How to Engage and Build Your Team

How to Engage and Build Your Team

In some way, shape or form, you are part of a team. And the achievement of your goals hinges upon this team working as a cohesive unit.

They need to have a sense of a shared vision and ownership for the team’s success and their own being one and the same.

This feeling of pride needs to be deliberately cultivated and prioritized, and it turns out that there are some shortcuts that can help you get there.

But the term team building exercises often just elicits groans, eye rolls and cliched visions of trust falls. Your team building efforts will backfire if they just make people feel awkward!

Fortunately, there are options that offer a fresh take on this process that your team will be receptive to and enjoy…

Putting some forethought and effort into this process has its payoffs when the pressure is on, and your team will perform better under stress and increased demands.

Team building increases a group’s tendency to work in harmony toward important objectives while putting aside personal agendas and rivalries.

One route that some workplaces are taking is referred to as the gamification of the workplace to inject an element of fun while helping employees take in new information and strategize together.

Examples of gamification include using a trivia quiz game to teach important company information or having associates level up when sales, production or quality control goals are met.

Any tedious process can be turned into a game to add an element of humor and entertainment to the process, and a game that requires your team to strategize together will build the cohesiveness you are looking for.

For example, using a free scavenger hunt app allows you to create a game that will have your team taking pictures, giving feedback, sharing videos and scanning QR codes to earn points. A game like this is pure fun and will promote relationship-building between teammates.

Some companies will take team building games to the next level with events like go-kart races or classic board games like Settlers of Catan. Other ideas include kickball, Nerf wars or paintball.

Looking for something a little more… well… corporate?

Try directed storytelling. Did you ever attend a summer camp where you bonded quickly with the other campers over campfire stories? That same bonding can be captured informally in the workplace.

To do this, create categories for people to choose from, such as first day at work, side project, something learned the hard way, the best mistake I ever made, etc. Let each team member choose a category and share a brief story from their own personal experience.

These stories will often have a funny element to them and help team members empathize with one another and become aware of commonalities. Be sure to have one that helps your team get to know you as well!

A spinoff of this game is the classic two truths and a lie game in which each participant shares two facts about themself and one plausible fib. The topics can be narrowed to work-related themes or open-ended. This simple game helps the introverts in the group to open up, guarantees some laughs and is quick to implement.

Another idea is to take the legendary scenario of a small group of forward-thinking entrepreneurs sketching out ideas on the back of a napkin over lunch. Think Herb Kelleher formulating the simple plan that would become the template for airline industry upstart Southwest Airlines.

To do this activity, divide your team into small groups of three–four and assign them common problems that your business is presented with. Have them brainstorm simple strategies to meet those challenges — strategies that can fit on the back of a napkin. Use real napkins and set aside smartphones and other tech.

Each group has full creative latitude to come up with solutions and should be encouraged to think like an entrepreneur facing the problem on their own. After this step, each group can present their ideas, ask questions and even come to a cohesive strategy.

One of the most organic ways to encourage team building is to organize an activity or outing. This can vary depending upon the nature of your team but could be anything from a wine tasting to a hike, horseback riding or a boat outing. People often think of the dreaded Christmas office party as just such an event, but by thinking beyond that, you can create a more relaxing and agenda-free event.

The idea of an actual retreat is often seen as a strategy for well-heeled corporations, but that does not have to be the case. Consider combining the idea of a retreat with an offsite meeting. It can just be for a day or an afternoon and should be something a little more elegant or novel than the day-to-day environment of your business.

A nice meal, a lovely atmosphere and a break from the usual office milieu can help people come out of their shells, relax with one another and get some creative thinking flowing.

A recent Gallup poll about the state of the American workplace, says DeskTime,“reveals that companies with engaged employees are more productive. In fact, the top 25% have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings and less turnover and absenteeism than companies in the bottom 25%.”

If you feel that your team is disengaged, untrusting or working purely from self-interest, it’s worth your time to look into some team building strategies and implement them. Get them working together, thinking together and strategizing together as a team and see what a difference it makes in your workplace!

With purpose,

Dr. Patrick Gentempo

Patrick Gentempo