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What do you think when you hear the word teambuilding? Do you see people crashing about in 4x4 off-road vehicles, or abseiling down a vertigo-inducing cliff? Or perhaps something more gentle, like building the Eiffel Tower out of newspaper and string?
The truth is, for many people, teambuilding generates a feeling of dread. Fear that they are going to be forced to engage in “fun” activities that they’d never chose to do in their own free time. They don’t enjoy it and they don’t see the point, but they can’t escape.
Teambuilding can actually lead to resentment, especially if people have to give up their free time, or stay late to complete work to accommodate forced social activity. Despite the very best of intentions, poorly thought-out team building can be devastating, with employees quickly becoming demoralised and demotivated - the exact opposite of what it's supposed to do!
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and teambuilding can be one of the most important investments an employer can make. Yes, it has a bad rap, but that’s because too many people are doing it wrong, without any understanding of what they want to achieve, and how it will affect the people involved.
If you’re involved in organising a teambuilding day for your business, it pays to start with a little strategy.
Teams are complex things, made of arguably the most quirky and diverse components possible – people. To take a group of individuals and persuade, educate, motivate, and inspire them into working as a highly effective team usually takes much more than a treasure hunt around a conference venue.
What’s more, there's a massive difference between a morning on an assault course and day-to-day working with colleagues. While it's possible to use such activities to highlight similarities between the two environments, there’s a real danger that any benefit will be short-term and easily lost when back at the workplace and under pressure. Familiar conflicts and barriers to co-operation can quickly resurface, and the investment gets lost as time passes.
To ensure a successful teambuilding you need a purpose. With defined outcomes.
If your teams work pretty well already, and you want to give employees a quick boost or a break from the daily pressure as a reward, then a well-chosen half or full day of activity could do the trick.
But remember that just because you enjoy a particular type of activity, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Start with the awareness that not everyone looks forward to these events. They may not be confident, healthy, or social enough. And, while you can use team building to take people out of their comfort zone so they can bond around mutual fears and joy at overcoming them – for some people the pressure will simply be overwhelming.
When considering available teambuilding options, it’s always worth canvassing your team to see what they would enjoy. Perhaps, activities that bring people together by sharing good times, or challenges that solve tricky team problems by pooling knowledge and sharing ideas would be more appropriate?
Where teambuilding has more in-depth objectives to achieve, it will need to encompass psychology, training, and inspiration, as well as shared experiences. If this seems daunting, event management companies can help you to bring all the elements of a successful team-building event together, from creative strategy to back-office services, implementation, experienced facilitators, and on-site support.
To get the most out of your investment, it is worth considering work-based exercises for your next teambuilding day. With tasks that relate directly to job roles.
With experienced facilitators and well-thought-out integrated packages, such experiential learning can be hugely rewarding, with employees learning how to understand each other better, share knowledge, and navigate past the day to day niggles that can get in the way. Even better, this learning transfers directly back into the real world.
You can, of course, also include more social elements into your planning, but by allowing people to opt-out if they so choose, you give them the best of both worlds.
Whatever form it takes, teambuilding can be a Good Thing. And whether your teams have worked together for many years, or have been brought together because of reorganisation or a need to deliver a specific project, making the team function better has to be a benefit.
However, if you want to build an efficient and motivated team from a group of talented but disparate individuals, you’ll have to do more than pay lip service to the idea of team building.