8 Tips For More Meaningful Team Building Experiences

It’s time for leaders like us to plan more meaningful, team building experiences for our employees. 

As a leader in 2019, it is likely that you have direct reports scattered across different offices, maybe even different countries. And, it is also likely that at least once per year your dispersed team gets together in person for a strategy or planning session.

One common element in these in-person meetings, is a segment set aside for “team building”.  Sometimes this segment is during the day, other times it is after hours.

I had one boss who loved to plan out of office team-building activities with her directs. We went to group painting sessions, cooking classes, mini-golf, and even competitive go-cart racing.  The most memorable of all of her activities was a sand castle building contest. It was the activity that I dreaded the most, but ended up having the best time doing. It got me out of my comfort zone and onto the beach.

Another boss was all about fancy food and wine. When his team got together, we ate and drank.

I also attended a number of “mass team building experiences” at sales kickoffs. For example, an outside company would be hired to come in and instruct 500 adults to make bicycles, which we would donate to a local shelter. Another year, we played games and donated the winnings to a non-profit. These exercises were very costly and took a lot of time.

Although some of these activities were fun, I am not convinced they all led to team members bonding, and/or an improvement in our employee engagement and morale.

The activities that I find are most meaningful are those in a smaller group setting that include content that helps team members connect, stretch beyond his or her comfort zone, and get to know each other better.

What I found most meaningful…

For example, I had a new boss (we’ll call X) who asked a colleague to facilitate a “new manager assimilation exercise”.  We met privately as a team of seven, and discussed important things such as, “what do we need from X?”. “What don’t I know about X that I should?”. It was a bonding experience to talk about important things as a team. It became even more valuable when Boss X, debriefed with the facilitator and then came back and talked to her team. She addressed comments and answered important questions. It was very powerful and memorable.

8 Tips For More Meaningful Team Building Experiences

Another team bonding example took place outside of the corporate world. At the beginning of 2019, I got together with 10 female friends and we created vision boards together. A vision board is a hand made collage of images and words that represent a person’s wishes or goals. The act of creating the board and then reflecting on the board can be inspirational.

What was “bonding” about this experience was not the activity of making the boards. At the end of the get together, each person presented their board to the group and it was incredibly eye opening. I learned so much about these friends that I never knew before. And, I will never forget.

8 tips for more meaningful team building experiences

As I said at the start of this blog, it’s time for leaders to plan more powerful, relevant and effective team building events for our employees. How can you do this?  Here are 8 tips for more meaningful team building experiences.

  1. Hold smaller group activities that encourage interaction, not just doing.
  2. Include content that encourages team members to connect with each other at a deeper, not superficial level.
  3. Help team members get to know the other team members- beyond the obvious. What drives them? What is important to them? How did they get to be the person they are today? Who do they want to be?
  4. Talk about the tough questions and the answers. Forget the fluff.
  5. Get team members out of their comfort zones, but in a safe environment.
  6. Rely less on alcohol. (This is coming from a gal who loves her wine.) I feel that we rely too much on alcohol as a crutch for employees to interact after hours. Everyone does not drink. Drinking is not the best “wellness focused” exercise. And,  I see companies spend a LOT of money on alcohol that could be invested back in their employees.
  7. Remember that everyone is not an extrovert. As a self proclaimed introvert, I often dread forced social experiences that have no agenda other than “mingling”. Yikes. Think about how you can make your activities comfortable to extroverts, introverts and omniverts. (Yeah, omniverts are a thing!)
  8. This may not be popular, but I think we should skip the “mass team building experiences” all together. I have been to enough of them to know, that they can be fun but they take a lot of time and resources, that I believe we could invest in better places.

Biz Journals recently published an online article about creating the most effective team building experiences. I particularly liked their advice to schedule activities during work hours. Employees need time away from work, so they can invest in themselves or in their families. Time away from work helps employees recharge.

Do you have other ideas for leaders to plan and facilitate meaningful team building experiences? Please add them to the comments. Thanks for reading!

© 2019, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.


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  7. The 8 tips for team building is great. I think, num 5 is very important for the leaders, “Get team members out of their comfort zones, but in a safe environment” Thank you for sharing.

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