Inspire, Unite and Energize Through Teambuilding
Midwest Meetings spoke to Demorest, as well as David Goldstein (TeamBonding™), Heidi Edinger (MileNorth™, A Chicago Hotel) and Thomas Hyslop (Lake Lawn Resort). They shared with us some of their insights on teambuilding including: why meeting/event planners might choose teambuilding, challenges encountered and popular teambuilding activities.
Goldstein: When your team is having fun, they will relax and be more engaged in what they’re doing. This is your chance to spice things up and energize meetings and events. Participants will also have a positive, common experience that will enhance the bonds between them. Team building programs that embrace the power of play are not only energizing, but also generate authentic bonds. When bonds run deep, teams are more collaborative and more caring of each other, which makes them more effective and productive.
Edinger: Planners are always looking for new ways to enrich their programs with activities that will inspire, educate and unite their groups. They want to create a bonding experience and foster lasting memories.
Hyslop: When teambuilding activities are planned with specific goals in mind, they can strengthen employee relationships and unite a group. People with full-time jobs spend at least a third of their waking hours at their place of employment. The workplace is a subculture, and the relationships we have there can enrich our lives or drain them, add to the company’s productivity or limit it.
Teambuilding activities can improve co-worker relations, build a company culture, and reveal the leaders and communicators, as well as the areas that might need improvement. Making time for activities outside of the office is both meaningful and important to any business’s most critical resource — their employees.
Demorest: For light, casual, “fun” time to connect and or compete. They might consider teambuilding to break up a typical “mundane” overall agenda. To raise awareness levels regarding collaboration and communication. For team alignment. To provide an opportunity for people to have a memorable and extraordinary experience, that ties directly to their self, team, and business.
2. What challenges might a meeting or event planner experience when conducting a teambuilding activity (either while planning the activity or during the activity)?
Goldstein: Squeezing team building into tighter and tighter timeframes.
Events should not function as a standalone teambuilding effort. Many programs can be incorporated with other activities you are planning throughout the day. For example, many culinary team building exercises can become part of your meal plan during a full day of meetings. Only have 20 minutes in-between meetings? No problem. Have a small budget and need ways to keep the momentum going after that engaging team bonding event? Google has you covered. Search the web for terms like “commonality teambuilding” or “quick team icebreaker” and you’ll find many options, which can be easily modified with your own unique twist.
Confusing recreation or extreme activities with real teambuilding. Having fun alone does not necessarily lead to teambuilding. Do you want more input from staff, more flexibility, better working relationships, being able to adapt to change better, etc. Defining goals helps you choose the type of event that will provide you with the most benefit.
Preparing your client or team for the event. Ensure that you are clear about what participants should wear (especially footwear), don’t call the session “teambuilding”, encourage participation in the pending activity rather than planning a surprise, set expectations and be sure to start on time.
Struggling with momentum and follow-up. Don’t cut short the amount of time allocated to debriefing and business application exercises. Also, be sure to follow up with all participants. A successful day is great, but look for ways to help keep the energy alive throughout the day after the training or event.
Edinger: It’s important to have a plan B. For example, what if a key component of a teambuilding activity does not make it to the hotel in time due to a shipping error or the inclement weather. At MileNorth, we do our best to assist in pulling together last-minute items.
Hyslop: Planners and organizers face a variety of challenges when planning and conducting a teambuilding activity. One of the biggest obstacles is choosing the right activity for their particular group.
If there are any underlying problems or issues within the group the activity should target the weakness, whether it is communication, teamwork or personality conflict. Planners must also think about the individuals that make up the group considering their ages, energy levels, physical abilities, etc.
Another hurdle is motivating the whole group to participate in the activity. Some group members might see teambuilding as a waste of time and respond with an eye roll. Planners need to motivate the group to participate and buy into the activity if optimum results are to be reached. This often requires an incentive.
Organizers need specific goals in place in order for the exercise to be successful and to achieve truthful answers to the question, “what did you learn today?” There has to be a purpose for the activity other than just a fun day outside of the office.
Demorest: Planning can be a big challenge. The amount of time the client can invest in teambuilding. Gaining clarity on why the client wants teambuilding. Location/venue and space options.
During the event if a well established professional company is used, the meeting planner should be able to relax and watch the “turn-key” program create the intended results.
3. What are more popular types of teambuilding activities?
Goldstein: The most popular and wildly successful programs include philanthropy, technology, innovation and often a little nostalgia. Some programs like scavenger hunts and culinary exercises combine some of all of these themes. For example, bike builds incorporate competition and collaboration while tapping into one of your fondest childhood memories and philanthropy.
Edinger: Philanthropic activities are very popular. In recent years, organizing care packages for our troops overseas has been a popular activity. I’ve also participated in events where we built bicycles or skateboards for needy children or clean-up projects designed to help beautify the local community.
Hyslop: Visiting groups have participated in everything from kayak races and obstacle courses to cooking classes and cookouts. One popular team-building activity is a golf outing for groups ranging from 12-144 for both organized tournaments and leisure play. Lake Lawn is also home to a 165-slip marina that offers numerous water sport rentals, including motorized and non-motorized options that can be used for simple cruises or more creative ventures. In addition, our full-service spa is available for large groups featuring a premium product line and luxurious services.
Demorest: What makes a successful teambuilding program largely depends upon what the intended outcomes are for the group. There are hundreds of popular choices for teambuilding. Casino Nights, Culinary events, GPS/Photo safari race, beach Olympics/survivor games, etc. the list can be exhaustive. We are finding that more and more companies are treating their investment in the participants, meeting space, A/V requirements, time and the overall agenda, etc. very carefully. They now want programs that:
• Increase Connections within the group
• Practice bringing their core values to life
• Create meaningful differences for those beyond the course room
• Have an emotional piece that anchors the learning, and provides an opportunity to 'give back' while offering high levels of engagement mixed with some fun too.
Goldstein: Cirque de Team is the most unique teambuilding program we’ve created, so far. The circus is instinctively inclusive and reliant on teambuilding. The event begins with a quick performance by skilled circus professionals. Although some people are initially a little nervous, the excitement of the circus engages team members and they start to relate to each other openly in new ways. Participants are inspired by the skill and fun of the performers…and motivated to give it a try themselves.
All of the activities can be mastered at a basic level in a short time…and many folks surprise themselves with how well they do. Once participants have mastered a few acts, each team selects their own stars to showcase their talents in the Cirque de Team under the big top (your meeting space) or make this a charitable event with a children’s performance.
Edinger: I hosted and created an event in which my clients attended a luncheon and decorated plain white canvas TOMS shoes for children, from infant to toddler size, in any way they liked and then the give back began.
For each pair we purchased, TOMS donated a pair to children in third world countries. I also took the decorated shoes and donated them to an organization here in Chicago called Share Your Soles, and they auctioned off the shoes to raise more money to buy even more shoes to be donated to children in need.
The clients had a great time getting involved and we helped a local and national organization and more importantly, provided shoes to many needy children.
Hyslop: One unique activity that is bringing groups together effectively at Lake Lawn is a cardboard boat regatta. The overall goal of this event is to build a "sea-worthy" craft using only cardboard, tape, and a 6-by-8-foot plastic tarp within 90 minutes. The finished boat is then launched into Lake Lawn’s pool with one captain that paddles down the length of the pool and back while being timed. The fastest time wins the glory and any prize(s) the group may want to include as an incentive.
Teams work together by bringing their talents to the table to accomplish the task at hand. A degree in ship building or engineering is not required to do well, just a willingness to engage, be creative and be decisive. From designing and building the boat to racing it on the water, teams will encounter challenges throughout the process that are similar to real-world scenarios: project modifications, staff changes, material shortages, deadlines, etc.
While the activity is competitive, it usually ends with laughter and a cheering crowd, as everyone wants each other’s boats to survive the pool.
Demorest: There are many but one is Helping Hands, which is a program where the team works together to build an actual prosthetic hand. The hands are then distributed to amputees in one of 65 developing countries.
The Helping Hands program allows teams to increase the connections in the group and practice bringing their core values to life. It creates meaningful differences for those beyond the course room, has an emotional piece that anchors all of the learning and includes high levels of engagement with some fun too.
5. Overall, what makes teambuilding work for a group at a meeting or event?
Goldstein: Teambuilding activities that emphasize themes of your conference and your organizational goals are the most effective. Adding a bit of fun to each meeting will not only energize your team, it will help them stay more motivated and engaged. The new experiences encourage participants to hone their cooperative skill sets and enjoy tons of fun as a team along the way.
Edinger: Early planning and organization is key. I also recommend tying the activity to the company or community in which the event is being held. If there is a charitable component built into the teambuilding, it is certainly helpful because people like to give back and know they are making a difference
Hyslop: Effective teambuilding activities should have purpose and specific goals. The activity should not be randomly chosen from a list, but selected based on areas in need of improvement. It must be simple enough that everyone can participate, but challenging enough to keep everyone interested.
One benefit of working with Lake Lawn is the support you will receive from our Recreation Manager and Event Coordinator to match up the perfect activity, menu, and meeting space for your team. Working with a team can ensure that both you and your group’s expectations will be met.
Demorest: If it's sponsored by a VIP on the team/organization. When all parties involved are aligned on the intended outcomes. Pre-work has taken place regarding points above.