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.
We all want to be better leaders.
We also want better relationships with our teams.
But how do we do both, effectively, at the same time?
Go ahead and put on your cape…
…because I'm about to make you the team superhero.
Because team building offers a variety of ways to enhance your team dynamics AND your leadership skills at the same time.
Here are seven ways to do it right now.
1. Increase motivation
As leaders, we need to not only motivate our team — but also we need to feel motivated ourselves.
The best way to drive motivation? Have crystal clear goals and/or mission.
With team building (effective team building, I should say), the goals are always very clear: Finish this task, together, often before anyone else.
When your team successfully faces a challenge, you can give them (and yourself) the opportunity to know what it feels like to overcome that challenge.
Knowing they are part of a successful team that trusts each other builds on that motivation even further. As the leader who facilitates this feeling, you've given everyone involved a chance to feel appreciated for their contributions.
Now THAT'S empowering for everyone.
2. Use team building to destroy employee apathy.
When employees feel disengaged at work, two things can happen:
They either start looking for another job...
...or they stick around and suck time and money from the organization.
And when apathetic people stick around, they suck the energy from the other employees around them.
But when you invest in helping employees feel appreciated and engaged, everything changes.
The average company on Fortune's "Best Companies To Work For" list has an AMAZING financial return of over 200% over the average company.
These are companies that invest in things like team building. It's one of the best ways to show employees:
1) That you appreciate them
2) That engagement has real benefits for them.
And that's what real leaders do: show their team the path to success and give them the tools they need to get there.
The bottom line?
If you want more engaged employees (and thus a more profitable company), you NEED to invest in team building activities.
3. Get better at communication.
Effective teams have the most effective communication — and the most effective leaders are the best communicators.
In a recent study of 195 leadership executives in over 30 global organizations, communication was a key element of 6 of the top 10 leadership competencies. Yet 86 percent of executives and employees say that a “lack of collaboration” or “ineffective communication” had caused projects to fail.
So how do you get better at communication? Start with team building.
There is simply no better opportunity to sharpen your communication skills than when you have a focused mission, everyone together out of your standard workplace environment, and you're all working together to "win."
Team building allows you to practice good communication when the stakes are low.
(And we all know what generations of piano teachers say about practice.)
4. Increase your problem-solving skills.
Today's customers don't care whether your team feels fully realized and appreciated at work.
They just care that you solve their problems.
Leaders often play the role of chief problem-solver. Which is great — except you want your team to be the ones to recognize and solve customer problems.
The best team building events give your team practice at four key competencies:
The result? Teams learn quickly that working together is the fastest way to success.
And let's face it:
These learned problem-solving skills (and the trust that comes with them) — when practiced consistently — transfer directly back to those sticky situations they find themselves in back at the office.
5. Build on your team's strengths.
A while back we published a post on How to Pick the Right Team Building Activity Based On Your Team's Weaknesses.
With that post, we focused on team weaknesses as a way to discover the most effective team building.
But honestly, knowing your team's strengths and then building on them is an incredibly effective way to build leadership skills for both you and your individual employees. After all, it takes a good mix of diverse backgrounds and strengths to make an effective team: Extroverts and introverts, creatives and analysts, fresh perspectives and established expertise.
Because team building is an excellent opportunity for every employee to better understand both themselves AND each other.
As a leader, this self-knowledge can be the difference between success and failure. By engaging in different kinds of problems, you give your team the chance to think strategically or experiment with the best ways to accomplish goals.
The clearest, fastest way to discover your own and others' strengths is under pressure — and the best way to create safe pressure is through fun, engaging, just-challenging-enough team building.
Want help? Contact us today for seriously fun scavenger hunts that enhance leadership AND team dynamics.
Now it's your turn.
You've read about the five ways team building and leadership go hand in hand. Now it's time to implement them.
The first step?
Decide which technique (or two) is going to be the most important for your team, then focus on it during your next team building event.
Will it be improving communication? Increasing motivation? Helping your team learn better problem solving skills?
Whatever you decide, make sure your next team building event is clear on what leadership qualities are most important for you and your team — and then go out and do them.
(And if you need help with this, we're more than happy to give you a quote.)
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.