While you may be expecting it based on the title, this post won’t be all “rah rah”. While team building can be a big help in fostering connectivity within a group, it’s necessary to have the correct building blocks in place prior to initiating a team building event. For example, if morale in your organization is extremely low, it’s unlikely that a team building event will move the needle on engagement. In fact, it’s possible that a team building initiative could have the opposite effect. Team building should be used to strengthen a group that is already functioning relatively well. There also isn’t a “one size fits all” approach, as team building can take a number of forms and can range from informal to formal. A few examples of activities are as follows:
• A facilitated discussion around team and/or individuals goals
• A staff lunch or barbeque
• Attending a sporting or cultural event together
• A group scavenger hunt
• A personality test exercise (using an established tool)
• Spending time as a group volunteering
As a leader, it’s important to have in mind the outcome(s) that you want the team building activity or session to accomplish. Informal events will provide an opportunity for everyone to get to know one another better, while formal events will typically have the added benefit of focusing on the organization’s mission or goals. For example, maybe you have a number of new people in your organization and you simply want to give everyone a chance to get to know one another in a more informal setting. Or maybe you have a lack of cohesiveness within your work group and want to get everyone together to talk about building a shared vision.
When organizing an informal event, ensure to be as inclusive as possible. If the majority of your employees don’t enjoy sports, arranging a group outing to a football game may not be the best idea. Most teams or work groups will have a variety of personality types; be mindful of this when organizing and facilitating team building activities. That is, monitor closely to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully engage in activities, and that discussions, etc. are not dominated by only a few people. As well, if you want full participation, organizing a session/event during regular work hours is likely the best way to go.
Team building should provide the opportunity for participants to gain a stronger connection with their coworkers, which will ultimately lead to a better team. Typically, colleagues will be more understanding of each other if they’ve had the opportunity to build rapport. All of this will lead to a professionally healthy work environment – including one free of tension – where issues can be discussed openly and honestly.
If you have a significantly disengaged workforce or if morale is very low, team building isn’t the place to start. Repair the root issue(s) first. Once you’ve accomplished this, move to team building in order to continue strengthening your group – the outcome will be engaged and productive employees.