What is an easy way to increase staff morale, decrease gossip, and allow for more communication in your office?
Team building! Productivity has been linked to informal conversations, as they can stimulate creativity and interactions that create innovation and also improve communication. Team building is an example of ensuring regular informal conversations in the office.
However, many times when people think of team building they think of formal activities. One example is when I asked each of the offices I supervise to come up with ideas for team building activities we can do. One group came up with simple ideas that were practical, but the other one decided they needed Zumba uniforms and $200 speakers! This of course is not necessary.
Of course we have informal conversations in the car, and other ways, but they are not always between projects or departments, and tend to be between the same groups of people.
Why not bring people together to get to know each other by creating conditions for these informal discussions? The best way to do this from my experience is through team building activities.
In this episode I speak of my experience regarding the impact team building has had on my staff as well as ideas on how you can easily do it in your office. I also talk about some common challenges. Most of what I cover is also in the below bullets.
In my office we have been doing team building activities weekly for almost a year now, and I can notice a difference in the office. The main differences include:
o Staff morale is higher (energy in the office is palpable)
o People feel more comfortable speaking up during meetings
o People are more supportive of each other in difficult personal situations(family tragedy for example)
o Less gossip in the office
o Staff have generated ideas for creative solutions to problems during this time (in the podcast I mention my favorite book which emphasizes this, Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull)
A few guidelines for making team building sustainable:
o Commit one to two hours per week at a time that is most convenient for everyone (may decide initially to do once a month or every two weeks)
o Try to do the same time each week so everyone can plan ahead
o As a leader you need to believe in the value of doing it regularly
o Each week decide in advance (a day or two preferably) who will lead the team building activity and what it will be. This way everyone can bring gym clothes or prepare any materials in advance.
o Everyone should participate unless urgent
o Make it easy - don’t make it something you feel like you have to travel across town or spend a lot of money
o Each week rotate the person who is responsible for organizing the activity
o Appoint one or more team building cheerleaders - this way if you are absent, that person can make sure things continue
Possible challenges you may encounter and how to cope:
o Resistance from upper management. If you are not receiving support from your supervisor or upper management, you may want to start with whatever team you can influence first and be deliberate about demonstrating the benefits. Also if you can align what you are doing to the organization's global strategy or initiatives, for example staff well being, then this helps reinforce the importance of what you are doing.
o Some people on the team do not value team building or do not participate. First of all if people are resistant to this either you are doing the wrong types of activities, or perhaps it is a sign that maybe they are on the wrong team to begin with. It is important to get Senior Management (SMT) buy-in before rolling out to everyone. I had a meeting with my SMT and we discussed the importance of the activity before introducing it formally. Also we have added "participate in team building" as part of Performance Plan activities, to show that we value it and take it seriously.
o Cultural differences – Some activities may not be appropriate with men and women together or in certain environments. I think that this is mainly a matter of finding a culturally appropriate way to bring people together in an informal setting a few hours a week. You can have your team decide what that looks like.
A few easy and low budget ideas from my experience:
o Art project (drawing/painting)
o Office design
o Cooking/sauerkraut making
o Participate in a community event together in line with the organization's values (such as a walk to advocate for Women's Rights)
o Clean neighborhood
What I have noticed as a result of weekly team building:
o Staff morale has increased and staff mention team building as one of the reasons they like to come to work
o Staff changing habits due to what they have learned, for example around nutrition
o More unity between departments
o Staff find me more approachable to talk about issues important to them and their work
What are some practices you have that unite your team, whether through team building or other types of activities? Please comment below!!!
Finally, please share the links with those you think would benefit!