Having coached 100s of groups through the team-building process over the past 15 years, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s a list of our Top 5 things to consider when planning your next corporate team building event.
#1: What are our team building objectives?
Many company leaders and planners call and tell us that they have an upcoming off-site meeting and know they want to do a team building activity but, when asked, seem unclear as to why. As you’re searching out the most compatible team building provider, take time to talk with your fellow leaders, execs and the planning committee and clarify the motivation behind the team building request and consider the outcomes the company wishes to achieve. When you talk to an experienced provider, they should be asking you targeted questions about your group to get a sense of purpose and scope. This type of conversation will help steer the proposal and program design process in a direction that will be best suited to your company’s objectives and culture. A true team building or leadership development event isn’t one that comes off the shelf. Its one that is designed to reflect your team’s needs and desired outcomes. Take a look at these team building program categories and see which one reflects group’s intention most accurately.
- Energizer – create positive relationships, build culture, have fun
- Discovery – work together on a unique task, high level of participation, practice group problem solving, debrief around individual efforts vs. team outcomes
- Skill Development – facilitated adventures or activities based on curriculum / training models / assessments / executive coaching, stimulate group process and shared mental models, measurable learning, positive behavioral change
(Categories adapted from “The 4 Levels of Practice”, Leahy & Associates)
#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, folks will experience a high level of collaboration, have fun and establish new relationships. A 3-4 hour activity will ignite the active learning process, expand perceived boundaries and create the fodder for a meaningful group debrief. If you want to take a deeper dive into leadership skills and sow the seeds for long-term behavioral change you will want to consider allocating 1 – 3 days of team building at your retreat. With the multi-day timeframe, a custom curriculum can be developed based on coaching techniques, assessment tools and leadership models which can be activated through adventure, creative hands-on projects, and strategic problem solving initiatives building progressively 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 personalized 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 group debrief has finished, you’ll feel a tangible spike in the collective group energy. Instead of a hard stop, with folks going 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. Connections are made as stories and insights from the team activity are swapped, and high fives, trash talking, and laughter will be seen and heard.
#5 What’s next?
After your team building event, gather input from the group to find out how well the activity was received and what participants think can be done to improve the experience next time. 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. The more your provider knows and understands about your group, company and industry, the more customized and meaningful future programs can be.