Does your company have a team building plan?

Few organizations would consider starting a new fiscal year without a pretty concrete plan for sales, marketing, hiring, capital investment and the like. Yet the development of a critical asset – the organization’s teams – is often addressed in an ad hoc fashion or ignored altogether.

Patrick Lencioni, the author of “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, describes teamwork as, “… the one sustainable competitive advantage that remains largely untapped.” He also acknowledges that, although the advantages are enormous, most leaders and team members are not prepared to invest the time and effort – what Lencioni calls the “heavy lifting” – in order to become a true team. This is exactly where a plan can get you started and keep you on track. Here a few tips for your team building plan:

  1. Establish your vision of your successful team and organization; as Stephen Covey wrote, “Begin with the end in mind”. Ideally, plan a full day off-site to establish a shared vision of what this team looks like and feels like – the culture – when it is performing well at work. This “launch” of your team initiative should create an ‘ah-ha’ moment; engaging and fun enough to create a buzz, yet challenging enough that people experience the wonderful feeling of collaborative team success. This positive experience and vision will pull people forward when the going gets tough.
  2. Reflect on your current team culture and performance. Where are you now as a team and as individuals? There are many tools to help in this task, such as EQi 2.0, Myers Briggs Type Inventory, Organizational Culture Development and Strength Deployment Inventory, to name a few.
  3. Create a realistic timetable to address the identified gaps between the ideal and the current. Schedule skill workshops and check-in sessions at regular intervals so that reflection and feedback are frequent, support is ongoing and adjustments can be made. Regular intervals might be anywhere from a few weeks to several months and stretch over a year or more. The “lifting” may be “heavy”, but it is do-able when broken into small chunks and supported with coaching.
  4. Do it! Develop team skills with a series of half day or full day workshops that focus on trust, communication effectiveness, conflict management and navigating change as needed.
  5. If your team is performing quite well, plan one or two celebratory and inspirational events over the next year or two to keep them fully engaged and conscious of their positive team culture.
  6. Measure success and celebrate with a team building event to maintain engagement and ingrain the culture of true teamwork.

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How to Avoid 6 Most Common Team Building Mistakes

Putting together a successful team building program is not rocket science, but if it is not done right it might just explode upon lift off. Here are some helpful tips we share with our clients to help them make the most of their team building events and avoid unnecessary mistakes.

  1. Know Your Audience

This can concern the level of physical activity or the theme and type of activities you select. Not everyone is in the shape they once were and if your activities and team challenges are too difficult physically or require participants to walk great distances you may be setting people up for failure. Also consider if the activities are appropriate for an adult audience. Many people have a low tolerance for games that are too ‘silly’ or ‘juvenile’.

  1. Remember, Price is One Factor, Not The ONLY Factor

In most cases you get what you pay for and this relates to the team building company you select, the venue and the catering. If you don’t have an appropriate budget to put together a quality team building event you may be better off to bank the money and try again when you have a larger budget. A poorly done event can do more harm than good. There are many simple team building events that you can do with a small budget such as bowling or a pizza party. Just don’t confuse these with the value a professional team building program can offer.

  1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives

As Stephen Covey said “begin with the end in mind”. If you know why you want to run a team building event and what you want it to accomplish you can build it accordingly. Do you want it to be a fun motivational event or a learning experience? Do you want to influence a specific behaviour or theme? Without this you are just rolling the dice.

  1. Choose an Off-Site Location

Although you will save money by staying on site it is not always worth it (see point #2). Studies have shown that employees view in-house events as less important and of lower value. Most places of work do not have an appropriate space for a quality team building event and pushing the tables and chairs out of the way in the cafeteria or tidying up the warehouse doesn’t usually cut it. Add to this the fact that your attendance will be lower and you will lose people to work related ‘emergencies’. There will also be a big attrition rate at break and lunch when everyone gets back to their desk and discovers how much work they are missing.

  1. Make a Realistic Time Commitment

The amount of time invested should be proportional to the objectives of the event. If you are looking for learning and behaviour change a one hour session will not do it. Conversely, six hours of ‘Corporate Olympics’ is more than most people can take. We find that 2-3 hours is a good time frame for a quality team building program focused on relationship development, light learning, and motivation. If you are looking for learning and development you need to invest at least a half-day and better yet a full-day.

  1. Trying to Facilitate it Yourself

Again see point #2. If team building is not your specialty, you should probably leave it to the experts. As I said earlier it is not rocket science, but it can, and has, been done REALLY poorly. Carefully consider your ability to design and deliver a high quality team building program based on your skill set and while also trying to keep up with your day-to-day work tasks

A team building program can add tremendous value to your team and organization. But like anything else it needs to be done right. These 6 tips should help you put together the most appropriate high quality team building program for your next meeting, event or conference.

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How to Have a Successful Team Building Event

When you are planning your next team building event, make sure it is an event that your staff really enjoy. One that brings them together and provides lasting memories and value to your organization. To help ensure this is the case, follow these simple steps in the planning process.

There are some simple steps you can take to make sure your team building event is as successful as possible:
1. Start with the objectives – What would you like, and what do you need? Is it a motivation session or a reward for great performance? A needs assessment can help you determine what will be best for your team and provide achievable objectives for the event.

2. Plan it for everyone – Take into account people’s abilities and interests and fears. A great event allows everyone to participate in a meaningful way. Having challenges that appeal to all learning styles and fitness levels are fun for everyone and will allow everyone’s strengths to shine within the team.

3. Go offsite – A change of scenery can add instant energy and fun to a team event as well as allowing the team to focus on the objectives rather than the usual distractions. Many conference facilities can provide a full range of services including partnering with a trusted team building provider. If the budget doesn’t allow for an additional venue there are also a number of cost effective options such as city parks or public spaces that may have suitable facilities.

4. Make it meaningful – There is a great benefit to combining your team building with a meaningful activity or donation to a charity. Your company and your staff team can demonstrate their shared values by making sure your team building event has an element of giving back to the community. Ask your team building provider what charities they are partnered with or how their events can be combined with their annual giving.

If you have taken these tips into account when planning your team building event – you are definitely on the right path to improving the cohesiveness and effectiveness of your team.

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