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.