By Patrice Mastrianni
When we “make the draft” to join a new business team we are pumped up right out of the gate. The rush of mastering new job skills, learning the needs and wants of your teammates, and throwing your ideas in the ring are very energizing … at least in the first quarter.
As time goes on, we settle into a routine and operate at a steady pace or, in the worst-case scenario, play a critic from the sidelines. Normal game changers, like having to perform tasks not on your job description, tolerating an irritating coworker or dealing with economic ups and downs, deflates our drive in no time.
It’s in every employer’s best interest to make sure their team stays on track and each member is in a position that best fits their skills. It’s the captain’s job to make sure no one sits on the bench and everyone focuses on the same game plan.
Keeping your group driven requires ingenuity and diligence. However, budget restraints and day-to-day business demands can often get in the way of a consistent team-building program. Team exercises can be as ambitious as a full-day golf outing or as small as interoffice games that engage departments or individuals in problem solving, communication and collaboration.
Whatever method you choose, coworkers gain a deeper understanding of one another’s strengths and interests, build better communication skills and develop stronger relationships. At each team-building “scrimmage,”you come out a winner.
There are many ways to keep team building a part of your vision.
One way is to designate an annual or semi-annual team-building day for your group. It can an off-site activity such as a painting or cooking class, an outdoor adventure or volunteering for community service. In addition, setting aside a couple of days each month, or even an hour every week, for a non-work activity can break up the monotony of business and highlight hidden talents in each player.
This is especially important if your team works remotely from home or at other locations. Depending on your business structure, it’s best to plan “game day” activities on your time not theirs. Employees may resent having to work late or come in on their day off to participate in a mandatory activity.
Team building ideas do not always need to come from the team captain. Larger companies might organize a “cheerleading squad” responsible for keeping motivation a focus throughout the year. Smaller businesses can assign individual players or departments to present a team building activity. It could be as simple as handing out “high five” cards as a way for team members to openly recognize each other’s support such as, “Mary high fives Joe for helping her with the pitch to Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
You can even designate an MVP each quarter. When recognizing individuals, be sure your star player doesn’t get all the golds and no single individual is repeatedly standing alone in left field.
The goal of team building is not only to keep the group working in unison, but to keep each member feeling important and needed. While everyone likes an “atta boy” with a dollar sign in front of it, small accomplishments can be recognized with a free lunch, leaving work early or a coffee gift card.
A great way to get to know your team is to go out for drinks after work. You can chose a night to celebrate a big win or as a cool-down after a period of stressful deadlines. You may even include “plus-ones” who are often cheering on your players from home. Be sure to ask your insurance provider if you bear any liability in this situation. Safety and responsibility are your number-one concern.
The internet is busting with creative team-building ideas. Research activity ideas by theme, season or even by country for something different. It’s important to keep activities fresh and frequent. Let your team make the calls. Ask for input and ideas. Listen and learn to see what works for your business and your budget. Put team building on your to-do list for each quarter. These activities can tighten relationships and build staff loyalty season after season.
Mastrianni led team building efforts for years as creative director for Price Chopper Supermarkets. She currently owns Serendipity Art and Cooking Studio in Saratoga Springs.