How to create the perfect team-building exercise

By Victoria Griffiths, Branch Manager, Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If there’s one aspect of corporate life that is guaranteed to bring every manager out into a cold sweat, it’s the office team-building exercise.

Thoughts of dangling from the end of a rope or trying desperately to construct a bridge from nothing but toilet roll and masking tape spring readily to mind. Then there’s the awkwardness of the post-activity social, where everyone stands around looking uncomfortable as they nurse their paintball welts or try to forget the sight of Clive from Accounts dancing Gangnam-style to celebrate his victory at Kabbadi.

But here’s the thing. Despite your deeply held horror at get-out-of-the-office-and-build-the-team-style activities, they do have a place. After all, everyone feels just a shade more relaxed when they’re away from the usual working environment, giving them a chance to reveal a bit more of themselves. While that may not always be exactly what you hope for (think of Clive’s victory dance as a case in point), it can provide everyone with fresh insights about colleagues, strengthen relationships, and generate a reinvigorated sense of shared purpose.

So, it’s worth persevering with the team-building exercise. Get it right, and you’ll minimise the embarrassment and maximise the benefits. Which has got to be worth the effort, right?

With that in mind, we’ve come up with some top tips to help you organise your next team-building exercise. Read them, and your workplace’s extra-curricular activities will be improved beyond measure.

1. Be inclusive

It’s tempting to use a team-building exercise as an opportunity to fulfil your adventurous dreams. But you need to be mindful of colleagues’ interests and abilities before dragging them up Ben Nevis or taking them for a day’s coasteering. Find an activity that is stretching but doable for everyone. That way, no one feels left out.

2. Embrace the unfamiliar

One of the key features of a team-building exercise is that it gets you out of the usual routines of office life. So be sure to go somewhere that feels unfamiliar, and engage in an activity that is out of the ordinary for the majority of participants.

Outdoor pursuits are great, but can be completely ruined by poor weather. So consider other options, such as pottery workshops, baking, chocolate making, and wine tasting.

3. Don’t be over prescriptive

To succeed, your team-building exercise needs to be open-ended. You need to give up on the notion that you’ll be able to achieve quantifiable objectives as a result of your efforts.

Let fate play a hand. Give your people freedom to enjoy themselves, to do things their own way, even to make their own choices about how they spend their time. While it’s true that there’s no “I” in team, it’s also the case that the best teams enable individual members to discern their gifts and use them in the service of the group’s ambitions. To make that happen, you need to hold the reins with a light touch.

4. Don’t judge success by the amount of noise generated

One of the hoary old clichés about team-building days is that normally reserved colleagues turn into shouty high-fivers who are liberated from the shackles of their day job and discover their inner visceral selves.

That’s all well and good, but may not yield the results you’re looking for. In fact, many executives are discovering the value of silence as a way of building teams and enhancing discernment. So they take their staff on retreat, where the focus is on stillness and reflection, rather than endless physical stimulation.

It’s certainly worth exploring and represents a pleasing pattern disruptor from the usual matey noise of a staff away day.

5. Remember that hierarchies remain in place, even when everyone’s a-chillin’

It’s easy to forget that you’re the boss when you’re relaxing in the sunshine with a group of young colleagues. But even if your place in the workplace hierarchy slips your mind, it will be fixed firmly in theirs.

It’s great to show a bit of leg from time to time, and can help build deeper relationships of trust and reciprocity throughout the workforce. But you’ll always be the boss. Even when you’re abseiling off a bridge with a tutu around your waist. Sorry. 

6. Follow up to consolidate your gains

As with most training, it’s easy for everyone to bask in its glow for a few days before getting stuck back into their routines and forgetting all about it.

Don’t let that become the fate of your team-building exercise. Plan follow-up sessions where you consolidate the learning, summon the special spirit of the event itself, and re-foster those relationships. That’s the way to ensure it keeps on yielding desirable outcomes. Without such follow-up, you may as well just play Kabbadi all day. At least you’ll keep Clive from Accounts happy…

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

To assist with your employee team building read our - 10 Ways For An Employer to Engage Their Employees

You may also like - Five ways to make your people more creative

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