How to Make Team-Building Easier and More Effective

How to Make Team-Building Easier and More Effective

Leading a business requires you to balance a large number of important tasks. Chief among those tasks is keeping your workforce engaged and motivated. Employee engagement rates have a definite effect on reducing turnover and maintaining a healthy bottom line. And one-way companies work to keep workplace engagement and motivation high is by participating in team-building exercises.

In some cases, the leadership in a business will feel like these exercises are little more than an excuse to get out of the office and avoid actual work.

Yes, some activities that are planned for your team may be uninspired and ineffective — so much so that team-building has earned something of an undeserved reputation as something to be mocked.

That’s unfortunate because when team-building is properly framed and conducted, the experience can result in stronger, more cohesive groups that get more done with a greater sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. So, don’t be “one of those” up your team-building game.

What Makes a Particular Team-Building Opportunity Ineffective?

In order to succeed, today’s businesses must learn to build trust with both prospects and team members. With many corporate-sponsored team-building experiences, participants can wind up feeling frustrated, stymied, and dismissive of the entire process. Why does that happen, and what makes a specific activity or experience ineffective at creating a stronger sense of community and cooperation in the workplace?

Introverts and Extroverts

One simple reason is that not everyone is an extrovert. People who are introverted by nature aren’t necessarily shy, and it’s not that they just don’t like other people. They simply have a different internal energy alignment than extroverts do. It’s not about mere preferences but about what gets their blood pumping and what kinds of environments are most conducive to their best work.

Extroverts are energized by groups and crowds, whereas introverts can actually be drained by them. As most traditional team-building activities are built around coaxing groups of workers into playing a game or meeting a challenge of some sort, introverts often feel some degree of antipathy towards the situation.

Irrelevant Exercises

Another way team-building can go wrong is in the type of activity itself. Doing ridiculous exercises or playing irrelevant games isn’t going to help your team members bond and do better deeper work. It’s going to seem absurd to many, if not all of them, especially when so many see team-building as a pointless exercise, to begin with.

Leadership Problems

Finally, in many situations, the problem with team building is a failure to recognize the underlying reason why the team hasn’t come together well already. All teams need experiences that broaden the mind and enrich the soul, and you’ll want to watch for these types of opportunities.

However, in many cases, a team that’s deemed to need building up is suffering from a leadership problem. The issue of leadership might express itself as an energy mismatch, a problem with communication, or interpersonal conflicts — but the underlying cause is almost always a failure of leadership. If the leader isn’t participating fully in the exercise as well, it may well be doomed to failure.

When team building is bad, it’s worse than silly. It’s interminable, boring, and a thorough waste of time and money. But those types of adjectives need not apply to you.

Five Hallmarks of a Great Team-Building Experience

Choosing experiences that your team can commit to fully and actually learn from can bring everyone closer together. Everyone will not have the same experience in any mind-expanding exercise and may not leave the exercise as best buddies. Still, they’ll learn more about each other, how they all work best together, where the challenges in optimizing their productivity lie, and some idea of how to meet those challenges.

  1. First and foremost, good team-building should be authentic. Silly role-playing or playground games won’t do much but let some folks work off a little extra energy. They can even do more harm than good by unintentionally eliciting greater competition between members.
  2. Common foundational or background experiences and skills are also essential. Good team-building starts from a core or baseline that everyone shares.
  3. It should be fun! One of the biggest complaints many people have about traditional team-building is that what’s clearly meant to be fun actually isn’t.
  4. It should be inclusive, involving every member of the team as well as leadership. If you have to divide an experience up into sessions to accommodate everyone, make sure they all have substantially the same experience.
  5. Last but far from least, the experience must be both psychologically and physically safe. If team members don’t feel permitted to speak up or disagree, then you’ve defeated the purpose straight out of the gate. And it should go without saying that you should give every team member all necessary safety equipment and training.

Strong, cohesive teams are better at their jobs and enjoy their work more. They’re also better equipped to win and retain customers for your company. Good team-building helps give them the tools to get there.

How the Translated 9 Sailing Experience Builds Stronger Teams

The Translated 9 Sailing has the Motto: Dream it, Believe it, Do it.

You can find lots of great team building approaches available for corporate participation. One of the most exhilarating examples I have recently experienced is the Translated 9 sailing experience.

Translated9 is a human translation services company that’s been providing translation in over 190 languages for the last 20 years to clients in several different fields and contexts. The company is participating in an extraordinary regatta, the Ocean Globe Race 2023. During this race, competitors can use no modern navigational aids or forecasting apps to circumnavigate the globe in four legs of 40 days each.

Team Building Sailing Experience

Translated9 Sailing Experience

The company also offers “Translated 9,” a team-building sailing experience aboard the company’s boat (also called Translated 9). The experience consists of a three-hour training session led by Paul Cayard, a seven-time competitor in the America’s Cup. Cayard is a seven-time world champion who has twice circumnavigated the globe, and he leads these training sessions aboard the boat. After completion of the training, companies can also book the boat and its crew for team-building work.

During the sessions, participants journey out into San Francisco Bay. Since you don’t need any prior sailing expertise, anyone can access the sessions, even with a minimum level of fitness. There are no specific physical skills required.

The wind whipping at us on San Francisco Bay!

When we first got to the ship, we used a big, portable stairway that was provided for us. We were guided down into a cabin of the ship, and we put on windbreakers, hats, gloves, and other stuff to handle the elements better.

It was a choppy day on the Bay — I kept thinking, “Oh no — not smooth sailing!” But I now know that any day sailing is smooth sailing and an experience to be sought after.

I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle three full hours on this boat — the wind, the weather, the people — everything. There were a few on the team who had had a bit of experience with sailing, and they looked great, so I trusted that maybe they knew something I didn’t.

The Incredible Journey

Off we went on an incredible journey, the wind whipping our faces with refreshing Bay air. I was worried that I wasn’t in good enough shape, and I worried I might fall — but they told us to just be aware, and we would be fine — and we were.

It took some effort to stand and get our “sea legs” as the boat ride was bumpy — but there was an area in the front of the boat near the steering wheel where we could sit and relax. This was the place on the boat where we were all facing each other.

I drive a boat? Each person received training in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It did not take me long to figure out that steering the boat at this moment was, fortunately — much like driving a car. I would pick a point in the distance to map — and eventually, we would reach that point.

Once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I cannot explain the exhilarating feeling when steering the boat or even just sitting there while all of us were listening to the captain. The captain talked about his experiences, and we could feel everything he was describing because we were there with him in this moment.

In this team-building exercise, we learned how to exist in the moment and be present for thinking of possibilities.

Looking up — we were right under the Golden Gate Bridge! Oh, what a magnificent moment in time!

This was the type of experience where I was with a bunch of people I didn’t feel like I knew well — you know how it is? Here you are doing an activity that’s asking something from you physically and mentally. It’s strenuous but fun as heck — and afterward, you have this bonding experience that really makes a difference in your life in ways that you can’t quite verbalize.

Sailing past the Golden Gate Bridge.

We were on a boat. Of course, I’ve been out in the Bay on the Ferry — but this was totally different. We were on a big sailing boat that responded to the waves, and we fully had an influence on what was taking place in the movement of the boat.

Help Your Team Broaden Their Minds

In the broadening of my mind since this experience last week, I’ve realized that we have to engage in deeper experiences in order to fully participate in life and work. Cooperation in performing this type of exercise and being a participant helped me take an interest in the rest of the team, though we don’t see each other often.

I saw the others that were there differently, and I see myself differently. I can do hard things and can overcome challenges that come my way.

Look up! See the world grow.

Leadership Can Make All the Difference to Teams

Consider the possibilities. When you provide an experience for your team as a leader, you have given your team a gift — a bonding experience that everyone will call upon forever and will never forget it.

Imagine how this type of experience will make a difference to members of your company who don’t get to see each other very often, such as in the case of remote working members.

Diverse Experiences — New Challenges

Participants learn to bring their diverse experiences and skills to bear on a new challenge: learning to be part of a crew in an atmosphere requiring effort, diligence, commitment, and a little bit of courage. The sessions are fun and engaging and most definitely authentically designed around a common team goal.

Because this team-building experience was relatively short, it didn’t require a huge time commitment, yet the benefits are far-reaching, and we haven’t been able to unpack all the ways we were affected.

Gaining a Better Appreciation for Coworkers

While the Translated 9 experience may not be for everyone, it’s a great choice for the type of team-building experiences that you want to provide your employees with. If we do the right things with the right team — everyone is enriched.

Participants leave with a memorable shared experience. They learn new skills and hopefully have a better appreciation for their coworkers and their unique skills. At its core, that’s what good team-building is all about.

How to Make Team-Building Easier and More Effective was originally published on ReadWrite.com on Nov. 15, 2022, by John Boitnott. All images taken from the Translated9 website and provided by the author. Thank you!

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