Team-Building – What Works?

Team-building exercises are historically hit-or-miss endeavors. In most workplaces, when people hear that management has planned some team-building, employees’ reactions will range from active defiance and eye-rolling to outright apathy, but rarely is it news received with enthusiasm. However, there are exercises and strategies which work, which aren’t cringe-inducing, and which won’t cost anybody an arm and a leg. If you’re looking to bring some unity to your team, let’s take a look at a way to do that without driving your employees crazy. 

Why Work on Team Building?
Team-building is some of the most important work that a team leader can engage his team in. A team which works well together will be a more efficient team, producing better results in shorter periods of time. When a team begins to gel with each other, communication will be better and more open, improving relationships between members and anybody else with whom they interact outside of the team. People operating in this healthy environment will be more motivated and have a better overall sense of mutual trust.
How to Approach These Activities
It’s important to keep in mind that team-building should not feel like team-building. If it feels like a tedious, heavy-handed task with an obvious purpose, employees will quickly lose interest and not put any effort into the activity, which will obviously defeat the whole purpose. Trying too hard will drive a wedge between you and your team, and could even cost you their respect.
Try to keep a casual air about these activities, and let them be fun. It’s important to note the difference between “letting it be fun” and “making it fun”; team members can tell the difference. For instance, when planning something, don’t take the whole burden on yourself. Instead, allow as much team input as possible to make sure the idea is something that the people taking part in it actually want to do. Studies have shown that happiness and learning go hand in hand, i.e. a happy employee will learn more than an unhappy one, so let them make the activity fun. They will enjoy it more and get more out of it as a result. 
Team Building Exercises and Strategies That Work
  • Informal Address – Drop formal manners of speech. Allow team members to communicate with one another and with their superiors in whichever way feels most comfortable. Let them throw an emoji or two into their emails or their texting, discard the use of titles, add slang to the workplace vocabulary. Team members who feel less overshadowed by their superiors and uptight around their fellows will be encouraged to speak freely and honestly.
  • Celebrate Success – This starts with the leader. When your team members do well, whether it’s getting work done ahead of schedule or coming up with a great new idea, celebrate it openly. This will encourage other members to do the same, pushing negativity out of the team environment. 
  • Mix Up Your Team – There are a number of ways to do this, but all share the same goal: get people out of their comfort zone and interacting with people they might not ordinarily work closely with. This creates a greater sense of cohesion and overall understanding across all parts of a team. Ways to do this can include breaking discussions into randomized groups or letting employees from one department go learn what a different department does for a day. Be creative!
  • Group Outings – Taking the team out for a day or an evening is a great way to develop cohesion. Ideally, this event shouldn’t have any intended purpose, other than fun. Don’t try to draw any profound lessons out of the experience or point it towards “Team-Building”. Just take the team out to a sports game or a concert and let them have a good time with each other. They will bond and have a good time. The results will show in their work.
  • Encourage Shared Hobbies – In most teams, it is common for team members to share outside interests. Provide these employees, if possible, with the space, email lists, and even minor financial support (if appropriate) to pursue these hobbies with each other. Not only will these team members feel supported, other members may discover new interests and join them, as well. This sort of extracurricular team involvement strengthens the relationships between team members and will show up at work as well.
Team Building – Not an Episode of ‘The Office’
So there you have it. Keep team-building casual, fun, and employee-driven. Most importantly, don’t force things. Instead focus on creating environments which foster natural development of team chemistry. If you keep these things in mind, you will be a respected and well-liked leader, and, as a result, you will have a team which runs like a well-oiled machine, both during business hours and outside!

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