What does team building exercises mean for your company?

Does team building exercises benefit your company?This is a question often asked by managers who are working with fair sized teams. My personal view is no.

The fuzzy feeling of having fun with colleagues wears of very quickly. Managers see smaller teams doing all the wonderful things that are deemed to be motivating exercises. How do you present team building exercises and how do you measure if it is paying off?

Before you embark on a team building exercise you must know why you are doing it.

These reasons can include:
  • Team is not getting along with each other and only operate as individuals.
  • Inter departmental rivalry that has a negative effect on the business.
  • More than one new member joined the team and need to be introduced as part of the team.
  • As reward for achievements.

Before big organizational changes that can effect current composition of teams. Maybe you just want to splash out. The reason will influence directly what the team building exercise will entail but it is important to know your team well enough to know what can work and what won’t. Having a misjudgement here will be costly with no positive outcome. 

There are basically three types of team building exercises:
  • For social interaction and relaxation
  • For reward
  • Pro-business

If you decided it is just time for the team to relax and have fun as a group then team building exercises can be the opportunity for teams to do something they wouldn’t do every day. 

Building new experiences and overcoming the learning curve can boost individual confidences as well. A common mistake is to arrange a team building exercise doing something the boss would like to do. This will sound too much like a normal day’s work and will be shunned by most employees. If the boss loves mountaineering it does not mean that his 50 year old, 120kg front office manager will have a fun time.

Keep it simple without too much work or responsibility attached. A company fun day where random picked teams compete for one year bragging rights in various events is a good but very expensive way of getting everyone to relax. This can be done instead of the annual Christmas Party but the timing must be right as it will involve the employee to be away from his family for the day.

If the idea is seen as a reward it should have 5 or 6 options presented and then have a vote on it. This must be kept realistic as you will find that the employee’s choice will always fall on the most expensive. 

Don’t propose something you can’t afford as changing the employees choice will leave a bitter taste. 

Some popular ideas:
  • An evening at the movies for all inviting the spouse with.
  • A day at the fun park with spouses invited.
  • A game drive with spouses.

It is good to reward the spouse with the employee as they have to be the one keeping up with your work demand as much as the employee himself. Having the spouses as part of the team can be a huge motivating factor for all.

Finally it is my favorite called the pro-business venture. This can act as a stress relieving exercise the same time as it is a reward and business motivator. Talking to people in the business for a long time you will notice what they remember the best are those days they went away for two or three day conferences to discuss business expansion and solving common problems. 

In South Africa we call it a “Bos beraad” which loosely translates to “meeting in the wild”. This is because in the past management teams were often taken to game reserves to discuss and strategize on short to long term organizational plans.

Working hard in the day being focused (no cell phones or contact with the business) and relaxing with co-workers around a fire at night or pop out for a quick game drive can do wonders for the thinking process. 

I remember one of our best meetings was in a hideout overlooking a waterhole in Pilanesberg with a cooler box full of beer and dry wors (Jerky). By the end of the day we have solved all our concerns and knew exactly what must happen over the next few weeks. Looking back I think all my motivating and inspirational ideas came from these gatherings.

As the manager planning all this outings you must always bear in mind:

  • No two people are the same. Some people will never be motivated but if you end up having someone like that only you are to blame.
  • In general people don’t like to participate if it is outside of working hours and interfering with their personal duties.
  • The average age of your group.
  • The average physical condition of the group.
  • The affordability of the exercise.

Too much involvement and instruction will feel like work unless you want it to be work. (Pro-Business)

Don’t ever arrange a team building then ask the employee to contribute. If they wanted to spend the money they would’ve spent it on spoiling their family.

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