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San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITY Most companies waste their money on team building. Sure people like to have a good time by not working at their desk for a day or two, getting some free meals and maybe even being entertained, but many team building activities don't fulfill their true purpose. Team building ‘activities’ is really a misnomer. By its definition, Team Building means to build the team, in other words: “To make a work group more effective and capable together than they were before”. Although many activities are fun, just because employees participate, doesn’t make them team building. These fun centered experiences should be called what they are - simple recreation, or a reward or recognition event. It’s fun to go to the park and have a picnic, go on a scavenger hunt, play golf or go for a boat ride, but these things don’t address the real goals and objectives related to developing a team. Let's remember why team building is important to your organization.

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


The ideal scenario for teamwork is to get the best results out of each workgroup by having all the people and parts working synergistically together with a high level of commitment. There are a variety of scenarios that will require more that an employee bar-b-que in the parking lot. Establishing a new team. New teams should focus on developing their vision and identity as a team, define the ideal for what they could look like, and clarify their core mission. Having a positive experience that confirms their ability to work together and sets the tone for teamwork culture in the future is also important for new teams. Overcoming blocks, stressors, misunderstandings, conflicts. In any work group a unique culture will emerge in the absence of management that gives attention to creating one. It is often necessary to get everyone 'back on the same page' as a team with clarification from leadership that re-emphasizes priorities, role clarity and an updated plan when it affects everyone. Facilitating connection between locations, divisions, departments. When workers and departments must cooperate on critical processes or systems it is important to invest in lubricating these relationships. Productivity and synergies between various departments in the organization can mean big differences in productivity, customer satisfaction and organizational effectiveness. San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Building Group Skills. Each work group can benefit from better group skills of communication, problem solving, creativity, inclusion, participation and involvement, and team leadership. When these skills are practices are well developed the results produced by the team can be astounding. Excellent group skills can be learned and practiced as a vital part of developing a team. Preparation for projects or change. Preparing a team for a large undertaking, a complicated project, or a tough upcoming year are all good reasons for team building. When the job is going to be more stressful, great teamwork can make things run smoother. Strategic alignment, culture change. When an organization makes a major change in direction, merges or consolidates, it's a good opportunity for team building. When it's 'out with the old and in with the new' it's important to have everyone on board with a fresh commitment. Fixing a stuck team. When a team's output is vital to the organization (and what department's isn't these days?) and they are polarized, conflict ridden, and the parts and people are not working well together - a change needs to made. When the lack of teamwork is seriously affecting results a teamwork intervention is called for. Before the team can move forward they often need to address the 'water under the bridge' and need a release valve for their past issues San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


and frustrations. Facilitating this type of team building is a very artful process. Addressing individual teamwork behavior. There are problem team members of every team, and all can benefit from greater self awareness about how their individual behavior might be detracting from the overall performance of the team. Building individual awareness about teamwork behavior is a worthwhile objective for any work group. Teambuilding is more correctly called team development training, when it's done right. So what types of training exercises and modules should you be looking at? It's all about the purpose of the training. The key is to define your purpose first, and that has to be more than just an ad hoc definition, loose objective, or emotionally based analysis of the need for teamwork. The Teamwork Survey. San Diego Corporate Training has developed a comprehensive 50 question teamwork survey that identifies teamwork strengths and weaknesses in any workgroup. Analyzing the team from inside, by the team members themselves is the only way to gauge and identify what is really going on and where team members agree they need help, training, development or change. The power of The Teamwork Survey is that it is administered anonymously, where individuals feel safer about disclosing their true opinions and feelings, and sensitive teamwork issues can be San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


uncovered without judgment or fear of reprisal. With this teamwork diagnosis in hand, a much more prescriptive team building program can be undertaken, with specific outcomes in mind. More about The Teamwork Survey. So let's assume for now that you have accurately identified the issues of the team, and have a well developed set of objectives for team building. The following is a series of teambuilding activity and program types which are designed to build and develop teamwork in various situations: Teambuilding Light - The fun shared experience. This could be a shared lunch, an outdoor picnic, taking a boat ride together, playing golf, going to an amusement park, or some other shared activity with loose structure for interaction. In these experiences participants are left in an informal, unstructured environment to make their own ad hoc connections with one another. Much like a cocktail party or backyard picnic, a nice environment is created where individuals approach and interact with another as much as they are comfortable doing. These experiences are typical at conferences, vendor-supplier events, annual all-hands meetings in large companies or situations where connections with one another are seen as positive and beneficial but not necessarily essential. San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Organized Team Fun. Enter the recreational fun - structured experience. Everyone can remember having fun playing games, competing and participating in familiar or not so familiar activities together. The experience of working in an intact small to mid-sized group are emphasized, where generally, a group must form a team quickly, someone might emerge as a leader or assume team leadership, and a fun activity is undertaken together. This might be anything from a company softball game or treasure hunt to one of the many building, racing or creating together team games that are so popular with event and meeting companies. Imagine putting on an oversized sumo wrestling costume and going at it with a coworker while your team cheers you on. These interactive fun-type experiences are great for high energy sales meetings or company picnics where the objective really is fun together, and perhaps the opportunity to get to know various coworkers with whom one does not normally interact. A major benefit of these types of programs is to have employees and managers interact informally and see each other in new ways outside of the work environment. Hopefully, there will be fun memories that workers will share and which will add new comfort and warmth to relationships at work in the future. Although these types of team activities can be fun, and fit well with an outdoor or resort meeting environment, the benefits for team development are generally short lived. Since there is little intentional purpose other than fun, recreation and informal relationship reinforcement, expectations for real team building must be low. Although these experiences together can leave the San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


organization feeling good about its event, meeting or conference, little, if anything can be expected to change back at work. The Teamwork Seminar. As a training and consulting firm that has been delivering team building programs for more than 28 years, San Diego Corporate Training has refined the development of a teamwork seminar that is actually designed to build better teamwork. The core elements of this well developed program contain the following structure and elements that all contribute towards actually creating the desired result - better teamwork: Acknowledgement of the contribution of each of the members and their individual contribution and importance. It’s important to start a teambuilding experience with the emphasis on inclusion and participation by everyone. Sending a clear message that everyone is valued and their input is important is one of the fundamental values to emphasize and it sets the stage for the expectation of participation be everyone on the team – right from the beginning. The Intact Team. It’s important to have everyone at the program who is part of the work team – especially the leader. Many times the problems on a team can be traced to the leader or San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


manager and they avoid the potential hot seat by not attending. This not only sends the message that the leader sees themselves as ‘above or apart’ from the rest of the team, but sets up more resentment from team members when they begin to vent about the leader, and build solidarity within the group with negative opinions about the boss. Not only is this not helpful for the boss, but he then also misses the opportunity to form better relationships with his own team – potentially wasting the investment in a team building seminar. Rationale for teamwork. Because teambuilding has become such a cliché in the corporate world, participants often show up with low expectations for their own team development and plan a low level of involvement, leaving early, interruptions with ‘important calls at work’ or other avoidance strategy because they have no intention of taking team development seriously. This jaded attitude can be overcome by establishing a clear connection between the teamwork in the group and the functions they perform that are important to the organization. Anyone not on board is then seen as not taking their job seriously- a different kind of issue altogether, and one that most employees would like to avoid. Each work group needs to understand that they do make a valuable contribution and that better teamwork means better performance. Each team is encouraged to draw the direct parallels to the positive effects on processes, systems, customers etc. that will result from better teamwork.

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Vision or ideal state for the team defined. When team members are given the opportunity to have some say about what kind of team they would like to (ideally) become, they will generally set a high standard for themselves. Hosting this discussion as a very inclusive process gets the team to identify a positive potential future state for themselves – one which many individually are privately wishing for but which has ever been considered, much less discussed until this point. It is important to have a shared positive picture of a hopeful future so the team knows that there are benefits to spending the time and energy to improve themselves and the ways they work together. Progressive experiential exercises. Experiential learning is truly an amazing thing when facilitated properly and is one of the most powerful ways for teams to learn together – especially when it comes to group process. Experiential learning activities include mildly physical team problem solving exercises and unfamiliar tasks and settings that are designed to put the entire team on a level playing field as far as background, expertise, and job description. Having the group blindfolded and try to make a square out of a piece of rope is an example of such an exercise. The idea of experiential learning team exercises is to provide not only increasing self awareness about how the group typically functions when it comes to communication, San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


participation, decision making, planning, problem solving and the like, but to provide the opportunity to learn new methods, approaches and skills and to try them on for size to see if the group can produce more effective and satisfying results. When the group proves to themselves that a new approach or skill works better in an exercise, they will have a much higher likelihood of applying the same back at work for better results where it matters. The experiential learning environment is also helpful as a safe and non-judgmental universe where a group gets to self identify their normal unproductive tendencies and see the relationship between failure in an exercise with no penalty factors, and the potential for making much costlier mistakes back at work. Often with a series of successful learning’s, the team will increasingly open up about past mistakes and failures with unsatisfying approaches while embracing a more positive expectation for interactions in the future. Leaders will be seen as more human, dialogue will be two way rather than solely top down and the group will be more open about discussing their process behaviors and tendencies and openly voicing their expectation of more inclusion and participation in the future. Experiential exercises are normally delivered in a progressive series so that teams can steadily increase self awareness and apply learning’s from one exercise to the next, practicing new skills and making them their own. San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Organizational Simulations. These highly detailed and generally longer experiential exercises are specifically designed to mirror the conditions and organizational dynamics of particular companies and their situations. Metaphorical situations are created with the same ‘no penalty’ outlook, but much more detailed analysis and facilitation takes place – often with several breaks in the simulation to evaluate and discuss the team process. Organizational simulations tend to be delivered for high level more sophisticated management groups who can handle the complexity and organizational performance parallels. Organizational simulations may last for as many as three hours or more as a single exercise, often undertaken on a multi-day team development program as a ‘final exam’ type team exercise where many aspects of teamwork must be integrated simultaneously. These are particularly valuable executive development experiences. High Energy Shared Experience. Almost since their inception, Ropes Courses, Rock Climbing and other high energy shared experiences such as Sea Kayaking have been part of corporate training programs at San Diego Corporate Training – precisely because of their effectiveness in team development. There is simply no better way to break down barriers between individuals, put the team into an environment where they must coach, encourage and support one another and create a level San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


playing field which will humble the most powerful top executive or reveal new skills and resources from employees at the bottom. The perception of risk and danger, while safety is always rigorously controlled, is a powerful tool where the group must ‘pull together’ to get through and while sharing the adrenaline, excitement, triumph over challenge and fun. As a standalone – high energy shared adventures are fun, but are much more effective when combined with experiential group process exercises and other team awareness and learning. These powerful elements will loosen up a team, anchor positive feelings, facilitate connection between individuals (holding one another’s safety ropes or climbing a rock tied together) or simply empathizing with each participant as they undertake and overcome each challenge in view of the team. The peer to peer environment will encourage individuals to stretch and then celebrate with team members when they accomplish more than they initially thought they could. Of course each high energy shared experience must be evaluated for physical participation by the team and the activity level geared within their limitations, but the ropes course experience is far and away the most flexible when it comes to creating a variety of different challenges and opportunity for participation on many, many different scenarios and ropes elements which can be adjusted according to the need and each individual team.

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Teamwork Behavior Inventory. Another popular self assessment component with San Diego Corporate Training Teambuilding programs is the Teamwork Behavior Inventory. This is a 30 question self assessment instrument that asks each individual team member to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses as a team member – perhaps creating some much needed self awareness for the first time. Although no one reads anyone else’s self assessment, a facilitated discussion and triads coaching process puts participants into an environment where they advise one another on their weaknesses and give advice to one another so that a) not only does each participant begin to self-disclose their own team behavior shortcomings, but b) they increasingly see others as human with their own strengths and weaknesses as team members as well. The very inclusive list of factors being assessed is really a model for great teamwork behavior as an individual on any team which participants learn as part of this self assessment process. Transference of Learning. Teambuilding programs are of little value for any organization if the benefits cannot be transferred and applied back to the workplace. Great teambuilding program facilitation includes making direct parallels to apply learning back at work, to facilitate shared agreement on better ways to work together and to make a commitment to doing so. A well run teambuilding program is an intense emotional and San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


intellectual experience where the participants should leave with specific learning that will create a direct benefit their organization. Ownership Of Improvement Planning. To do lists, teamwork contracts, improvement storyboards and strategic team development plans are ways in which an otherwise intangible learning experience can be converted to a measureable effect and benefit. When the team leaves with a specific agenda for improvement in how they will work together - that they are committed to, the teambuilding program has done its job. Celebration. Anchoring important learning’s and good feelings as a team is part of building a team’s identity in a positive way. Great teams should celebrate their learning as well as other accomplishments which are the result of effective teamwork. An effective teamwork seminar will leave a team with something to celebrate.

Teamwork Intervention Programs The stuck team has emotionally charged issues which need to be addressed and chances are there is a lot riding on the team working better together. Teamwork intervention programs are generally two to three days in length. Any team, even healthier

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


ones can benefit from a similar program, but there are several components which tend to take more time as the chemistry of a stuck team will not change in the blink of an eye. San Diego Corporate Training’s Two Day Team Development program has an interesting structure with a few extra components to dramatically increase its effectiveness when dealing with problem teams. The first is to administer The Teamwork Survey in advance. Often this is necessary anyway, as stuck teams may avoid taking the survey or have some other excuse and it may take an extra week to get everyone’s data so a true reaction representing the views of all team members is created. Delivering The Team Survey in advance also begins to create an expectation of what the results will be, what will be talked about, how the information will be used etc. and as the individual team members increasingly wonder about the results, they will unconsciously continue their own self evaluation of their team – effectively preparing them to get more out of a 2 day offsite team experience. There may be other avoidance strategies if a two day program is held anywhere accept some offsite location, removed from work. Emphasis from above should reinforce the importance of attendance as a requirement and to plan for attendance of the entire program without interruption. Dysfunctional teams will come up with all forms of other resistance from selection of San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


possible roommates, to what to wear to what they cannot possibly participate in to how fast after the stated program end time they need to get home – anything to avoid the discomfort of dealing with their ‘issues’ and unhealthy team climate. The two day team development program is a powerful process that can only be delivered by very competent and confident facilitators who are prepared to deal with initial resistance from the group, to field challenges and blame from the group (all demonstrations to avoid responsibility for themselves) or other heated team issues that must be managed in a tactful and productive way when Egos and defensiveness are in play. The discussion of the results of The Team Survey alone might take two hours or more as the worms are all spilled out of the can onto the table and will need to be acknowledged and looked at before they can be put back in the can so the team is willing to move forward. Sometimes the release valve of simply talking about issues which have never been voiced with the entire team before, can be a big relief for everyone. The skilled facilitator will help the team see that their issues are very similar to other groups and that moving forward and overcoming them is a responsible, professional and healthy thing to do.

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Often intact work groups will have one or two individuals who are problem participants on the team. Although their skills and technical expertise may be very necessary, the way they behave causes stress and problems for other team members. SDCT has developed a very effective peer feedback process where each team member gets anonymous feedback about their team behaviors and in a tactful way, becomes aware of the problems they may be causing for the team. This very powerful process is often delivered the first night of a two day program so that each participant has a chance the next day to take responsibility and to experiment with new behaviors that are more helpful for the team. A teamwork intervention program can be powerful and transformative for any intact workgroup and always pays for itself as a solid investment in team performance down the road. So when deciding about team building activities, exercises, programs and seminars a few main points cannot be emphasized strongly enough: If it’s a fun, reward and recreational program you want, understand that the teambuilding benefits might be looking to achieve will probably not happen.

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Everyone can benefit from a well designed team building program that is professionally facilitated- whether teams are in trouble or not, they can always learn to perform better. Team building programs should be a minimum of a half day and include a series of exercises. This is simply related to how adults learn best and what it will take to get actual team behavioral change of any kind. Yes there are individual short exercises you can deliver in an hour, in a meeting room. Just don’t have large expectations. Maybe if you do one of these a week for a few months you can accomplish something significant. In order to accurately prescribe a team building solution, you have to have an accurate diagnosis. Are you looking for general team building skills building, a high energy experience, or a powerful two day interventional program? The Teamwork Survey or some similar instrument should provide you with the teamwork analysis you need to determine the training program or teambuilding approach you should be looking for. You might even determine that all the problems are because of the group manager so what you are really looking for is a leadership development program for him. If you don’t actually measure the team themselves, then you are guessing. Look to the professional training organizations for help. Meeting planners who provide fun oriented party games shouldn’t be trusted with your organizational performance. Another benefit to using outside training professionals rather than your own internal staff to deliver team training is that true San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


objective facilitators will be seen as having no specific agenda or be affected or aligned with particular internal organizational dynamics or politics. Additionally, the experience of professionals with thousands of hours of team facilitation will be much more efficient and effective, driving levels of team growth and learning you could never hope to accomplish alone. Team effectiveness in the work place can always improve and the teams that do learn to perform at high levels will outshine others with their performance and productivity, as well as providing a great example of what is possible. Two to four team building training events a year is not too much. Bart Allen Berry Bart Allen Berry is an internationally recognized team work expert who has trained more than 200,000 managers and employees, and worked with hundreds of companies from the fortune 500 and government to international firms and entrepreneurial start-ups. Bart is an author and speaker and the founder of 28 year old San Diego Corporate Training Find Out More About Teamwork and Team Building Programs From San Diego Corporate Training Team Dynamics One Day Teamwork Skills Training – Our most popular program delivered anywhere Two Day Team Development Program – Teamwork Intervention For Tough Teams The Teamwork Survey – Anonymous Measure Of Your Work Group’s Strengths and Weaknesses Teambuilding Adventures Ropes Course, Climbing & Kayaking Teambuilding Events Team Building Retreats At 1/3 of the price at our Baja Learning Center just South Of The Border SUPERCHARGE YOUR WORK TEAM Book By Bart Allen Berry

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


Contact us to request a proposal for your next team building program

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


All hands meetings are opportunities- mix rewards and recognition with opportunities for team building.

Ask yourself if employees and managers are likely to go back to work and behave the same as they ever have after the activity or if they will bring back a new outlook, skill or behavior set that will make them a more effective and productive group.

San Diego Corporate Training Helping Organizations Reach Their Potential


HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITY