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Five Ways to Maximize Your Team Building Efforts

How to get employee buy-in and achieve lasting results

Successful businesses are those with engaged employees who have the knowledge and tools to be effective communicators and collaborators. Your people are your greatest and most dynamic resource and when trust and connection are cultivated between coworkers, teams thrive and produce their best results.

With a reported 70% of employees not being engaged at work in the U.S., finding ways to connect and energize your people has never been more crucial to success. Research shows 70% of business transformation efforts fail due to lack of engagement. In our age of rapid change and evolution, businesses must find ways to inspire and support their teams in order to maintain a competitive edge.

So how do you create better working relationships at the office?

One strategy is to plan a team building experience aimed to bring people closer together and teach them ways to have better collaboration. There are many different approaches to team building including holding workshops, utilizing assessment tools, or enjoying a game night. As a professional who designs and facilitates experiences to help humans work better together, I’ve seen a lot of what works well and a lot of what can be improved upon. This guide is for the dedicated leaders who want to help their people grow and be more productive members of their organizations.

Here are five ways to help you maximize your next team building:

This first point is so simple and obvious that it’s often overlooked by the decision makers planning the event. We’ve heard from more than one organization about how past team building endeavors just didn’t resonate because the people deciding on the program weren’t the ones experiencing it. If you want your workshop or outing to go well, start by simply asking your team what they want.

At best you’ll be able to deliver exactly what your team wants and needs. And at minimum you’ll get a sense of the right direction to go in for planning. Ask them what they’d like to get out of a team building experience and what they believe would help them grow as a team. When your team feels like they have a say in designing the experience they are more likely to be bought in.

You can gather input informally at the end of a meeting, or you could submit a short survey to collect people’s thoughts. Getting at least some input from employees will help you plan a productive and enjoyable experience for all.

I smile when I think about the very first workshop my business, Double Dragon Coaching, ever did. The whole event was precisely scripted and controlled from beginning to end. From that experience we learned to scale back a bit and allow more room for people to authentically co-create the program with us. Simple activities that give people the opportunity to share their thoughts and perspective are a great place to start for building trust. You don’t need elaborate high ropes courses for a team to bond. You just need a safe, comfortable space and a few facilitated activities to help people be seen and heard.

Patrick Lencioni’s Personal Histories activity can be done in under thirty minutes around a table. It’s a low risk way for people to learn basic information about each other — where people are from, how many siblings they have, learning the stories behind people’s names — and this is where trust and understanding begins to form. The effort is small, yet the benefits are great. You don’t need an elaborate event to increase employee engagement. You just need the time and space to help people grow and bond by learning more about themselves and each other.

Team building is an opportunity for people to step out of their normal routine and engage with their coworkers in a new context and setting. Work is busy and people don’t always have time to share the simple, casual moment of their lives. But it’s in these moments where real human connection is made.

Help your team connect by giving them the opportunity to interact in a fun, casual way. After a workshop or experience, set aside time for people to chat and share their thoughts. We all have to eat, so bring some snacks and drinks to create an atmosphere of enjoyment. It’s amazing how much we can learn about our coworkers when we take the time to ask and listen.

If you want the maximum value of almost any team building program, there needs to be time for participants to process and articulate their experience. Think about when you watch a movie with a friend. After the credits end do you just say goodbye and move on? Or do you grab a coffee or meal and debrief about the story and characters. How much more enjoyment do you get from talking about your thoughts afterwards than if you just left without saying anything?

When we take the time to process, we begin to build new neural pathways that solidify the insights we’ve gained from an experience. Building these new pathways is work for our brains, so help your team grow by setting aside time to reflect and articulate on their experience. Ask them what they’ve learned and how they can apply this going forward. Hold space for people to express their insights and encourage them to write these thoughts down to keep them top of mind.

Then later, once everyone has returned to the normal flow of work, bring up these insights again. Create a culture where personal and team growth are the standard and help your team maximize the benefit of their team building together.

Just as you start the planning of your event by asking your team what they want, finish things up by asking their thoughts on the experience. Feedback is the way we learn and improve. Create a short survey with a few simple questions about what was good, what didn’t work, and what they’d like to have more of in the future. Then carry these insights forward and design an even better program next time.

By following these simple guidelines, you’re likely to have a successful and impactful team building program. Through it all, remember that team building is about building trust and helping people evolve — both of which are a vital part to the continued success of your business. No one program is best, but by including your team in the process, you’re more likely to present an experience that both resonates with them now and will have lasting impact going forward.

By: Justin Shaddix

Justin Shaddix & Zach Handler, corporate trainers and workplace culture consultants. Providing perspectives on the multigenerational workforce.