by Mandy Clark
If you have never experienced a team building event gone wrong, then you probably know someone who has. One of my all-time favorite TV shows is The Office from NBC. It is packed full of team building ideas gone awry. While it may be funny (hilarious) to watch such debacles on a TV show, experiencing it firsthand is no laughing matter.
If you want to increase the performance of your team, boosting their morale is a great place to start. As you know, happy people perform at a much higher level than unhappy people.
So how do you decide on a fun idea that will work well with your team? This is where knowing your team is so important. When you get to know the individuals on your team, their likes and dislikes, it will help you coach, train, and create fun team building events. In the book I coauthored with Keith E. Smith, we dedicated a chapter to Getting To Know Your Team.
There are hundreds of things you can do, depending on the kind of things your team enjoys doing. I will give you an example from my own experience, and since everyone loves to eat, it may work with your team too! The key is to come up with an idea that everyone will want to participate in. This is usually one of the most challenging things to do when it comes to group activities, and is another reason why activities around food work so well.
Back when I was the operations manager of a small business (approximately 28 employees) I learned that most of my staff loved Mexican food. Every Tuesday saw multiple people going out for Taco Tuesday. One Tuesday night in particular, a few of my coworkers began bragging about who made the best homemade guacamole. Listening to their good-natured banter sparked an idea. I suggested to them that we should have a contest, and through a blind taste test, choose the best guacamole in the land. Their faces lit up in delight and the Guac Off was born!
The rules were simple. We decided on a date, time and location for the guacamole showdown. Anyone who wanted to submit guacamole for the competition was encouraged to do so. As a fun addition, the contest participants were encouraged to come up with a fun name for their entry. Since I was the organizer for the event, I chose not to submit an entry. In order to ensure it was indeed a blind taste test, I arranged to have identical bowls, with an assigned number, for each entry. On the bottom of each bowl, I placed a post-it note with the creator’s name. I took the bowls and guacamole into a separate room. I filled the bowls appropriately, and then took them back into the main room where everyone was waiting. All those who were in attendance, including the competitors, were invited to taste each entry and cast their vote. They would vote by writing the bowl number of their favorite guacamole on a small slip of paper and then place the paper into a container.
A week before the epic Gauc Off party, I tasked one of my thrifty employees with purchasing three “trophies” (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place) for the contest. I asked her to make them fun, and gave her twenty dollars. She went to a local thrift shop, explored it for about thirty minutes, and the perfect items to make into trophies, and she only spent ten dollars! She kept the specifics of the trophies secret until the night of the contest, teasing everyone in the meantime and building up the excitement.
The Guac Off was a huge hit. Everyone had fun, laughed, and joked with one another. That night was talked about for weeks afterwards.
As I said, food works great when it comes to creating a fun, team building event that most everyone will participate in, but food isn’t the only thing you can do. There are lots of other options, and I will share one more example from my own experience.
Recently, at a healthcare business that I have been working with, one of the managers was telling me how their office dressed up for Halloween last year. The theme was Alice in Wonderland, and they even got the doctors in the office to participate. As it turns out, this business has three other locations in the same state, and once again I had an idea. I suggested that they have a contest! I shared the idea with the VP of Operations, and she loved the idea. We quickly came up with some simple rules for the contest. Each office will choose a prime time TV show as their theme, and get as many of their coworkers to participate as possible. The best dressed office will win a prize (which we are still thinking about). This is another idea that is simple, and easy to implement (Note: keeping things simple will increase participation). This particular idea has a twofold purpose: First, it will help create a team environment within each individual office. Secondly, it will create camaraderie among the different locations, as well as some friendly competition.
There are so many things you can do to have fun and build up your team at the same time. You could do a paint and wine event. There are many of those places around, and some of them will even come to you. If possible, have someone outside of your business facilitate the fun so you can participate along with your staff.
You can do events in the office, or have outings tailored to your group. You can do historic walking tours, or a night of karaoke. If your group is more adventurous go zip lining, or indoor rock climbing. There are so many possibilities and they do not have to be expensive. Remember, the key getting to know your team and discovering what they like. Once you do that, let the fun begin!