Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “team building activities”? Well, it may be a different answer depending on your perspective. Management is likely focused on how team building will ramp up effectiveness and tie in to organizational goals. HR is probably concerned with strengthening employee engagement and reinforcing a strong organizational culture.

But what about the employees going through the session…some may love it, but there is a huge backlash against a perceived lameness, uselessness or pointlessness.

Check out actual tweets that found searching Twitter for the term “team building activities:”

  • Just finished the team building activities … The multiple vodkas made it suck less
  • Quite frankly, I’d be disappointed if I heard you like ‘ice breakers’ & ‘team building activities’.
  • You know there’s going to be team building activities…run away! Run away!

These are actual tweets!  Not exactly a ringing endorsement for one of the most tried-and-true methods for organizational improvement.  So how can you improve team building activities to take it from a joke to an actual booster for your business, something that actually energizes employees and creates real results? Here are three key ways:

  1. Get Employee Buy-in! Too often team building activities are mandated downward instead of created collaboratively.  Ask your employees and your teams what the biggest issues they face are?  Team building activities need to focus on actual team building issues.   It is crucial for employees to feel a sense of ownership about why team building activities are happening and what they should accomplish.  You can only get there by seeking their input and setting clear goals.
  2. Know who is in your teams! Do you have solid reasoning for why teams are put together?  Did you know that individuals with different approaches and personality traits actually form better teams (check out this story on team building effectiveness from the Economic Times, a prominent Indian news and business publication).  Be deliberate and go beyond simple roles and responsibilities to create teams that develop unique solutions and where the output is greater than the individual sum of its parts.
  3. Make team building activities fun (in a meaningful way)!  It is possible to take out the uncool factor of team building activities by actual making things fun and interesting for participants.  A team building session must relate to a business objective…but it can do so in ways that appeal to multiple types of people.  Have activities that are abstract and out-of-the-box to appeal to Conceptual Thinkers; have activities where you get a true sense of who each person is to appeal to Social Thinkers. Take the same approach and highlight unique aspects for Analytical Thinkers and Structural Thinkers.  When participants can have fun and see meaning, they’ll be less likely to be instantly dismissive of the concept of team building.

It is possible to have effective, interesting and results-oriented team building activities…just look at this tweet I found:

“Havin a great time in the stadium for our team building.”