- Adaptability/Planning activities
- Trust building activities
The core idea or ruse is to convince participants perform various activities that are both fun and challenging which have also have the side effect of building teamwork skills, which improve employee performance and productivity when in a professional capacity.
On an ongoing basis companies can opt to continue team building through structured activities and exercises that employees themselves can lead. Or, with the proper budget and goals, managers can contract out for facilitation with an external resource. The latter is often the more popular choice. An external facilitator works with a group of employees to design the team building activities or sessions. These are most effective when they are customized to the group’s needs. Sessions can include ice breakers, discussion topics, games, cooperative assignments, and group brainstorming. It is imperative that events are integrated into everyday work so the results continue following the event.
When planning team building activities, it is important to first identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Begin by asking questions designed to identify the root of any problems. Based on the answers received, next choose targeted activities to help your team to address any problems. Team members also have recourse to many Team Effectiveness Assessment available online, as group exercises.
As more and more people work remotely, effective management of virtual teams is a necessary skill. It can be challenging to build rapport among team members who rarely, if ever, meet face-to-face. Time zones and cultural differences can present additional challenges when considering team building activities or strategies for remote teams. Remote team members are likely to feel isolated from their colleagues, and as such are primed to welcome opportunities for socializing “virtually,” improving their skills. Articles abound online offering practical suggestions on the topic of Virtual Team Building Exercises.
At it’s root team building is concerned with providing the skills, training and resources required for employees to work in harmony. But, to be truly effective, it must be a continual process embedded into team and organisational culture. When teams exhibit energy loss, decreased motivation and dips in morale, team building activities and strategies can help get people back on track. Sporadic team building exercises are one way to strengthen the bonds within your team, but they are not a shortcut to success. Rather it is imperative to make team building part of the organisational group’s mindset. In contrast, exercises that are well thought out and expertly run can unite people, enhance their strengths, and address their weaknesses. They encourage more cohesive and satisfied teams which bodes well for success.
As a result of being associated with office parties, team building exercises have developed a somewhat tarnished reputation. Consequently, in order to generate interest from employees, management will need to convince employees that they are not wasting their time. It is worthwhile to take measures to detect such resistance and to encourage participation. Open discussion, to explore people’s feelings about prospective events, and to turn sceptics into motivated participants, will yield dividends.
So as you get into the festive spirit and prepare to attend an escape room under duress, we encourage you to remember that team building at its best can be about uniting and encouraging people rather than dividing and demoralizing them. Although competitive exercises inevitably produce losers as well as winners, and may lead team members to work against one another, it’s worth bearing the points above in mind and striving to integrate team building initiatives into your corporate culture in the New Year. For true team building encourages collaboration rather than competition. (read Our Story for inspiration from the collaborative Prosperous Team)