When your team is spread across different time zones it can be difficult to create any sort of esprit de corps. Then if the whole team gets together only once or twice a year, there are so many items on the meeting agenda it’s difficult to set aside a substantial block of time for such fuzzy activities as team building. Don’t despair, says Brian Cole Miller, author of Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers: 50 Exercises that Get Results in 15 Minutes (AMACOM, 2004). Here are his tips for maximizing your team-building efforts.
- Think process. Team building isn’t something you do once and forget about, says Miller. Instead you need to invest in it over and over again as your employees get to know one another and build trust. “It’s a journey,” he says.
- Make every minute count. You don’t have to take the troops for a four-day survival skills training in the outback for bonding to occur. Quick-and-dirty activities can be effective bite-size ways to introduce new concepts and pull your team together.
- Set goals. Whether it’s a 20-minute icebreaker or a 5-hour role-playing course, know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start. Be clear on what you’re after and ask appropriate questions when you debrief participants so they understand the purpose of the exercise.
- Choose activities strategically. Many managers pick team-building activities because they sound fun or meet their time or dollar budget. But just as you wouldn’t pick a CRM system without evaluating how you’re going to use it and what you want to accomplish, don’t embark on a team-building program without ensuring the activity matches your goals.
- Stay out of the way. Though you will want to introduce the activity appropriately and debrief the participants at the end, don’t over explain. One of the biggest mistakes Miller sees managers make is trying to spoon-feed lessons to their teams. “The power of the activity is the experience itself,” he says. “Let people come to their own conclusion. Ultimately, it’s much more powerful.”
- Think outside the box. Search for times throughout the year when you can incorporate brief team-building activities, such as at the beginning of team phone calls or even via email. Team building doesn’t have to be done in person to be effective.
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