A Non-Waste Of Time Team-Building Exercise (And Yes You Can Try This At Home)

You moan, you groan. Your manager has called one of his infamous “team-building” meetings, and it’s only the threat of getting fired that propels your butt out of your chair and into the meeting. What a waste! Sitting around doing departmental Kumbaya when you have piles of work marked “Urgent!” and “Rush!” on your desk.

So it isn’t exactly in a mood of eager anticipation that you park your unhappy self in the meeting room. Mobile devices are strictly forbidden, so you don’t even have the distraction of mindless browsing, tweeting or texting. You wish you’d learned the art of napping with your eyes open, especially when your manager announces with great pride, his latest and greatest team-building exercise.

He states that he wants the team to work more closely together, to think of each other more as family than as co-workers. And you’re thinking “Right. As in highly dysfunctional family.” He goes on to say that each team member has a particular strength they lend to the team, and that if each team member would bear in mind their teammates’ strengths, the team would function better as a whole. A highly cohesive unit. He states he will now point out what he feels is each team member’s strength.

Oh great, you think, he’s gonna tell us who the movers and shakers are, and pin a woeful L on the others. Like we didn’t know already who his favorites are. You stifle a yawn and pray for this to be over soon.

Your manager turns to the guy you consider by far the most innovative and creative in the bunch, and says “Your strength is energy. You bring tremendous energy to whatever project you’re engaged in.” You’re surprised. You would have thought he’d laud this guy’s innovations.

Your manager turns to another team member and says “Your strength is your ‘whatever’ attitude.” You smirk inside. Yup, he’s gonna nail the L on this guy, who was born with the sarcasm gene. But your manager takes a different route. He says “You don’t jump up and down enthusiastically, but you never complain. You say ‘whatever’ to any part of the project you’re assigned and take it on.”

You sit up and take notice. Your manager’s right. That is how Mr. Whatever behaves. Your manager defines another’s strength as ‘playfulness’ and appreciates how that individual lets in new ideas. You listen differently now, as your manager speaks to, not work accomplishments or the lack thereof, but to something positive about the essence of every person on the team. And he’s right on, every time.

Your manager concludes by stating that he wants each team member to think of the others in the light of these strengths. And darned if that isn’t exactly what happens! You start looking at your co-workers differently, not in terms of what they can or can’t do for you, how successful they are at this or that project, but rather how they bring their “energy,” or “whatever or “playfulness” to the mix, and how that does make the whole team function better.

Office Team Building Exercises – Waste of Time Or Valuable Tool?

I called on a client earlier this week to determine how I could help them during the balance of the year. He told me his Senior Vice President had cut all training funds and specifically those related to team events at their upcoming annual meeting. Her position was the meeting would focus on the fundamental needs and she did not intend to spend any money on “fun.”

This mindset about team building being superfluous and extravagant in this difficult financial climate is simply wrongheaded. It clearly fits the proverbial saying “tossing the baby out with the bathwater.” A study published on EducationNews.Org found the average attention span in classrooms is ten minutes. This certainly generalizes to plenary sessions at large meetings. Team building exercises do not necessarily waste time and money.

Here are three specific steps that will insure your meeting is successful and not just inexpensive.

1. Specify Goals – Decide what you want to accomplish over the course of the meeting. Make sure your goals are specific and achievable in the time allotted to the meeting. Here is the important part of this process. Share the goals with your team. We call this WIIFM? Your audience must know “What’s In It For Me?” By clarifying the goals, the audience sees the value in the meeting. The more specific the goals and the payoff for achieving them, the more the audience will be invested. The sharing of the goals should occur at the beginning of the meeting. Take and answer questions about them. It is vital that your audience understands where you intend to take them and why.

2. Deliver Material in Chunks – Avoid death by PowerPoint. Break up the session with Q&A, or discussions at each table, or problem solving challenges. Get the audience involved with the material. If they understand why the material is important (see #1) and they have an opportunity to interact on that material, they will become more involved. This “break” in lecturing or presenting should be built in every 15 to 30 minutes. We are not suggesting coffee breaks. These are working breaks. It is important that they share their findings or the result of their work with the general audience. Have wireless mics available in larger groups so everyone can hear the reports.

3. Use Activities – Get them moving. A qualified team building company can work with you to design activities that will directly address the material and move your team closer to the goals you specified. The provider who understands your goals will get your team physically active in moving toward them and (spoiler alert) having fun. Hire a company with skilled, educated facilitators, a company that understands the business environment. Screen potential vendors by telling them your goals and listening to how they believe they can help you achieve them.