Need a great team building event? Successful team building requires more than just trust falls and singing “Kum Ba Yah.”
Here’s how to do it.
Focus on the Process, Not Just the Event
Team building events use precious time and other material resources, so events should demonstrate value to the organization.
Yet, because team building deals with so-called “soft skills,” measurement can be difficult. Follow this process to create a team building event with a definable return on investment.
- First of all, don’t make the decisions by yourself. Start by finding a collaborator or representative from each of the interest groups that you want to connect. For example, to build connections between team members from multiple sites, include a spokesperson from each of those locations. If you are a school administrator trying to create a teacher-parent event, then be sure to get input from both teachers and parents.
- Next, decide on a laser-focused purpose for the event. Is this primarily about having fun? Getting to know each other? Understanding how each other’s work impacts the organization? Improving communication processes? Once you define the purpose, then you can think about activity.
- After defining the purpose, ask your planning group two questions. (1) What event(s) will help us accomplish that purpose, and (2) how will we know we’ve been successful? Even something as simple as hosting a lunch event can have success metrics. When developing these metrics, be sure to go beyond simple “satisfaction” with the event. Develop a short list of questions that measure the focus of the event. For example, if you are hosting a lunch and learn event, don’t just ask participants if they liked the event. Instead, ask them what they learned. Likewise, if you are hosting a “get to know you” event, ask participants who they got to know better or what new information they discovered about their team mates.
- Once you are clear on the event’s goal, methods, and measurements, you are ready to carry out the event and measure effectiveness. Ask participants to complete a survey at the end of the event before they leave. To make surveys easier to complete, keep them short and focused. Three or four open ended questions should do the trick. Report the results back to your planning team and they can make suggestions for future events.
When you complete those four steps, you will have a good mix of ideas, some measure of buy in from all interest groups, and a good way to report the success of the event to your supervisors or stakeholders.
Additional Resources for Team Building
While planning your event, read “How to Plan a Team Offsite that Actually Works.” This helpful article provides a list of do’s and don’ts for preparations that need to be made before the off-site event. One of the most important takeaways: use the off-site event to model new norms.
If you want to supercharge your team-building prowess, move beyond focusing on team building as an “event.” Think about how to make it a lasting part of your organization’s culture. To do that, take a look at these resources:
- Five Dysfunctions of Teams is considered a classic book in this area, told as a story. Bonus – there’s also a comic book version!
- “The New Science of Building Great Teams” explains that how we communicate is even more important than what we communicate. One key idea: the energy and engagement shown by team members outside of their formal meetings is a good indicator for the team’s effectiveness.
- “Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams” points out that the very things that make teams powerful in organizations also makes teams hard to manage. The authors then suggest 8 steps managers can take to reinforce positive team culture.
- “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” helps readers understand the “enabling conditions” that empower high performance teams.
By the way, this process represents a combination of mindfulness, dialogue, and collaboration that leads to positive change – exactly the kinds of skills we teach and develop with our Capstone program at CLU.