Is your team as strong as it can be?
In moments of candor, most corporate leaders would admit that their teams could use some work. Achieving true cohesion is not an easy task. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
What’s to be done?
Leaders who’ve found success in helping their employees row in the same direction often credit some of the team-building exercises and strategies described in greater detail below. Perhaps you’ve already tried a few.
1. Clearly Define Everyone’s Role
First and foremost, successful team-building requires a mutual understanding of team members’ roles. Precede your first major team-building exercise by defining everyone’s roles and responsibilities — even if your organization doesn’t use formal titles, has multiple people in the same role, or doesn’t clearly describe position responsibilities internally. No need to create job postings for people you’ve already hired; just clarify the chain of responsibility within and between teams.
2. Get Away (But Not Too Far)
If you can afford to do so, set aside a Friday or Monday during a less busy time of year for your organization to close the office and create a de facto long weekend for your annual corporate retreat. Encourage attendance, but don’t require it — life circumstances may intervene for some employees. Increase participation by choosing a location relatively close to your home office, like these scenic lake getaway recommendations from lifestyle entrepreneur David Janeson, and inviting a notable speaker or two as part of the weekend’s programming.
3. Set an Example at the Very Top
Do you truly know what it means to lead by example? Inc contributor Brent Gleeson has some thoughts, but don’t take his word for it. Ask your employees what they’d like to see in a leader, too, and then do your best to achieve it throughout the course of your team-building exercises.
4. Ditch the Hokey Games
There’s a time and place for everything, except hokey, forced team-building games that get in the way of more substantive groundwork. So, unless you have empirical evidence that they make the difference in your team-building efforts, ditch the trust falls and rope tugs. Focus, instead, on challenging conversations.
5. Encourage Candor (Without Getting Too Personal)
Speaking of challenging conversations, your team-building exercises should reward candor and frankness without verging too far into the realm of the personal. How you orchestrate this is up to you, but your team-building day or weekend should at minimum have at least one breakout session during which small groups conduct meaningful discussions that reveal new information about participants.
6. Set Aside a Day for Organized Giving
One of the most effective team-building strategies is also one of the most externally impactful: organized “giving days” during which team members volunteer at local nonprofit organizations or participate in community service activities sponsored by third parties (like road or park cleanup). The best “giving days” involve choice, so let your employees nominate recipient organizations and pick a few of the most popular. Even if the entire team isn’t on site at the same event, the spirit of giving will rule the day.
7. Cultivate Competition (Without Rewarding Cutthroat Behavior)
Hokey exercises might not work, but gamification certainly does. Create an incentive structure for employees who excel at team-building — those who organize offsite “giving days,” for instance, or volunteer to lead small discussion groups. You’ll be amazed by how much buy-in you’ll get when employees have something tangible to gain.
Whatever Works for Your Team
Every team is different. Therefore, it’s safe to say that not all of these team-building strategies will work perfectly for your crew. You know better than any generic advice-giver what’s likely to work within your organization.
At the same time, these seven team-building strategies are noted as effective for a reason: They tend to work pretty well.
In the end, you won’t know until you try. Perhaps you’ll find that some of these team-building efforts aren’t in your organization’s best interest. Or, perhaps you’ll discover a secret weapon that you never knew existed.