Team Building Events – How to Choose the Best Corporate Team Building Event

Team Building Events (and specifically how to choose the best, most appropriate, team building event) for your group or situation can be extremely difficult because of… Hello?! Team Building Event Companies! If you Google “Team Building Events,” you will get results from every type of activity from classroom team training, to charity events, to outdoor scavenger hunts, to ropes courses. You will also get results from non-team building activities but fantastic shared-experiences that can be a fun way for teams to spend time together and can be a fun memorable event, but these types of activities are not really team building events — meaning that the results of the activity will be fun and memorable, but will not actually build teamwork unless the team atmosphere is already pretty high.

So how do you choose the best corporate team building activity?

There are three different, main, genres of team building activities or team events. I have listed them below along with the situations that each will be most appropriate.

1. Small Group Shared Experience Team Activities: These types of activities include any type of shared-experience whose primary purpose is to just let the group have fun with each other. As long as you have a small group and a pretty good atmosphere within the group, these types of activities are fun and very inexpensive. You are only limited by your creativity here, so you can do the old standbys like go bowling play golf (or miniature golf). There are neat places like Dave and Busters where your team can have dinner and play pool or arcade games, etc. You could take a day off and go to a theme park or dinner and a show. Pretty much, any type of fun activity will work here. There are lots of “non-team building” organizations who specialize in these types of events. (When I say “non-team building,” I really just mean that these organizations primarily do some other service as their main revenue stream, and team events are just a side revenue stream for them.) Organizations that specialize in these types of activities include big resort hotels, cooking schools, race tracks (racing schools), theme parks, bowling alleys, etc. Once your group size increases to more than 20 people or so, or if you have a specific challenge within your group that you want to improve like communication challenges, a new team leader, groups that have merged together, or other team issues, these type of team activities can actually be counter productive — so be careful unless you have a small group and a pretty strong team atmosphere already.

2. Classroom Team Building: Many people think classroom=boring, because for most of our lives, if we are in a classroom, we are being bored to death. However, good team building companies and instructors are enthusiastic and fun. Teams who have professional facilitators come in and lead these classroom events can really improve a lot of team building activities in a very short period of time. Since participants learn faster when they are having fun, a group can really get fantastic results and feel like the activities were time well spent. This type of corporate team building event is best for groups where a specific team result is trying to be reached such as if an organization merges with another company, and the leaders are trying to create a new team culture or if leadership has changed and the new leaders want to start fresh. If you are having quarterly meetings or annual meetings at your office or if you have breakout sessions at you annual convention, then these types of events work really well in those types of time slots. You can also have these facilitators come out and do keynote speeches that are fun and funny if you have an open slot at your convention or meeting. Unlike the shared-experience events, very few companies specialize in classroom activities, so they are harder to find. Be careful, because if the company specializes in big events and not seminars or workshops, you can end up with a bunch of rah-rah activities that don’t get you the best results. Try entering “classroom team building” or “classroom team building seminars” into Google, and you should get a nice shortlist of qualified companies.

3. Big Group Shared Experience Team Events: This type of event is very similar to the small group team events above, however they are much, much, much more challenging to pull off. For instance, if you have eight people in your group, you can go to a bowling alley and rent two lanes or have two foursomes at a golf course, and everyone will be active the entire time. However, if you have 100 people, or 1000 people, if you try the same activities, at any given time, a ton of people will be standing around watching (doing nothing and getting bored) unless the facilitators really know what they are doing. So if you have a big group and you want your team to have fun and stay active, this is where you really want to invest in a professional team building company. (Especially if your reputation is on the line.) DO NOT leave this decision to your event planner, by the way. Event planners are very good at getting great deals on hotel rooms, organizing complex events, making sure the food works for the group, etc., but many of them will do whatever it takes to please the customer (you). So if you ask them for a specific team building activity, they will give it to you, even if the event or activity is not the best result for your group. You will get a MUCH better result if you contact the professional team building company yourself, because these professionals will help you pick the absolute most appropriate event for your team. If you are making a mistake, the facilitators will tell you, however if you have an event planner as a go-between, and you are making a mistake, the team facilitator will tell the event planner. The event planner, because he/she wants to please you, will likely just find another company who will do what you want. Typically, you will end up with a group from category number one above. So be very careful when you have a lot on the line with a really big group.

The key to picking the best event for your group is to ask two main questions. Question number one is (1) Are you looking for a specific behavior change? If so, hire a team building company who specializes in classroom team training or hire a good team oriented keynote speaker. The second question is (2) Do you have a big group or a small group? If the group is small and you just want the group to have fun, some money and take everyone bowling. If you have a large group and you just want them to have fun, hire a company that specializes in big charity team building events or fun corporate activities and take charge of the hiring of the company and take their advice into consideration. They will save you a lot of money and make sure the event comes off without a hitch.

Doug Staneart is the founder of The Leader’s Institute Team Building and the inventor

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Can Team Building Increase Productivity in a Recession?

When the economy is slow, company managers and leaders have to be very cautious with every expense. As a result, we will often put off hiring new employees until more certainty in the marketplace develops. Although natural efficiencies will develop in a downward economy, can team building activities help increase productivity so that we can avoid the expense of adding on new personnel? The answer to that question is… “Well… It depends…”

Don’t Confuse “Morale” with “Productivity”

Team Building is almost a generic term that is used for both “morale building” activities and “productivity building” activities interchangeable, but if you confuse the two activities, you can make some costly mistakes. Morale building activities can include anything from going out to a movie together to an office holiday party to entertainment style activities at annual meetings ans conventions. These activities provide a shared-experience that builds temporary camaraderie and provides a fun relief to the normal day-to-day rat-race.

Productivity building activities are training events or innovations that help teams do more with less. Although people will often call both of these types of activities “Team Building”, the activities themselves get totally different results. Both are needed to create a team culture, but quite often, managers and leaders will schedule one type of activity hoping to get the needed result from the other type of activity and be sorely disappointed.

Although productivity will often improve (sometimes dramatically) when morale improves, an increase in morale doesn’t always cause a team to be more productive. For instance, if a manager came into the office and announced that the entire team would get the whole week off and still get paid, morale would skyrocket, but productivity would drop to zero for the week. Morale building activities like team outings and company parties are extremely important, but they can’t entirely replace productivity building events and activities.

Since the team atmosphere created by morale building activities can be temporary, you’ll want to schedule activities like this regularly so that the individual team members get to interact with each other in a more fun way to build camaraderie. Charity team building events at annual meetings or conventions can be a great way to insert a morale building activity. These team building functions are very economical, because the company can generate great public relations without increasing the cost of conducting a convention or annual meeting. For instance, most conventions are going to have some type of entertainment or at least a company outing of some kind. Many companies are replacing these activities with a charity bike build or a team scavenger hunt where team members build gift baskets for soldiers. The investment in each activity is fairly similar, but the results of the charity activities often provide impactful, lasting memories that build great camaraderie between team members.

Build Teams by Training Team Members Together

In addition to morale building activities, a team also needs to develop new skills in order to keep them productive. Many years ago, a mentor of mine told me that “You can’t build a team by training individuals, but you can build a team by training individuals together.” I didn’t really understand the power of this advice until I started my own business, but I understand it more and more as my company grows and grows. For instance, many big companies offer tuition assistance for higher level degrees for their employees, but what often happens is that a company will invest a ton of money into the development of an employee only to have the person leave the company and start working for a competitor. This happens because the individual employees is growing, but the team as a whole is stagnant.

Oddly enough, any skill development activities will work to build the team culture in an organization if the skills developed gives the team a competitive advantage in the marketplace. For instance, Apple decided to eliminate cash registers inside their Apple Stores and replace them with the ability for any employee in the store to be able to use their smartphones to ring-up items for purchases on their smartphones. Because Apple is doing something that no one else is doing, the employees who have been trained in this new technology feel like they are a part of an elite group that is different from other retail stores. Whether they are or not doesn’t really matter, because the team believe that they are ahead of the curve. Customers can find an Apple employee and within seconds create a purchase and have the receipt sent to the customer via email and be on their way. A dramatic increase in productivity and decrease in cost while creating more of a team atmosphere among employees.

“Soft-Skills” Team Building Training is Most Productive

The most effective team training to increase productivity comes from “soft-skills” training, though. While Hard-Skills are ones essential to doing individual jobs within a company – for example hard-skills for an engineer might be calculus and physics – soft-Skills are skills that improve productivity no matter what specific role that a person has within an organization. Soft-skills would include communication skills, presentation skills, the ability to persuade people, the ability to coach and mentor others, etc. If the engineer improves in any or all of these soft-skills, then he or she will likely improve their individual success as well as the overall success of the team.

When teams train together in these soft-skill areas, they automatically develop that same type of team culture that Apple developed with the technology change. Team members know that they are a part of a unique, elite group that is different from most organizations (because most organizations don’t train this way).

For example, a few years ago, I was hired by a commercial construction company to help them deliver high-level sales presentations better. Companies that build skyscrapers or have groups of construction projects often bid out these huge projects in one big contract, so they will often ask for huge proposals and have each qualified contractor come in and do a presentation to narrow down the field. The company that hired me was closing about one out of six of these presentations, but wanted to increase their numbers. So we conducted a series of presentation skills classes with the teams of presenters. Because they trained together, they developed a team culture that showed up when they conducted their presentations. Quite often, at the end of their presentations, the board members who were in the audience would say, “We chose this group because they just seemed to work very well together.” The team culture showed, because the individuals within the group had been trained in soft-skills together, so they saw themselves as having an advantage over other presenters (and they had one.)

Presentation skills, people skills, coaching, mentoring, and other soft-skills training can really help teams become more productive as long as the teams are going through the training as a team. I remember my college football coach telling us, “You don’t fight for records or awards, you fight for the guy who is next to you in the trenches.” When teams train together, they build a rapport that lasts.

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