Do You Even Know Why You’re Having a Team Building Exercise?

Posted on August 14, 2013.

I was speaking with a former colleague today asking him. “Of all the team building events we did, what was the most valuable?”  We both really struggled to find the answer. We listed all the events we had done and narrowed it down to a few.  But we quickly realized the most valuable exercises were the ones where we had a specific purpose in mind.

In my own mind I didn’t even consider the crazy corporate games where they bring people together from across the country to build buildings out of popsicles, or find a way across a spider web. To this day, I never understood the value in these games.  Sure, they were fun, but the reality was that most of the other participants worked in different areas and different regions than me, so not sure what the “team” was even suppose to be.  So tossing around many of our past outings, these were the two we felt were the most valuable and why:

·      The scavenger hunt: This was a ton of work for Bryan and me, but we thought it was valuable because we put together teams that reported into different silos, but had to work together to meet their goals.  So each team had sales, credit, administration, product sales and risk. It helped improve the communication among people that relied on one another but didn’t always communicate effectively, The most interesting part of the exercise was that the people we thought would emerge as the leaders almost never did. So it was also a great way to gauge potential. Plus it was crazy fun!

·      The post Myers-Briggs exercise. I had taken this test more than a decade before I was a manager. At that time, we all compared notes in the office, had a few laughs then I put the folder in the drawer never to be seen again. With a fairly new team in place, I thought it would be a good idea to try it again.  Only this time, after everyone received their results, we came together as a large group.  We then split into teams so that all of the same profiles were in the same group. Each group was then given the same task to complete in a relatively short period of time.  It was veryrevealing how different each group tackled the same issue. It really helped everyone understand how the difference in ones personality really does impact the way they receive and process information.  It was a great way to help a new team get to know one another in a much quicker timeframe.

What I realized thinking about these exercises is that the most important parts to a team building exercise are: 1) you need to clearly identify the outcome you want to achieve. It’s okay to do fun things now and then like potluck lunches, pizza parties, happy hours, or bowling. But if you’re going to take the time to have a real teambuilding event, know what you want to get out of it first. 2) only invite the people that make sense. This might be just senior leadership, just sales or a cross functional group. Mixing groups unnecessarily can be a waste of time.

Finally, to conduct a team building exercise that has an expected outcome, the right people and good follow up takes time.  Don’t think you can throw something together in a week. And try to have some fun along the way.