I Hate Team Building
I hate 'team building'. Everyone hates 'team building'. That’s because team building is what someone makes you do when they don’t actually understand your team. It can often be a stale, uninspiring experience. It commonly ticks all the boxes, but lacks heart and effectiveness. I understand why team building often has a bad rap..
In my past careers in real estate and media, I’ve been on countless team events. These have ranged from absolutely amazing to positively painful. I won’t name and shame those bad team building activities – but what I will focus on, are those amazing team building experiences and what made them so powerful.
My best team building experiences have taken the team to a different place and left a lasting impression. I have walked away with an experience that is really memorable, and stands the test of time. When I look back, the best team building events have included activities that have creatively challenged me and my team, to do something new or work together in a way that we had never done before.
I was lucky enough to attend a Caesars FAM trip at Lake Tahoe where the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity was cleaning up a creek bed through ‘The Nature Conservancy’ http://www.nature.org/. The main purpose was not to 'build' a team…it was to help clear the creek, but the byproduct of this was an incredible bonding experience between the entire team. The people that I worked with in the dust and the rain became my friends, and we created a connection through this shared, and challenging experience. There was an element of humor and fun in the midst of all the hard work too, which included me falling in the creek, which we’ll always laugh about. Doing something tough on my body, and doing something meaningful was an amazing feeling and standing back with my team and appreciating what we’d done at the end gave us all a huge sense of accomplishment. Visit nature.org
At MPI’s WEC in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to work with a group of people I’d never met before to build a prosthetic hand. As a group we were only able to use one hand each, forcing us to work together whilst developing a stronger empathy for the recipients of the prosthetic hands. While we were working, we were talking about our jobs, lives, personal passions, creating new bonds between us. The company that provides this is Odyssey Team - and they deserve a huge shout out for the incredible work they do. Click here to visit project.
I had my first 'internal' experience of SongDivision in 2008. The media company I worked for in NYC hired SongDivision for their sales conference in Miami and we were split into 3 teams and each of us wrote a song. Just like the Lake Tahoe CSR activity, it took the team to a different place, was creatively challenging, left a lasting impression and gave us a strong sense of accomplishment.
I quickly forgot that I was involved in a 'team building' activity and my primary focus became creating an amazing song with my team. We were all so engaged that we couldn’t get our ideas out fast enough – the quietest people in the team were fully involved and everyone became an essential part of creating our original song.
When it came to performing – you couldn’t stop us. I hate singing. I hate being the on a stage. I get sweaty palms, I shake and I want to throw up. I’ve tried singing lessons, toastmasters – everything, but alas I’m unfixable. But in this context – you couldn’t stop me. You couldn’t stop any of us. We were so proud of our song that we had created, we wanted to sing it loud and proud. And we did! In the safety of the group we sung together and because the focus was on us as a whole group we belted out our lyrics together (with dance moves included!).
Building a team does not need to be stale and uninspiring. If it is done right, it can be magic, powerful and memorable. It is all about the choices you make. Choose something different and interesting, something bold and challenging and something that encourages the group to work together to achieve a common goal. When choosing a team building activity, make sure it is something all of your team can do (physically), that it isn’t weather dependent (or there is a back up plan) and ensure that it takes them out of their comfort zone and encourages them to do something new together – experiences are shared and memories are made that way!
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