How to draw up a teambuilding plan, which activity to choose and how to introduce teambuilding?
If we want to create a good climate in the team, we must use various activities for teambuilding. This is a targeted guide to the results that some specific results have.
Teambuilding means a set of sports and social programs designed to stimulate the motivation of a group, which is usually a group of employees in a company. If teambuilding is successful, employees gain new knowledge and experience.
The word teambuilding began to be widely used in Slovenia in the 1990s. Of course, this does not mean that there were no sports and social programs in work organizations prior to that time. With a conscious effort and to a large degree spontaneously workers and managers socialized, talked and engaged in various activities that strengthened their mutual trust and commitment to the work collective. Especially in large companies, employees had their own sports clubs, and manufacturing plants or industries competed with each other. Ski competitions of companies and entire concerns have been quite common, and such an example from those times is a large and successful company Iskra. Companies had their own singing choirs and cultural societies. Large social gatherings are known from that period, such as Mercatoriada (by the Mercator retailer) or Iskrijada (by the aforementioned Iskra). Almost every company organized at least one if not several labor union excursions. Labor unions also owned holiday accommodation where employees with their families spent their holidays together with other such families. Thus, not only the employees of a company met, but also their family members.
Creating or building groups and good interpersonal relationships in a group is one of human primary needs. Man is a social being, and no wonder that human beings feel good and are happy to work in an environment where they feel that they can trust each other. In such an environment, people can be the way they are, without masks and pretending to be somebody else. Family has a special meaning in our home or personal environment, and small groups (teams) have such meaning in our social life. Due to ever increasing individualism and the emphasis on privacy, people are failing to trust other people and institutions. It is difficult to find people who would volunteer to organize an event and commit to the common good with enthusiasm and heartfelt commitment. This is why “professional and science-based” groups and companies that organize workshops and teambuilding programs started to appear. The aim is to establish environments in which people can develop properly, and happily do everything in their power for a common goal. We have partially answered the question “why” with the above.
Purpose and benefits of teambuilding
With the decline of socialism and self-governing working-class communities, various social and connecting activities in collectives began to fade. Due to the collapse of large concerns and companies with thousands of employees, the kind of social life known in the past has died out. New companies were formed. These are much smaller organizations, or they are divided into departments that are more or less enclosed environments of their own. Employees do not know each other and are not interested in each other. People from other environments started joining existing businesses.
For a better mutual acquaintance and thus easier resolution of any conflicts, it has become necessary to systematically connect employees. In recent decades, people have started to engage in a significantly higher number of sports and other leisure activities than was the case in the past. In terms of music and cultural activities, there are many more genres, events and different tastes than we were used to know. No company is able to support let’s say 20 different sports teams and organize dozens of different activities. Holidays that we used to spend in domestic country or in northern Adriatic destinations are now enjoyed all over the world. Therefore, in order to engage in leisure activities, people socialize in various clubs or join various organizers of sports, cultural, tourist, entertainment, leisure and recreation events. Nevertheless, we also want to feel more at home in the work environment. As people feel a deep need for social life, new forms of boosting friendly ties in companies began to appear.
Well-built teams are not only useful in satisfying the need for social life, but above all in achieving better work results. Members of strong and emotionally interconnected groups work with a much greater degree of responsibility for the benefit of the entire work organization. Teambuilding is needed to make individuals more humble and polite in collaboration with other members of the collective. One of the most important qualities of a good group is that members open up to each other and trust each other. They are not afraid to show their weaknesses, shortcomings and faults. They trust each other so much that they don’t have to put on any masks or hide who they really are. They are aware that they can be good people despite their mistakes, and that their co-workers respect them just the way they are. They have the courage to ask for help and they know how to apologize for their mistakes.
In settings where there’s no mutual trust, people are afraid to express their opinion clearly and tend to avoid difficult topics. They create a kind of mock or artificial harmony. Hidden in the background, however, discord is simmering and is just an expression of fighting for power.
Without trust, cooperation is severely hampered. As a result, there is a very limited commitment to the company as a whole. Small clans pop up, forming alliances against other groups of co-workers. There is no mutual help and support. Individuals and small subgroups avoid responsibility. Often with resentment and reproach, they point to decisionmakers and others who are supposedly failing in their responsibilities. Quite quickly, competitiveness and the importance of a person’s status become paramount. Workers pigeonhole each other in positions of superiors and subordinates, and the ones who have been in the collective for a long time versus the newcomers. The achievements of an individual or a small subgroup are placed before the efforts to achieve common results and goals. The failure of the company as a whole, however, is perceived as the fault of the opposite group of people who do not want to work as their superiors consider right.
Every company must have a strongly interconnected team that will resolve conflicts in mutual trust, take on full responsibility for the work in full commitment to the company, and bear the burden of making sure to attain common goals. Teambuilding activities contribute significantly to this.
How to build up a good work team?
A good work team is worth more than a good product. A worker who feels good in the collective will be committed to such an environment and nurture mutual trust, really giving out everything to realize the goals. Such a worker will not look at the clock in an anticipation when this awkward workday will be over, but may even give up some of the personal leisure time to make the company really successful.
Nowadays, the fragmentation of interests is so great that it is difficult for workers to connect spontaneously with each other. This only works for really small groups, but connections between such groups may be more harmful than beneficial to the business. Therefore, executives must put some effort in constructing a good team in an organized way. There are companies and schools that organize various forms of teambuilding. Perhaps it would be good to talk about best practices in boosting the interpersonal ties with HRM experts at an appropriate HRM event. Why should anybody waste their time and effort in trying out all the bad practices before getting to a good result?
No two persons are alike. People are interested in a wide range of fields. For instance, some like to socialize during different sports activities, others prefer theater, again others like dance evenings. As people have different inclinations, desires and interests, we cannot connect all of them through the same means. Therefore, it is necessary to choose or organize different types of workshops and teambuilding activities.
All employees must be involved in building the work group. No one can just stand around and make fun of others commenting on what “childish things” are going on. No one is too old to grow in interpersonal relationships, and no one is humble enough to be exempt from such efforts. Those who believe that they do not belong to such a workshop may probably need some other therapy in order to be able to join the team and be able to participate in teambuilding activities.
In participating in a workshop, all employees are equal. There are no directors and subordinates, no one is the smartest and no one is just tagging along. The director cannot stand out and outvote everyone else. The director should not be offended if the construction of a tower is an activity that was done best by the cook’s assistant.
Teambuilding activities should not be regarded as a competition, but as the building of mutual trust while solving problems together. Individuals should be aware of their vulnerability and inadequacy and should not hesitate to call a colleague for help in mutual trust. Merely having fun, participating in a match and spending free time together do not build the right team. Teambuilding activities should be guided and goal-oriented. Let them facilitate people in working on themselves and their relationships.
Types of teambuilding programs
If you want to create a good atmosphere in a team, you need to use different teambuilding activities. Definitely a team building day or activity is not just about spending leisure time together. This is a goal-oriented activity in order to achieve a specific result. Which activity you will want choose depends on the mood in the organization. It is very important that leaders consult each other (bring a joint decision) about what kind of a program they will implement to improve the atmosphere in the work team. It is also appropriate to consult experts from outside the company who are familiar with problems of teams and know the types of team building programs and can also provide them. If it’s just that people do not know their co-workers very well, then perhaps a nice trip and a social evening will contribute considerably to better cooperation. Some will prefer to attend a cultural event together, or some other simple event will be good enough.
Should it be the case that there is great individualism and fight between individual egos in the collective, workshops should be held where participants learn how we depend on each other. We achieve much better results if we are a well-coordinated team full of mutual trust, as opposed to a group of disconnected individuals. Some group-dynamic games are suitable for such a team, emphasizing the contribution of every single person. There are quite a few providers online that organize such workshops and provide ideas on how we can conduct them ourselves. Quite a few books have been written about this topic and many tools are available that can be used. Let’s emphasize the group-dynamic games. Some very good older literature may be found in antiquity bookshops.
How many teambuilding programs should there be?
There is no general answer to this question. Every group has its own dynamics and is constantly changing. And people are changing as individuals. Relationships between individual group members are changing, as well. When there’s trust and friendship between the members of the group, and when we think that the group does not need encouragement and relationship building, then internal spontaneous teambuilding is at its strongest. And also the other way around; when interpersonal relationships are fragile and tense, teambuilding should be carried out systematically.
We cannot say that some activity is always the right one. Without pursuing some objective, let’s say interconnecting a group, doing sports every week will be just that. Even frequent excursions and expensive gourmet dinners will not boost the commitment to the company. In fact, the collective needs to be scrutinized closely to see what its strengths and weaknesses are. It is appropriate to organize a suitable form of activity according to the actual needs. However, it is certainly not good to abandon this kind of activity altogether. Sometimes, it is very stimulating to hold a social meeting as a thank you note to the collective, a meeting where we look forward to common results and confirm strong mutual trust.
Best practices – an example
At the elementary school where I was the principal decades ago, the members of the teaching staff attended for several years in a row a few days of “external preparation” before the start of the new school year. At the end of August, we went to one of the Centers for School and Extracurricular Activities (CŠOD) for three days and worked there throughout the morning preparing for the school year, while in the afternoon and evening, we played various games to boost the group dynamics. Some activities were outdoors in the nature, and some were organized indoors. We cheered up, laughed and learned a lot. This really connected us and we started the school year completely relaxed, full of trust in each other and dedicated to school.
The best investment a company can make is an investment in people and good interpersonal relationships.