Peter Drucker famously said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
And if you work for an organization that's laid the groundwork for a healthy culture (it doesn't have to be perfect — but it does have to be present), then you've got the makings for a team building event that is fun, engaging and the results last long past the event itself.
Here are five elements that need to be present in effective team building — an event that is fun for employees, and creates a strong ROI for senior management.
1. Somewhere, somehow, leadership has to be present.
No amount of team building can make up for poor leadership. If you want employees to take your team building efforts seriously, management needs to be highly involved. We're not saying that your CEO has to go on every team building event for every department, but if you manage a team, you should be out there getting your hands dirty with everyone else.
Prove to your team that you are clearly committed to building trust and moving strategically towards a shared goal.
2. Organization is key.
It's confusing not knowing where you're going, when you need to be there, or how you'll get there — and team building can be a microcosm of what's happening to your organization, shrunk down into an afternoon of disfunction.
So at the very least, make sure that your team building event is organized — which means planning ahead and following a checklist — so that on some level, your department can feel more organized when it gets back to the office.
3. Everyone needs to understand the goal.
Even in something as supposedly fun as a team building event, you need to have a goal. And goals require organization.
You set goals regularly within your organization, so it makes sense that this needs to happen in miniature during great team building events. Watching a baseball game or going to dinner can be relaxing and fun, but it's really hard to have those small interactions that lead to big gains in trust when you can only really hear the person next to you.
Set goals for your team building event just like you do for your department — even if one of the goals is simply to have fun and relax — and you'll find everyone is more engaged.
4. Consistent, clear communication makes all the difference.
Whether your team is climbing a rock wall, cooking an Italian meal or solving creative challenges via a scavenger hunt (ahem) together, you've got to be able to have clear communication. And this doesn't just happen magically; the practice you do during team building will translate directly into better communication back at the office.
5. The team that problem solves together, stays together.
Few things are more satisfying than successfully tackling a problem using teamwork. And satisfying and fun are often inextricably linked during team building! Creative problem solving is one of the top skills companies and managers are looking for in their employees; practicing this at work — but outside the work environment — can bridge two or more team members who have had trouble connecting before.
But there's one more thing that needs to happen in order to have a truly great team building event.
6. End on a high note.
You've invested all this time, energy and money into providing your employees with a really great experience — so now you need to make sure it sticks. Research shows that experiences are worth more than things, so do the work to cement employees' good feelings and takeaways that they experienced during their team building event so that they can build on those relationships once they get back to the office.
Fun team building events almost sounds like an oxymoron — but if you start from where you are, and if your team is committed to the same goal, you can find success.
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about the outdoors and designing surprising and unique challenges for all sorts of clients, all over the world.