Having coached 100s of clients through the team-building process for the past 13+ years, we’ve learned a few things. Here are our top 5 tips to consider when planning your next event.
Tip #1: What are our team building objectives?
Many company leaders and planners preparing for a conference know that they, “want to do a team building event”, but are unclear as to why. Before searching out the most compatible team building provider, it’s crucial to consult with your fellow leaders, execs and the planning committee and clarify the motivation behind the team building request and the outcomes the company wishes to achieve. When you speak to your provider, they should be asking you targeted questions to get a sense of purpose and scope. This type of information will help steer the thought process and the proposal in a direction that will be best suited to your objectives and company culture. A true team building or leadership development event is not one that comes off the shelf, rather its one that is designed to reflect your team’s needs and desired outcomes. Take a look at these categories of team building and see where your group intentions fall.
- Energizer – create positive relationships, build culture, have fun
- Discovery – work together on a unique task, high participation, practice group problem solving, debrief around individual efforts vs. team outcomes
- Skill Development – facilitated adventures or activities based on curriculum / assessments / training models, stimulate group process and shared mental models, measurable learning, positive behavioral change
(Categories adapted from “The 4 Levels of Practice”, Leahy & Associates)
Tip #2: What is the ideal timeframe and stretch timeframe for the activity?
How much time do you have for experiential learning? With a 2 hour activity we can have fun and get to know each other better. A 3-4 hour activity will ignite the active learning process and create the fodder for a meaningful group debrief. If you want to take a deeper dive into leadership skills, team relationships and sow the seeds for long-term behavioral change you will want to consider allocating 1 – 2 days of team building. With the multi-day timeframe, a custom curriculum can be developed based on coaching methods, assessments and leadership books that can be activated through adventure, creative projects and strategic problem solving initiatives that progress throughout the days.
#3 How should we divide up the teams?
A practical tactic in team building is the division of the large group into smaller, more personal sub-groups. With smaller teams, the need to collaborate, communicate and actively engage is amplified. How you choose to construct the teams can make an impact as well. You can have cross-functional teams and mix up your folks between regions, seniority, and departments. For certain outcomes, you make wish to keep functional teams together and use the activity to push them towards more efficient problem-solving, innovation, and higher levels of trust. If you decide to assign people to random teams the lesson is that we are all “one team” and must be able to work well with anyone on any project. No matter which path you go down, do so with intention.
#4: How can we capitalize on the group energy after the event?
After the team activity and debrief has finished, you’ll feel a tangible spike in the collective group energy. Instead of having a hard stop and sending folks off to their rooms to change for dinner, check emails, make personal phone calls, etc., consider hosting a happy hour or casual reception immediately afterward. When this time and space is created, the networking and socializing is organic and instantaneous. Conversation levels spike as stories and insights from the team activity are swapped and high fives, trash talking, and laughter abound.
#5 What’s next?
After your team building event, you and or your provider should debrief with the planner or survey the group as to find out how well the activity was received and what they think could be done the same, different or better next time to improve the experience. A “one and done” team building activity can be fun and have value if facilitated correctly, but to fuel company culture and long term relationship development, thoughtful group activities should be scheduled quarterly or monthly. And, the more your provider knows and understands your group, the company and the industry the more customized and meaningful future offerings can be.