The summer is here! Great, everybody made their plans, ready to retreat for a few days (or the lucky ones, for weeks), after a good long stretch since the main holiday session at the end of last December. The feeling is in the air - less people at the office, the inbox is (a bit) less full, the company’s summer party last weekend was absolutely amazing, and in general the mood is more positive. This is all wonderful and we should enjoy it till when the craziness starts again at the beginning of September.
At the same time, it is a very good period to start and think on how we want to set the wheels back in motion when the holiday is finished. Challenges and unsolved issues that were forgotten due to the great summer sun will still be waiting for us when everyone is back. Colleagues will be more relaxed but if some things are not in place, the challenges are just around to corner to hit again.
To answer that you might think about team building activities. Everybody that is part of a team or leads one, experienced a few of these through their career. These activities help the internal communication, bring people closer together, and in general create a fun experience. These experiences evolved through the years from something more traditional, such as having team games and discussions inside a closed room, to more modern and intriguing experiences like cooking workshops, surfing, and Escape Rooms.
Because we live and breathe in fast-paced environments at work, we are told to be pragmatic and quick with our actions. When it comes to tackling challenges, we expect to work together and not to soak too much in one place because what matters is the product, client, or vision. Therefore, also the team activities we’ll choose for our team will be brief, intriguing, and to the point. For example, Escape Rooms are supposed to demonstrate team work under time pressure. Sounds perfect, right? Now ask yourself, what will happen if you’ll place a team that struggles with their daily mission and tasks in one closed room? There are some chances that they will suddenly excel and get the clues within the time limit, but most chances are that the members will become more competitive, frustrated, and the only thing that might get them out of the room quickly is their own individual wish to escape their colleagues as soon as possible.
The same approach is relevant in a cooking workshop that you might organise for your team. How do you divide who does what to assure everybody feel they contribute evenly? Do colleagues that finish their task first go to help the others and try and have the food ready earlier than planned? Or do they sip some good wine while their friends to the team are still crying when cutting the onions? Are the more dominating people that work individually hiding behind the frying pans, in their own zones, to receive the credits afterwards?
These questions might seem irrelevant when you simply try to have some fun with your team. However these thoughts should be answered before spending good money and time on actions that will only be directed on a short-term engagement. Usually the budget for ‘out-of-the-daily-work’ activities is limited and due to time constrains these days only take place once or twice a year. Hence, the team and its leader need to choose carefully how they use their resources efficiently, especially if it’s a brand new team or a struggling one.
So, by now you probably ask yourself what should be the ultimate team building activity? The ultimate activity will have all the ingredients of an escape room by having a specific time frame to understand the clues around us and try to come to a mutual solution. This activity will also have the same elements of a good cooking workshop as you plan, steer, and enjoy the results together. The main difference is that this activity will have long term results as it will deal with the ‘under the surface’ challenges and not only touching briefly the ‘above’: a greatly engaging, true, and fun workshops that help teams and leaders to get aligned with the people that are in their group. Learning how to build good rapport with one another while avoiding assumptions, internal competition, and negative ownership of tasks, are a few of the elements that are deeply dealt with in these kind of interactions. Everybody will have their place to contribute and enough time to open-up, something that will not happen easily in a brief moment of fun, and opening-up is the key for a true team building. The acknowledge of having these workshops and enjoying the outcome for the long run, can outperform any other activity you can think of. Because when it comes to our team members, it is much more than a two-dimensional view of fun.
To conclude, think carefully how you bring your team together when the summer ends and the reality is back. Please don’t get me wrong, as any experience you give to your team is beneficial, whether it’s a good dinner, long weekend somewhere, or even a fishing trip. The question is on what do you discuss in this time and what is your long term vision. Will this activity bring the change you want to see? Because if not, first focus on the true discussions that can bring you to the place you want to be. Otherwise, you will still continue to eat uncooked food or in the best outcome, escape reality for a few hours.