In late 1968, the Vietnam War peace talks were stalled for ten whole weeks. Why? The two sides couldn’t agree on the shape of the negotiating table! “That’s not as silly as it sounds,” comments Mental Floss. “Furniture influences how people interact within in a room.”
Corporate team building is hardly a silly matter to our team at Corporate Events Indianapolis – in fact, team bulding is a large part of what master entertainers and teambuilding leaders Christian and Katalina are all about. Read on for some valuable do’s and don’ts when facilitating team building exercises for your department or company, whether in-house or at a conference.
Let’s start with a definition (What exactly is team building, anyway?): According to David Jacobson of TrivWorks in New York, “A team-building activity is any positive, shared experience that reinforces positive team skills. It has to have some form of structure and….clearly defined goals.” “What’s important,” adds Jada A. Graves in U.S. News, “is that employees recognize the parallel between the activity and the workplace and that they’re appropriately challenged…Learning happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone.”
The Absolute #1 team building “do”: Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. (Christian and Katalina often put in as much time defining and designing, learning about the organizational culture, as they do actually leading the team building exercises.) Possible team building goals include:
- Conflict resolution. (There are conflicts among certain individuals that are hampering the effectiveness of the department or of the project.
- Getting people out of their silos (Interpersonal and inter-departmental communication skills need improvement)
- Change-mongering (employees and managers are resistant to needed changes in the marketplace and in the organization and the group isn’t able to move forward)
The Absolute #1 team building “don’t”: Designing activities that are competitive, with one “side” pitted against another. Sports competitions and relay races can be fun, Mindtools.com points out, but “these activities can do far more harm than good if they focus just on competing, and they can really de-motivate people who are not particularly good at these sports.”
Harkening back to those Vietnam War peace talks and the big to-do about the shape of the negotiating table, just how much is the physical environment in which the corporate team building takes place likely to influence the results?
A lot, Christian and Katalina will tell you. In order for members of the group to feel connected to each other and to the facilitators, the “line of sight” has to be there during discussions and “debriefs”. For energy – and synergy – to take place, the closer everybody is to everybody else, the better.
In 1968, the Viet Cong may have been on to something when they demanded a square negotiating table – they wanted all four parties to appear equal. Arranging the seating in the training room in such a way that all parties appear “equal” is especially appropriate for teambuilding purposes. Most conference room and banquet tables are too big and it’s difficult to talk across them. You can work with people across a rectangular table, explain Christian and Katalina, so long as no one is at the ends. Equality is important, but closeness is as well.
Focus and follow-up are two must-haves when it comes to effective corporate teambuilding, Elizabeth Eyre of the Mind Tools team reminds corporate activity planners. Colleagues may have enjoyed that weekend retreat or day at the golf course getting to know everyone, she says, but the proof lies in whether they actually use any of the lessons they learned once they’re back in the workplace. “Effective team building needs to happen continuously if you want your group to be successful,” Eyre cautions. “It needs to be part of the corporate culture.”
Self-awareness is key for high-performing, adaptive teams, teaches the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at Cornell University. Our team at Corporate Events Indianapolis couldn’t agree more. In fact, quite often, our mission at Indianapolis corporate events is to help teams do what the Cornell study calls “build mental structures that create common understanding among members.”
One key finding of the Cornell researchers, was that “the more that team members engage in role identification exchanges…the better the team’s performance.” Knowing that, our master team builders Christian and Katalina make it their practice to create customized team building exercises to help integrate employees into the company or department, and improve relations between team members and work groups. Workshopexercises.com explains that self-aware teams are tuned into three core dynamics:
- The team is connected to a team identity
- The team is connected with all parts of the organization
- The team is connected to new informationDon’t leave out the laughter. Team building is about creating camaraderie with colleagues. What we’ve found is that nothing makes the emotional connections forged during the training sessions carry over into the workplace and last longer than when shared laughter has been a big part of the sessions. Those happy feelings tend to serve as a memory link among the participants long after the teambuilding exercises themselves are over. As one corporate executive put it, “Months after the event, attendees were still talking about them (Christian and Katalina).
Corporate team building, whether in the rectangular or in the round, involves positive, shared experiences designed around clearly defined goals. Throw in some shared laughter, and you’ve got yourself a culture-changing winning proposition!
– by Rebecca of the Corporate Events Indianapolis blog team