Thursday, September 17, 2009

Company Team Building - How to Choose the Right Team Building Event For Your Company

So the boss comes to you and says, "We need a company team building event for the annual meeting coming up. Can you find a few options for us?" Sounds easy right? Until you look up "team building event" on Google and get 116,000,000 results.

You'll find everything from scavenger hunts to cooking classes to race car driving to fighter pilots to classroom programs. And of course, everyone is counting on you to find a program that doesn't stink. No pressure.

There are a few basics about team building that you have to understand to find options that are appropriate to your group. Keep in mind that most of the people who TEACH corporate team building programs don't know aren't privy to some of the information that I'll share with you below. However, if you keep this information in mind when you select a company team event, you'll have a winner every time.

First, you have to determine what result you are expecting from the event. There are two main genres of team building, and it's real easy to get the two confused, but understanding this key principle is the main key to choosing the correct program. The most common type of team building program is the "Shared Experience" type of program.

The main result from this type of team event is a fun experience where camaraderie is built between participants. The second type of program is a "Behavior Change" type of program. These are what some people call traditional team building programs and tend to be training events where information and skill development is the focus.

Very few team building organizations are experts at both types of programs, but a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that companies that specialize in behavior change programs tend to also be pretty good at shared experience programs.

However, companies that specialize in shared experience programs tend to not crossover as well to deliver effective training programs. Again, this is a general rule of thumb, but can help in determining if the team building company that you are hiring will do a stellar job.

Shared Experience Team Building Programs

Shared experience team events are most appropriate as a way to add entertainment or fun to another type of scheduled event. For instance, if your group is having a convention or annual meeting, and you are looking for a way add some enthusiasm and fun to the event, then a Shared Experience type of Team Building program will do nicely.

These also work well as a reward to your team for accomplishing a goal or as an icebreaker for new teams. A lot of companies use these types of events for interns or to welcome new members to an established group.

In reality, just about any type of fun activity can provide a shared experience, however, the bigger you group is the more challenging it can be to get a consistent result. For instance, if you have eight people on a team, you can easily create two foursomes and play golf together or go bowling.

However, if you have a group of 20 people play golf together, it will become more of a small group shared experience versus a team building event, so it takes an experienced facilitator to deliver an event that keeps everyone involved and having fun throughout the event.

If you have 100 people or 1000 people in your group, the complexity of the shared experience is increased exponentially. In this case, you'll want to do your research very thoroughly, because one misjudgment or moment of inexperience on the part of the team builders could make your whole event an embarrassment.

Behavior Change Programs

Behavior change team building programs are quite a bit different. These events, sometimes referred to as classroom programs, work best in situations where the goals are more results oriented such as if specific challenges have developed within the team or if the group is looking for ways to improve efficiency or productivity.

For instance, if a group has just gone through a merger and the two cultures are being melded together, or if a new goal has been set that is going to require changes to be made within the organization, or any other situation where we want our team to do thing differently than they have in the past.

Behavior change team building programs require a more experienced facilitator, because the ultimate goal of the event is to actually build teamwork, communicate more effectively, or work more efficiently together.

Those kinds of behaviors aren't going to manifest themselves by getting your group to compete against each other in a contest or by playing games together.

Instead, you'll want a team building company that specializes in assessing the root causes of the challenges within the organization and who can provide information, training, and exercises to get the participants want to work better with each other.

One of the big myths about behavior change programs or classroom style team building programs is that they aren't as much fun as the shared experience event. The reality is that folks who attend a really good classroom program will usually feel more of a sense of accomplishment and feel like the time that they spent was well worth it.

The key is making sure that the company that you hire to deliver your program is interactive and fun in their deliver of the program and that the content is appropriate for the results that you are looking for. If both of those things are true, then you'll get rave reviews from your team after the program.

The Big Mistake that will Guarantee that your Event Bombs

Understanding the two different genres of team building, here is the thing that you want to be the most careful about... If you have a group who is experiencing team challenges, and you conduct a Shared Experience event to try to fix it, you are likely to make it worse.

For instance, if you sects within your group who are antagonistic about other sects within your group, and you force them to team up with each other to compete with other groups, guess what? It's likely to backfire.

However, if you want to experience the camaraderie of a shared experience program and still get the team building skills developed in a classroom program, I have good news. You can do both.

Do a behavior change program in the morning, and then use a shared experience program in the afternoon as a laboratory to use the new skills in a controlled environment. Then you get the best of both worlds!

Doug Staneart is the President and CEO of The Leader's Institute Team Building Organization. He invented philanthropic team building when he created the world-famous Build-A-Bike(R) team event and has trained over 120,000 people in team building programs over the last two decades.

By Douglas Staneart

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