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Team-Building: Tips For Team-Building Activities (If You Insist!)
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Team-Building: Tips For Team-Building Activities (If You Insist!) - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Tips For Team-Building Activities (If You Insist!)

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Tips For Team-Building Activities (If You Insist!)

Although we’ve repeatedly taken the position that team-building activities are shallow contrivances that have little (if any) lasting effect on a workplace environment, the unavoidable truth is that some people enjoy them, and some will take them to heart. For every grouchy, reluctant participant, there is an eager, open-minded team-player who craves this involvement and comes away with renewed vigor and goodwill. If your team has a few of these, that goodwill can be contagious, especially if your grouches are mature enough to engage without raining on anyone’s parade. For those teams who might actually benefit from a good dose of team-building, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Keep it Short
Too much of a good thing is seldom a good thing. When even the best, most positive activities go too long, everyone begins to see it as a chore. There can be the temptation to extend a good feeling, especially if personal sharing is involved, but the longer the catharsis, the more of a drain it is on the team. Plan activities that are simple to understand and quick to execute, where there is a definite, understood conclusion with no ambiguity.

Let People Go as Deep as They Feel Comfortable
This is a tough one, and it’s almost impossible to plan for. Sometimes, a simple sharing activity inspires someone to really open up, to share personal trauma or other significant feelings. Those of us who don’t lean touchy-feely can get quite uncomfortable in these moments, but most people’s responses will be sympathetic, in a way that can bring teams together at least for the moment. If you’re the stick-to-the-agenda type, resist the temptation to cut the moment short, but be ready to step in when you feel the group is ready to be redirected. It’s a fine line, so be careful and err on the side of protecting people’s feelings. And keep the eye-rolling to yourself, if you’re the type.

Let Everyone Plan the Activities
If you really want your team to be invested in its own team-building, schedule a regular time (say, the last fifteen minutes of a weekly meeting) during which one member of the team will lead something of his or her choosing. Give a few guidelines, but keep your hands mostly off the planning, and let each planner do his or her thing. When everyone knows the pressure of delivering something interesting and fun, there’s mutual support and investment in making the activity work. The team-building then works on two levels: anything positive that emerges from the activity itself, and the supportive, encouraging environment that develops when people take turns running an important, risky part of the meeting. They’ll think the building is in the M&Ms sharing; you’ll know it’s really in something larger, because as has been our position from the beginning, true team-building comes not from silly games, but from doing meaningful work together.

Although we remain adamant that structured team-building time is a waste of energy and time, we’re willing to admit that some teams benefit from such activities. The skillful leader can keep everyone’s preferences in mind and accomplish a greater (more meaningful) task under the guise of a team-building activity.

 

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