Sports, lunchtime yoga, team-building exercises, conferences, happy-hour get-togethers, Christmas parties: there are many ways to build and strengthen links between work colleagues. But are some of them more effective than others?
Here are the four golden rules of successful team building.
Adapt the activity to the team.
Every team is made up of unique individuals with particular tastes and personalities. “Given this reality, the best way to build a team varies based on the individuals involved,” says author and lecturer Alain Samson. “For example, if you try to get a group of introverted accountants to participate in a play or performance, you risk losing them entirely.” It’s important to consider many factors, such as ages, personality types and fields of interest. In other words, the organization has to get to know their employees before planning a team-building event.
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Consider group activities that involve exchanges.
The best activities enable participants to share with one another and find common ground. According to Alain Samson, this is one of the most important factors in building a cohesive team. “When people forge a personal link with a colleague, they’re more likely to enjoy working with them the following Monday.”
Sharing activities takes many forms and has a number of positive impacts. “An activity that enables people to learn about the talents and qualities of their colleagues automatically makes everyone on the team feel more optimistic,” says Alain Samson. “And activities that focus on shared challenges build team links and inspire a sense of belonging.” According to Alain Samson, an effective activity doesn’t need to cost a small fortune; far more important than cost is accurate targeting.
Éric Quentin, creative strategist with Zenith Team Building, believes that a properly structured team-building exercise is the best way to forge links between work colleagues. “Team building involves getting people together in situations that encourage them to share and bond,” he says. “Parties and going out for a drink after work are purely social activities.”
Staging one type of activity, of course, doesn’t preclude the other. “Most of the time, participants in a team-building activity get together afterwards for a meal or drinks,” says Éric Quentin. Both experts agree that this is a winning formula.
Consider small-scale activities.
Éric Quentin notes that in the last year, the average size of the groups he’s hired to work with has decreased considerably. There was a time when he often catered to groups of 300 or 400 people; today, he’s more likely to work with groups of 30 to 40.
Éric Quentin and Alain Samson agree that this trend is a good thing for organizations. “Instead of trying to include a large group in a flashy activity, I prefer activities that appeal to specific personalities in the group and encourage them to get to know their colleagues better. The result is that participants are less likely to be passive,” says Alain Samson.
“Anything that inspires positive feelings strengthens team spirit,” affirms Alain Samson. Zenith Team Building’s creative strategist agrees. “I’ve tried more serious activities, but I believe they are less effective,” says Éric Quentin. “These aren’t training courses and shouldn’t feel like they are. People are more interested in having fun with their colleagues and perhaps learning something about them along the way.”