Top marks for team building
Why a day out is more than just a free lunch
Two decades ago the mention of a team building day may have resulted in a collective ‘groan’ around the office. Being forced to catch up with colleagues you’d prefer to push past.
Fast forward 20 years, and the modern-day approach to building camaraderie, means prescribed staff bonding is less about a day out of the office and more about creating pathways to meaningful engagement and communications.
So, what’s the point of team building?
Elizabeth Howells, a business psychologist and director of People Centric Associates, says it comes down to the fact that we all need a crew. Community – or a sense of belonging – is not only a key psychological need, it’s vital to creating a workplace where people feel valued as individuals and can engage in real and sustained dialogue.
“Often when businesses engage in team building activities, they are seeking to do things such as strengthen bonds, create understanding between team members, value diversity, develop shared meaning, improve communication, increase coordination or build trust,” she says.
“For some there is also a clear agenda to resolve teamwork breakdowns, for others to reward or build on a positive community.”
Perhaps the most critical element is that a team’s performance can very much hold back, or enhance a business’ outcomes or success. While camaraderie is crucial, it isn’t always so easy to establish, notes Elizabeth. This can be due to a variety of factors, although there is a large hurdle facing every modern-day organisation proving the trickiest to overcome.
“We are now operating in a volatile, uncertain, rapidly changing and ambiguous business environment, so it is increasingly important to create or foster a setting that can support a new level of vulnerability,” she says. “We need to offer a support network that enables our people to leverage diversity and rapidly adapt to changing demands.”
New Zealand leading the way globally
We’re innovators across many an industry in New Zealand, and when it comes to team building activities our nationwide provider Team Up Events continues to lead the way, winning an Industry Global Recognition Award in South Africa last year. The Infinite Loop is the first of its kind in the world and its outcomes include developing cross-functional communication, challenging problem solving and improving team dynamics.
Stu Robertson, managing director of Team Up Events, says this development is evident of how their business is evolving and adapting to meet the expectations of clients and participants in the modern workforce.
“Team building, which was once a ‘nice to have’ and ‘a few fun hours’ is now viewed by a growing number of organisations and business leaders as an essential component of team development, which can accelerate change within a business.”
Choosing the best activity for your team
With a number of providers to call upon, how do you choose a team activity that best befits your business and its people? Elizabeth recommends focusing on two aspects. The first is providing a challenge and pushing participants out of their comfort zone as people form stronger bonds when faced with shared adversity.
“Get people using their physical, affective and cognitive domains. When put into tough situations it becomes difficult to conceal personal weaknesses, failures and fears and such vulnerability and social interactions in this context may serve as a common bond that leads to greater cohesion.”
The second element is offering a ‘charitable’ dimension so that team efforts aid others.
“An increasing body of literature suggests altruistic behaviours are associated with greater well-being, health and longevity as well as improved team performance,” says Elizabeth. “In a team context when you are solving a problem or creating something for others (your broader community / disadvantaged youth) you are creating shared meaning and value.”
Getting the right results from team building
A day or two of team building will likely result in a period of high-intensity team ‘together-ness’ for a short time afterwards – as colleagues reminisce about activities and foster newfound relationships created during the event. It is absolutely vital that a business ensures it continues to positively reinforce outcomes to assist with long term benefits, advises Elizabeth.
“No matter what the activity, the essential element to drive outcomes is to enable participants to reflect on the experience – at a personal and group level – link it back to clarifying practices at work and set goals for how the team will move forward.”
Are you ready for a corporate team building challenge?