During HR trade shows and consultations, we ask: “What have you done for team building in the past?” Half the time I get answers I wouldn’t define as “building” — sometimes, they’re downright destructive. So after doing these for a few years now, I feel I’ve pinpointed the 3 ways you know you’ve planned a successful team-building activity.
1. Everyone can participate, regardless of skillset
Often, we hear that a C-level exec is really into an activity — maybe golfing, poker, rowing, or go-karting — that almost everyone else will suck at.
Now, maybe this is because the person in charge wants to be the best at it, or because they think everyone else should improve at, the bottom line is, it’s not going to be successful.
Not the kind of paradigm shift your organization is looking for in its team-building activities
Team building is about raising confidence and trusting other people. If you are awful at golf (like me), Arnold Palmer could be leading the activity and you’ll still be lousy at it after just an hour of practice.
And the people already good won’t learn anything, they’ll just say “Why can’t everyone else do this as well as me”?
So while the A-types will really enjoy pedal-to-the-metal go-karting, everyone else is just going to get run of the road (and in a sour mood).
Karting in videogames is divisive enough; karting in real life will inspire real-life death stares.
Choose activities that experience is not needed — because if everyone is on an equal playing field, but the activity is also simple to explain and grasp — and you’ve laid the foundation for a successful team-building activity.
2. Everyone can participate, regardless of physical condition or lifechoices
Inclusion is needed for every awesome team-building activity. Beyond our unique skillsets, we are all unique people physically.
The differences in male and female physiology (and preference in sporting activity) is just the tip of the iceberg.
If someone suggests a ziplining course for a team-building activity, is there someone who can’t participate – someone in a wheelchair, with a broken limb, or less arm strength?
Forcing someone into an activity/place they aren’t physically suited for is a recipe for disaster.
On another note, going to the bar is an easy way to get your people out — alcohol is a great social lubricant, right? Sure, but what about someone because of pregnancy, religious group, or lifechoice cannot drink?
Any designated driver can tell you how fun it is to be the only sober person at a party.
Yes, you can say that it’s a case of a few people “spoiling” everyone else’s fun, or the “minority” dictating what the “majority” wants. But at a business and pragmatic level, this approach is bad for individuals (they’ll feel alientated) and the business (the team will be less cohesive, and whoever had a bad time will not want to do future team building).
What’s the cost vs. benefit of finding something that everyone will genuinely enjoy and find camaraderie in?
Finding activities everyone can enjoy together is only hard when you don’t know where to look
Any possible resentment from the irked “majority” will evaporate when they have a great time and actually learn.
And how much will those who would have been left out appreciate the team recognizing their needs and including them?
Aren’t those two things the main goal of every team-building activity?
3. Each subteam must produce something as a whole
Think about something you were bad at in grade school but had to do in front of the whole class. No one wants to have all eyes on them while they try something everyone is good at but them.
Poorly designed team-building activities are about individual effort.
“Oh sweet, we all get to watch while one person at a time tries VR! This is the best team-building activity since the CEO made the whole company attend her cello recital”
Baseball, rowing, and golf are really lousy team-building activities because individual mistakes are so magnified. If a boat capsizes because of one person, or if one error or home run decides the game, how will everyone perceive what their effort meant to their group’s success?
Ideally, a team-building activity should require contribution from everyone simultaneously.
A great, co-operative team-building activity can make friends out of strangers — and even rivals — boosting collaboration, communication and empathy in the workplace.
A: If people are standing around waiting for their turn – wouldn’t you find that boring?
B: You’ll always have people more skilled than others with an team-building activity, but if everyone has a job to do in concert with the team, they can be proud of group success regardless of how big a role they played.
For instance, in softball, catching one fly ball in the outfield wouldn’t make you feel a big part of your team.
But in Team-Building Pac-Man, the least skilled player is always contributing to the points total and can stay out of danger to get team powerups while the more zealous players advance through the maze.
He gets a Pac-Man! She gets a Pac-Man! Everyone gets to be a Pac-Man! 4-player Pac-Man 256 is probably our most popular co-operative team-building activity.
Or with our Virtual Reality Bomb Defusal, the group decides among themselves who will be responsible for learning which parts of the 20-page defusal manual. Everyone knows their small role is vital to the group success of the event.
We do use Virtual Reality for a few activities, one in which the headset user and the rest of the group communicate to defuse a bomb – everyone is responsible for their section of the manual.
This is what I like about escape rooms for team-building activity — it’s easy to divvy up roles so everyone gets involved. (About the only thing I don’t like about them is the small number of people they can hold at once and you have to travel to the location — issues that I think we addressed in our activities).
So, do you agree these are the main 3 ways you know you’ve planned a successful team-building activity?
I’m really dismayed when I hear about team-building activities that weren’t successful or didn’t include everyone in a cohesive way, so we try our best to customize new and fun ideas for organizations that meet their objections to spark communication and understanding at work.
If you’re curious for more of what a Games Done Legit team-building activity looks like, smiles and all, check out GamesDoneLegit.com/team-building.
We’d also love to have you into our office for a demo of amazing room-scale Virtual Reality, as well as experience any team-building activity we offer for yourself.
And we’ve updated or our list of team-building activities, if you’re curious and would just like to check out the dozen or so we’ve designed — a few of which might be up you and your team’s alley!
Thanks for reading. and remember: Make It Fun!
— Chris Hatala, Event Director / Final Boss @ Games Done Legit
216.505.0435 — firstname.lastname@example.org