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Team-Building: Team Development Tales From The Trenches
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Team-Building: Team Development Tales From The Trenches - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Team Development Tales From The Trenches

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Team Development Tales From The Trenches

A recent, informal survey asked Facebook acquaintances to share specific experiences with team-building activities. Here are some of the more thoughtful responses we received.

Successful Activities:

  1. 1. Lotus-root harvesting.
    “Our team had a lotus-root-picking retreat at one of our managers’ farms (lotus grows in deep, muddy ponds). I think it helped everyone in working together on a difficult and dirty task. It was both fun and hard work; it was also fun getting muddy! The few people who were reluctant to participate contributed by helping with the cooking and lunch-prep.”

  2. 2. ATV (all-terrain vehicle) riding.
    “We set aside a date when we could all participate, carpooled there, and went! There was no structure; we just rented the vehicles and went! The best part was that we all had to deal with the rain and the cold at the end of the ride and no one cared that they were wet and muddy. One gal who was in her fifties said she’d never done it before, but was willing to try.”

  3. 3. Vine videos.
    “We have several departments within our division, and to educate the rest of the groups on one of the things we do in my department, we introduced Vine (a mobile app that allows users to make creative and share six-second movies) to the division and had each department make a movie of what they feel their division does for the company. It was a good activity for the individual divisions and at least gave everyone else some idea of what each group does (whether or not we agree). I think that was a good one since we all had fun. Camera-shy team members didn't necessarily have to be in the videos. You could have been filming, or drawing something shown in the movie. Our division's video didn't even have our team members in it, but we all worked together to develop the concept and cut out printed pictures we used to represent what we do.”

  4. 4. Seafood buffet for the team.
    “Food and booze bond people.”

  5. 5. Psychological profile game.
    “Identifies the alphas.”

  6. 6. Bowling.
    “Let reluctant participants keep track of the team scores (and fun trash talking). They are not bowling, but they are still within the dynamic of the activity.”

  7. 7. Construction activity.
    “Team comes up with strategy to in activities such as building the highest tower with dry spaghetti and marshmallows, or putting together large puzzle with each team member touching every piece only once.”

Activities with uncertain results:

  1. 1. Self-Empowerment Seminar.
    “One of my employers paid for me to attend a nationally well-known self-actualization seminar. I'm still not sure if I got anything out of it other than knowing there are a lot of broken people in the world. We were given the option not to attend, but my employer was somewhat insistent in a passive-aggressive way. I was just out of high school at the time and pretty much a happy-go-lucky-guy and was somewhat put in the position of ‘If everything is fine then it shouldn't matter.’

    “At the time, those seminars weren't cheap and my employer was willing to spend over $500 per person so that each of us could attend a 3-day-long weekend session at a local hotel, so there's something of a guilt factor involved because of the cost. I'll admit that curiosity finally got the best of me, so I agreed to go.

    “I likened the whole process to basic training with the military in that they wear you down (if you're not already broken) and build you back up as this whole new person connected to a larger synergistic world. It's not necessarily a bad thing if you're not happy with your life or your job, but people are human after all, and many revert back to their old shelves when the epiphany high wears off.”

  2. 2. Karaoke.
    The staff went to an off-site karaoke parlor, one with private rooms for groups. Each department was asked to perform a song that expressed that department’s feelings about the work. Most of the group seemed to have a good time, and reluctant participants sort of hid behind their colleagues during the songs. When all departments were finished sharing, the next activity was just people picking songs to sing on their own, with not guidance or structure, just a group of friends hanging out and singing. We were all there on company time, and nobody was forced to participate after the first activity, but that seemed like a long time for non-participants to just sit there while the rest of us sang. I personally had a blast.

And One Unsuccessful Activity:

  1. 1. Self-Improvement Seminar.
    “The worst one was attending a nationally well-known self-help seminar over multiple days. Everyone had to take the course and it was several days of being off site and in a room with colleagues. I lost count after half a day there. They made you do dumb activities with each other like pick an animal that represents you and explain why. There were lots of drills and forced interaction where a lot of fake answers were thrown about to make you sound like you were a team player. It didn't strike me as a training class to improve myself but more to teach people common sense.

Some respondents shared additional thoughts on these activities, from an employee’s point of view.

  • “A team-building activity should get the team involved and helping one another, especially in an unfamiliar task where those who catch on quicker can help the others to achieve a common goal and have fun doing it.”
  • “I hate that stuff. The whole time participating in those sorts of activities, the mind wishes it were back at the desk.”
  • “The main component is not as much the activity but the people involved. The content is really the relationships between the people. But I have an aversion for activities that are too personal or too leading in their questions.”
  • “Throw parties often. Eat together and share music to celebrate your successes as a team.”
  • “Teamwork cannot be successful where there is inadequate communication, a lack of participation, and not enough support. Encouragement, recognition, and appreciation go a long way. Sounds simplistic but is actually not so easy to execute properly!”

If one generalization can be made, it’s that generalizations are difficult to make when it comes to team-building activities. One employee or staff considers an activity beneficial and worthwhile, while another considers the same activity a waste of time and money. Perhaps the concept of the team-building activity has permeated the workplace culture to the point of oversaturation, and what the world needs now is some new way of thinking about team development: surely someone somewhere will figure out a way to accomplish the goals of team-building in a way where everyone can agree on the results and nobody will ever have to fall backward off a chair.


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Team-Building: Team Development Tales From The Trenches - Executive Leadership Articles

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