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Team-Building: Getting Off Site & On Board
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Team-Building: Getting Off Site & On Board - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Getting Off Site & On Board

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Getting Off Site & On Board

Sometimes, the value of an offsite team-building activity is not in the activity itself, but in the fact that it’s off site, away from the everyday distractions and dynamics of the office, where the emphasis for each member of the team is on the others, rather than on the pressing needs of deadlines and to-do lists. There are certainly things to recommend the quick (even routine) exercise in the conference room, but taking the team off site can be team-building even if it’s for strictly work-related reasons, no ropes courses or cosmic bowling needed. Simply doing something together in a dedicated space away from familiar environs can be enough.

Working off site removes distractions. Ringing phones, sticky notes, to-do lists, and computers demand our attention when we’re in our work spaces, and when we’re within sight of our desks, it’s difficult not to watch the clock, looking forward to getting back to the tasks that get us through the day. And then there are the predictable, unscheduled distractions, the drop-in visits from consultants, the AC repair guys someone else called to the building, and the delivery driver who doesn’t know where to put the unusual package. Even the most structured time with safeguards against interruption can yield to the unexpectedly urgent.

In addition to the removal of regular office-space distractions, occasional offsite activities relax people, allowing dynamics and structures to be loosened and redefined. While there is never really a total suspension of the org chart, especially when the big bosses are participating, there at least is less formality, and depending on the activity, relationships are more easily seen as people-to-people, rather than people-to-managers or people-to-charges. This relaxed state can be helped by relaxed dress, not to mention relaxed environs. Our office clothes put us in office frames of mind, like costumes or uniforms; office doors and cubicle walls do the same thing. Easing off on office-defined structures lets us interact more comfortably, to let other kinds of communication happen, and this is where some of the best team-building can be, as evidenced when we spend time after work getting a drink together.

One of the surest ways to develop a sense of group identity is to put the group in an environment where being together in the same space automatically defines a group. A shady spot at the park, for example, becomes “our” tree and “our” picnic tables, while other groups of people gather under “their” trees and around “their” picnic tables. Some activities more than others definitely heighten a sense of us-ness, such as community service activities where everyone’s wearing the company t-shirt, but almost anything that sets your group apart from others does the job. Your company’s conversational references, jargon, and inside jokes become identifiers, like membership in a high-school clique, but without the drama.

It’s silly to think of offsite team-building as something so juvenile as a “field trip,” but remember how great that phrase was when you were in elementary school? You were sometimes so excited you couldn’t sleep the night before, and you didn’t need help getting out of bed in the morning, because who doesn’t look forward to field trip day? Growing up takes away a lot of that thrill, but a well-conceived, periodic offsite activity taking up the entire day can be anticipated as something fun and different, something for your team to look forward to like those school trips to the museum. Have your ropes courses if you must, but understand that much of the time, it’s not the activity itself, but the togetherness in a different space that really does the trick.

 

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Team-Building: Getting Off Site & On Board - Executive Leadership Articles

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