What makes a freshly baked cake smell so delicious?
Is it because it has just come out of the oven? Is it because the ingredients have blended together so beautifully? Or, perhaps its due to the nurture and care that went into making it? Maybe it’s all the above, but the analogy absolutely extends to the business case for building a strong team. Leadership would not invest in team building events if they didn’t know that it has a bottom-line impact on profits, productivity, and retention.
The following summarises the hidden ingredients of team building, and demonstrates why the combination of these parts add up to an investment in people, culture, and clear communication.
1. Company Values
When considering the type of team building to invest in, consider what the event says about both the official and unofficial values of your business? Does the event represent what your business is about, and will your employees therefore appreciate it?
The culture of your business is driven by both its official and unofficial value systems. Our official values are something that Leadership are bound to ensure are expressed in daily matters of business. These might be the company values of Integrity, Innovation, Communication, Customer service, for example. Our unofficial values are the value expressions in actuality, and the “everything else” that makes up the company. These are the flavours of what it feels like to come to work. Does your office environment live the values of Appreciation, Gratitude, and Acknowledgement? Or, perhaps your office culture is about Competition, Achievement, and Results?
Teams usually have a diverse mixture of introverts, extroverts, dominants, influencers, thinkers, feelers, judgers, assessors, and all sorts of personalities. In the normal office environment, we tend to defer decisions up the chain, towards formal management structures. The impact of this is that the people that speak up can be the usual suspects.
Team building events are the opportunity to disrupt the normal team structures, and get people working together in new ways. By picking the right event, there is an opportunity to allow every person in each group to shine. A great facilitator will ensure that everyone gets a chance to step up, and also that the dominants don’t overpower (at least all of the time!). The net effect is that individuals become more confident in making their contribution towards the task at hand, and this confidence translates to a healthier work environment back at the ranch.
Team building assists teams by simulating a wide range of scenarios that are purposely not the everyday, and puts them out of their comfort zone. If the team can learn how to morph, and be agile in switching styles, then they’ll bring the fond memory of the lessons learned back to the workplace environment.
Imagine you are at the crux of your team’s challenge and don’t know what to do, whilst your Leader isn’t giving you clear instruction about how to proceed. Do you want the collaborative and politically correct conversation, or do you want a clear decision and instruction? In this example, it’s obvious you want the latter. Yes, politeness and inclusion matters in the workplace, but it’s also important to embrace that different situations require different styles of communication.
Human beings need to blow off steam, and ideally do so in a healthy way. An enjoyable and fun event lets your team know that the business appreciates all of their hard work, and recognises the importance of play amongst work.
Team building provides that opportunity to recharge, reconnect, and learn nuances about the way that the team gels together. People enjoy learning at both the intellectual and social level, and will naturally feel rewarded by the fact that the company has carved out time to play, for play’s sake.
5. Breaking Down Barriers Through Solving Problems
The office is full of job titles, expectations, and departments. These things are barriers to relationship, and barriers to communication. As silly as it sounds, it is crucial that we get to see our bosses in their gym gear, and out of their normal role so that we can see them in a different light. Equally, it is crucial for Leaders to stop leading for a minute, and appreciate the skills and perspective that individuals bring.
Barriers at work tend to keep us in formality, and ultimately in a ‘box’. Team building breaks down walls and accesses innovation by demanding that the whole team participates and engages when getting the job done.
6. The Biology
Oxytocin is the hormone of social bonding, and released by the hypothalamus. If the group enjoys the experience of an event together, then the oxytocin literally causes the effect of feeling that this is the “in-group”. This is the almost tribal effect of team building that is crucial to creating teams that are naturally inclined to want to help one another, protect the group, and ultimately form the sense of “we” that is ultimately a company’s identity.
7. Improving Skills
Most events put teams under a degree of pressure to perform, and collaborate. This is a healthy “storming” environment where team mates can help one another in honing specific skills. The task, for example, may require excellent communication, considered planning, or striking the perfect balance between the time spent planning versus executing.
Where Does Team Building Occur?
Team building doesn’t have to be externally facilitated, but often that third party perspective help bring out the seven components that we’ve discussed here in this blog. Some companies do sessions when at a conference, and some book in for a Friday afternoon at the local park. It’s all possible, and can even be done at your own office. The thing to remember is that the structure of the event needs to be well designed so that your company’s outcomes are met, whilst tapping in to the combination of components above.
And that’s how you Bake the A-Team!