By Dr. Ann D. Clark
From spitting in your partner’s mouth to group bathing with management, animal role play to paintball gone awry, there are some horrific “team building” exercises that do nothing to actually build teams! While popular outdoor activities like zip-lining, fun runs, rappelling and survivalist excursions may seem thrilling, it is difficult to relate these competitive activities to the 9 to 5 tasks performed on the other 364 days of the year. Lastly, there are the excruciatingly boring activities. Speakers with no knowledge of your workplace, meaningless tasks (e.g. passing around a “sacred stone” to share personal difficulties with coworkers in a supposed “trust circle”)—the list goes on. Have corporations lost their minds, or lost the purpose of team building?
Recently, ACI Specialty Benefits created an ideal and novel approach to team building with a half-day painting activity that turned ACI’s core values into artwork. While some employees were initially concerned about artistic abilities or limitations, ACI ensured that each group was provided a fully sketched painting, proper instruction, and all the necessary tools to collaborate successfully.
Not only did ACI’s team building activity produce custom and beautiful workplace art, employees were raving about the experience with statements like, “That was the most fun ever!” and “I learned so much about my coworkers.” Any day that helps employees discover talents, fosters creativity and provides a tangible takeaway is sure to be a success.
While the painting activity worked for ACI, any company, department or group can enjoy successful team building activities by following a few guidelines:
- Define the purpose of the team building. If your company is trying to solve a problem, this is not the format to do so. Team building is not meant to fix a communication or morale problem. Those issues require management to step in and take action. Instead, relate the activities to the mission statement, company values, or goals for the company’s future. An IBM favorite is to rip the Yellow Pages into sections and have everyone make sales calls. At ACI, groups of employees painted six canvases using ACI’s core values as themes: passion, empowerment, tenacity, innovation, partnership and style.
- Choose activities that respect employees’ dignity, privacy and personal space. Activities done with friends or family might not always be appropriate for the workplace, like Twister or Cards Against Humanity. This includes sports activities where athletic prowess immediately separates people into “good” and “bad” categories. Competition and winning are not an essential part of team building. And this should be a given—don’t get anyone wet!
- Include a lot of food, space and fun. Bosses should not be cheap and provide only pizza or tiny appetizers. Employees will feel more appreciated and be more engaged when fed a decent meal. If available, host the team building activity in a large, multipurpose space to make sure all staff, props and food can fit. Another tip is to refrain from having chairs, as standing encourages movement and gives employees the opportunity to mingle with new people.
- Treat adults like adults. Lengthy directions, heavy supervision and warnings about cell phones can start off the team building activity in a negative way. If the activity calls for team leaders, allow those who don’t usually take on leadership roles a chance to lead the group. Give simple directions about the task and let them go. This is about employees finding their own way, and perhaps showing executives how to find theirs.
Team building is asking people to work collectively to achieve a common goal. The activity should be fun, encourage collaboration and inspire different methods of problem-solving. By mixing employee groups, people get to know one another in an informal setting and unexpected talents and abilities may reveal themselves. And at the end of the day, everyone can walk away with a sense of accomplishment and connection to their peers.
For more information about ACI’s team building activity or help designing one for your company, contact ACI Specialty Benefits today.