It's time to embrace teambuilding

Written by
Changeboard Team

07 Jun 2010

07 Jun 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Why is teambuilding important?

Forget the old clich??s of a damp day spent building a raft in a remote forest. The best of todays teambuilding programmes are exciting, engaging and infused with key messages that are tailored to the specific objectives of the business.

Thats a very powerful tool. When you combine a compelling hands-on activity with objectives that relate to day-to-day working, and align those two elements correctly, you have a far greater chance of your messages being absorbed by employees and put into action.

As our own client feedback attests, the subsequent improvements in working practices and performance are proven time and again.

Case study: Mars Chocolate

Mars Chocolate UK recently incorporated teambuilding activities into a conference with the aim of promoting closer working between three different teams, under the umbrella of a space theme.

The solution that we created was a series of activities for the 50 delegates to take part in. Split into teams, they worked their way through space-themed tasks including space hopper Challenge, shuttle radiation and space ID parade. Success in each Challenge was rewarded with Spy Dollars and the overall winners launched a Mars rocket in the event finale.

Mars Chocolate UK, account manager, Ian Mitchell said:

The feedback afterwards was excellent, with all but one describing the teambuilding event as the highlight of the day. But it wasnt just about having fun. The teams started working together more closely, and were able to put names to faces, which made them more comfortable about phoning each other.

Tough times need strong teams

So why isnt teambuilding at the top of every companys agenda? Apart from some of the unfair perceptions mentioned above that need to be overturned, there are the obvious constraints of austerity. But teambuilding doesnt have to mean a big budget. A lot can be achieved by taking a couple of hours out of the day to do some teambuilding in the office with a very modest outlay.

Another problem is timing. Too often, businesses invest in teambuilding when times are good. But tough times are when teambuilding is needed most. What I keep hearing is that staff have been working extremely hard during the recession but no-one has been getting anything back. Revenues are down, profits are down and salaries are suffering, but staff are still working at a punishing rate. Thats when there needs to be an incentive. Teambuilding has never been more important.

But theres a vast gulf between teambuilding that works, that is meticulously planned and executed in order to meet a measurable goal, and teambuilding that fills time but fulfils very little else. So how do you ensure your teambuilding programme is the kind thats successful and rewarding?

Decide what you want to achieve from teambuilding

Firstly, establish some clear objectives. Youd be amazed how many companies steam ahead with plans for a teambuilding exercise without stopping to consider exactly why they are doing it. How will you achieve anything if you dont even know what youre trying to achieve?

By working with a good teambuilding company, you can get a sense of whats achievable and let them develop a programme that meets those criteria. The events we run at Spy Games, for example, are tailored to focus on specific areas such as communication, leadership, teamwork, planning or particular company policies.

The next stage is to agree upon an activity that both meets the company budget and suits the group. If youre considering an extreme weekend survival course, remember that skinning animals on a Welsh hillside is not for everyone. And if it exceeds the predetermined budget, its out of the question.

Take people out of their comfort zones

What unites all of those activities, we hope, is that they offer a unique experience. Familiar or ordinary activities cannot generate the excitement and focus that are necessary to command the commitment and attention of the group.

Putting people in a completely new environment, presenting them with unfamiliar Challenges, or a combination of the two, immediately helps them to break free of the habitual thinking that might hamper their daily work.

Activities that demand fresh thinking, positive collaboration and unified action to meet an urgent need can help them reassess the way they work and, importantly, demonstrates the effect of this on the ultimate result. In addition, when people are enjoying themselves, they are more open to learning and taking messages on board.

Encourage full participation in activities

Creativity on the part of the organiser is crucial, but never overlook logistics. Attention to detail can make or break a teambuilding event. How do you access the toilets at the site? How will you involve each of the 150 people in attendance? And what about a contingency plan? Whether its bad weather, transport problems or a volcanic ash cloud, you may have to adapt quickly.

During the event itself, theres sometimes uncertainty about who gets involved. I always recommend that senior staff be they managers, directors or chief executives take an active role. Far from looking silly, managers will gain respect from employees if they go through the same experience as their staff. Once respect is established, trust will follow and this inevitably leads to better joint working practices.

Encourage teamwork, understanding & conversations

Afterwards, depending on the primary aims of the teambuilding programme, a business might regroup with the participants and talk through what they learned and how it translates to the workplace. At other times, the Lessons are obvious.

What weve found is that if the experience was unique and engaging, it will be memorable. It will be talked about for weeks or even months.

A common theme for example, is lack of understanding within teams or between different teams, which can mutate into jealousy, personality clashes, general animosity and a breakdown of communication. The right event will force them to integrate with each other, understand their differing roles and responsibilities and communicate, perhaps for the first time.

Two colleagues who hadnt connected before, will later strike up conversation around what they did on the day. Theres also a social element in coming together and learning more about each others lives, and therefore why they might behave in a certain way at work.

The Benefits of teambuilding, coordinated correctly, are undeniable. And even if all else fails, seeing Gladys from accounts get to grips with a sniper rifle is bound to encourage her colleagues to get their expenses in on time.