Remember your last corporate team building activity? If it was anything like the ones I remember, it probably started out with a speech about the importance of team building, followed by an announcement that you will be joining a breakout group made up of “randomly” selected team members.
This was usually followed by a scavenger hunt, puzzel, presentation assignment, FILL IN THE BLANK ACTIVITY, specially designed to build new relationships with this random group of people you were shoved into. This so called team building activity rarely works yet it is reenacted again and again at companies around the world.
Why does this fail? In concept, it is a great idea. Get people who normally don’t work in the same circles, working together. Form new friendships. The business will benefit from increased collaboration as more relationships are created.
Yet in my experience, the opposite happens. These activities that are specifically developed to force people together, actually accomplishes the opposite, employees tend to cluster more tightly with existing friends and several, myself included, simply choose to walk away from the group all together and do their own thing. It makes sense, we don’t want to be told who to talk to, who to hang out with, who to eat lunch with, we’ve been told all along that we are trusted and that we have autonomy but now we are being treated like we are back in pre-school again, being matched up with our safety buddy for the day’s field trip to the zoo.
I recently brought my team, many of whom had never met face-to-face, out to Utah. We didn’t have any formal team building activities planned. We didn’t sign up for a ropes course. We didn’t attend a corporate leadership seminar. We simply went into the mountains and did nothing.
We did nothing and something amazing happened. Team members connected with each other. Nothing was forced, it just happened naturally.
Our “No Team Building, Team Building Offsite” far exceeded my expectations. I watched new relationships form and flourish. I saw employee morale and productivity increase. The level of our customer service rose to a whole new level as a product of improved collaboration.
All the things I wanted to happen, happened, despite the fact that nothing formal was planned to make it happen. So next time the thought passes your mind to get the team together for a much needed offsite, don’t over plan it, just create an environment that allows your team members to hang out and have fun together. Everything else will just happen naturally as long as you are able to stop meddling and let go.