Here are some tips on team building strategies (guest post from Kate Simmons). The key to any hard working and happy work force is a happy environment. And we’re not just talking about having access to a stationary cupboard for pen or post-it note needs; everyone needs to get along. Almost anyone who has worked in a company has already found that if you don’t get along with your co-workers or bosses, your working week becomes a struggle. You even find it hard to get out of bed and motivated enough to get in the car in the morning. A lot of us learn to just get on with it and be civil for the sake of our pay cheque, but is there something managers can do to help heal the rift or build bridges?
Organising a short course exercise spanning just one day is fairly cost effective for a company, as there aren’t a lot of working days lost in the process. Taking your team away for a week will have a larger effect on your productivity but in the long run could reap more rewards. Clay pigeon shooting, bowling and scavenger hunts are just a few of the more popular choices. Anything involving having to work for your team and your team alone will be a winner. It might be a team building exercise, but that is no reason not to have fun. But be warned: if you choose to put people in a team who are known to loathe each other, don’t expect them to bury it for one day and play along. This is just team building over a short period of time, it isn’t a magic trick.
A lot of staff inwardly groan when their bosses bounce in one morning and announce that there has been some team building activity booked; especially after finding that it is mandatory for all staff. So what can you do to make sure you have a willing audience and not a group of sulky children?
- Choose enjoyable over miserable – It’s important to know that what’s fun for some of your employees will make others miserable. Avoid anything too sporty or athletic unless it is relevant to your business model.
- Choose relevant activities – Pick an activity that is related to what you want to achieve from your employees in their day to day job.
- Choose non-intrusive activities – Avoid team building exercises that may infringe on people’s boundaries and personal space. Unless you have a very young team who might be a bit more accepting of close proximity or ‘silly’ games, be aware of what may make people feel undignified.
Team building strategies should not only develop skills which you need in your job, but develop skills you didn’t think you needed. They need to boost company morale and strengthen employee relationships. Sound easy? It’s a relative mine field if done incorrectly…
Team building strategies – getting it right
Getting it right isn’t easy. Aside from the short courses mentioned above, some companies go for 2-3 days at a time, and sometimes for a whole week and that’s when it gets complicated. You have to make it relevant for the full week and make sure no-one kills each other. Office tensions are likely to run high and spill over into your team building retreat. Here’s an example of a good exercise for a short team building session:
Your organisation is compromised; your boss is a civilian detective racing against time to save his company from being infiltrated by the mob. He has everything he needs… or does he?
- Using GPS, find the secret mob headquarters
- Infiltrate the Mob
- Weed out the traitor
This is easy to organise yourself or you can hire a company to do it for you. Everyone is given personalities before the challenge and must achieve all of their ‘missions’ on their profile. It’s really the boss who has to do all the hard work; it’s about time they did some, right?
What this achieves: Working as a team, thinking around corners, thinking up cunning and clever tactics, innovation, organising yourself and others. It is basically a fun way to achieve what could be achieved by educational short courses, while your employees might not even realize they’re being trained.
Team building strategies – getting it wrong
It’s a lot easier to get it wrong than it is to get it right. You don’t want to create an awkward environment or make your employees feel uncomfortable. You want to get the best out of them; you don’t want them to quit and never return to work the following week! In a team who were not getting along, an exercise was used that involved them telling everyone what they disliked about them. Then they would have to tell them something they did like, but at that point most of the room were in tears and could no longer work together.
What this achieves: Instant hatred, unable to work together at all, depression, negative attitudes.
Team building strategies: some easy in-office solutions after your team building activity
- Open plan offices – Removing walls and boundaries leave the office able to communicate openly and effectively.
- Open door policies – As a manager, shutting your door makes your employees think something negative is happening behind it. Where possible, keep it open; invite people in to chat about work or in fact anything they want to get off their chest.
- Open opinions – Give everyone the opportunity to be open about their thoughts and feelings about the company and where it is going. You might just see potential where you didn’t think it would be.
Make sure you ask yourself this question at least once a week: ‘What have I done this week to encourage my team to grow?’ and you will continue to help your business grow.
Kate Simmons is a full-time consultant and occasional blogger mainly interested in topics related to education, business, leadership and management.