A lot of managers wonder to themselves about the actual benefits of team building. Barring a few misconceptions about team building, most know that it will be a fun time, but is there something more? If you haven’t participated in a professionally facilitated program, it makes sense that you might be a bit skeptical — and honestly, in this metrics-driven world, it’s tempting to think of the merits of team building activities in measurable ROI. However, I’d ask you to suspend this mentality for a moment and instead think of things that are less tangible but still beneficial: heightened goodwill, improved communication, enhanced engagement, and happier employees — which, in turn, often means lower turnover. But to get specific, here are some of the reasons why you should be investing in team building for your organization.
At work, much of our communication is routinized, often masking some of the deeper issues with the way we communicate. Team building activities an bring certain shortcomings into sharp relief, especially when the challenge at hand is different from what we encounter in an office day-to-day, and when our only mode of communication is verbal. Post-challenge recaps and debriefs are a great way to suss out what does and doesn’t work communication-wise within a group. Are instructions often too vague? Is there not enough room for discussion? Are there conflicting messages being sent? What is being done well?
While we all know that we’re technically a part of a “team” at work, in that we’re essentially all working toward the goal of keeping our company going, team building programs and the short challenges they place in front of a group put a new kind of focus on the concept of teamwork. You’re not just a team in this situation because you work together, but rather it will take all of the team’s members and their unique skills to work together to complete the given challenge correctly and on-time. This is a great way to get to know people’s work styles and strengths better, and, more importantly, learn how to leverage this information.
Trust is a tricky thing; something typically earned rather than given implicitly, and often it can take a long time and a number of interactions, both big and small, to build it. This is why team building exercises are such a great way to build trust. They essentially condense this process into a few hours of intensive, trust-building activities. This can be hugely beneficial to newly formed teams, cross-functional groups who don’t regularly rely on each other during their normal workday, or remote teams that don’t share office space together. Trust fosters collaboration amongst employees and is a huge contributor to employee satisfaction.
New-found skills & talents
An incredibly interesting and oft-overlooked benefit of team building programs are their ability to reveal hidden skills or bring latent talents to the surface. By having groups participate in a variety of very different types of challenges, team members often display new talents to their peers like leadership skills, strategic prowess, and consensus building. You might find that your division’s finance manager is a talented artist. Or that one of your software developer’s is also a skilled musician. While some hidden skills are ones that could benefit the company, others grant us greater insights into the lives of our co-workers, strengthening bonds.
Team building programs provide a unique benefit in that they can be a sort of sandbox or testing ground for new behaviors, or for developing norms within a newly formed team. As an example, a company might find itself falling behind its competitors due to a culture of risk aversion, which might stifle creativity. During a program that company can experiment with the feeling of taking more risks and develop a better tolerance to failure in the pursuit of new ideas.
At work, especially when you’re in a department that relies on creativity, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’ve gotten stuck in a rut. Attaining some fresh perspective can be really helpful in getting the creative wheels turning again; and by taking on some engaging new challenges during a day of team building, you can often regain a fresh take on things. This is not to mention, of course, the benefits of getting outside to rejuvenate the mind.
Having fun & celebrating
Of course, there are less heavy and meaningful reasons for team building activities. At the heart of every good event is a sense of fun and excitement. They’re a way to have a few laughs, blow off some steam, and get your mind off of the routine things that occupy your day-to-day. For this reason, it’s also an excellent way to celebrate – whether it’s a product launch, or surviving a particularly grueling quarter.
So the next time you consider team building, think about the additional benefits that come with the more entertaining elements. While not immediately measurable, we’ve seen first-hand how investing in your team this way will have positive effects. Moreover, it’s important to realize that these effects are amplified when these activities are done regularly, not just once every year or two (of course, they don’t all have to be formal, facilitated activities). The point is that maintenance is key for ongoing development in the areas mentioned above, i.e. communication, leadership, etc. Finally, it’s essential to emphasize the role of intentions and expectations when considering team building activities for your group. Activities with an intentional focus, like leadership development, are the most effective. And as a final reminder: don’t forget to have fun in the process!
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