I just spent a week cycling through Denmark. Besides being a great trip, what struck me was how quickly our group of twelve diverse people became a team. So how did the tour guides get everyone to gel?
- Start with an icebreaker. Even teams that have worked together for a while may not interact with one another on a social level. Our trip started with a welcome dinner. If you have a lunch or dinner, make sure you have people seat with others they don’t know as well. Or go around the room and make people share something no one may know about them. Nothing embarrassing just interesting.
- Do something everyone can enjoy. Everyone on our trip had the common interest of wanting a vacation that was active. Within work teams it can be challenging to find something that interests everyone. Put out some ideas to the team and make everyone rank them, If an idea comes in first or second, it’s likely everyone will get on board.
- Establish a goal. Our guides started out every morning with an overview of where we were going, what to see along the way and how to get there. Without knowing the end game for the day, I’d still be riding around Denmark. Make sure you know what you hope to accomplish at your team building. Do you want to improve communications? Create interaction amongst new team members? Or just have some fun? It’s okay to have simple goals like fun, just make sure everyone knows why they’re there.
- Lay the ground rules. When you’re cycling, rules are simple. Obey the rules of the road and don’t get hurt or killed. For a team building, you might want to ban all cell phone use (emergency calls can come to you directly), or make sure there’s no work discussion. If that’s not possible, make sure you tell everyone up front, exactly when they can check in or follow up on something work related.
- Evaluate the event. As soon as I arrived home, I had a 3-page evaluation in the mail from the tour company. You don’t have to have something so extensive, but if you don’t seek feedback on the event, you have no way to make improvements and generate new ideas. If you can’t determine if your goal was met, what’s the point?
Some people think team building events or exercises are just a waste of time. But I know from experience that you need to create a sense of “team” to become truly effective. A great team-building event can eliminate biases, create a supportive environment and improve communication. So start planning and enjoy!