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Customizing your Teambuilding Program

If you ask any group what they think “team building” means, you will get a many different answers.  Some will say that it’s about building trust, others say getting better acquainted, still others say its all about communication, practicing leadership skills, or even learning about creative problem solving and group brainstorming. But the bottom line, team building is always fun. At Action Centered Training, every training has flawless design!!

A good team building exercise creates positive interaction among a group of people, and in doing so enhances their ability to work effectively as a team when they return to the workplace.  Interaction can be working together on a unique project (example: building a  race kart), playing games like a team Olympics, putting their heads together to solve a complex puzzle, helping each other through a ropes course, playing paintball or managing a complex White water rafting experience; the possibilities are practically endless.

The most important outcome of any team building: Building up a positive balance in the "Emotional Bank book." This way, the next time there are difficulties or processes break down (which I can guarantee is inevitable), colleagues, bosses and subordinates,  are less likely to blame each other (creating discord and dissonance) but much more likely to look at the underlying real problem and the overarching organizational system to try to fix the problem at its root (thus creating greater resonance!)  

Here are the some key considerations to think about when selecting a training modality:

1. Size of the group: Some activities are limited to minimal or maximum sizes (16 or less) while others have no size limits. ACT breaks large groups into several small sections in increase interaction.

2. Group make-up: Knowing your group make up is vitally important to how you design your program and essential for having a satisfying training experience.                                                                                                         Examples: Male/Female ratio, Age, Occupation, Fitness level, Handicaps, Medical issues

3. Time frame of the event: In order to get any real value out of a training event, you may need at least 60 to 120 minutes for the activity or series of activities. The average program is usually a half or one day (3.5 – 7 hours of training) but can also run 2 to 3 days. Caution: Don’t overestimate your group’s fitness level. They can get tired easier than you think, so schedule accordingly!

4. Budget: Events range in price from as little as a few hundred dollars and go be as high as $100,000 dollars or more (depending on the complexity of event and size of team) Make sure that you are very clear about costs, including miscellaneous and expendable materials not stated directly in the proposal. Be aware that most trainers require and will assume that their transportation, hotel and meals are covered. ACT suggest that you have a budget range in mind when you seek a quote. 

5. Theme/ Objective: What is the theme and objective of the training? Is there a clearly spelled out and defined theme, specific objective or desired learning outcome for the meeting? Some common themes are around communication, team effort, leadership, strategic planning, change management, process improvement, and systems thinking.  ACT will customize your training by selecting exercises that achieve your learning objectives.

6. Participation Level: Does every person need to participate equally? Do you want everyone to participate the entire time or is it OK if some members observe? ACT's approach is to have everyone to be as fully involved as possible because then you will hold their attention.

7. Style: Is the purpose of the training to be competitive, collaborative, or both? In general, sales people thrive on a competitive training with a clear winner and loser. Management and executives like strategically designed programs (with lots of problem solving and decision making) where activities can be structured for everyone to attain a specific goals or objectives. Based on our research, learning occurs best and is most deeply embedded when participants are fully engaged emotionally!

8. Time of day: The time that the training take place is significant. Don't forget about time changes due to travel. You must also consider the energy level of the participants and what they were up to the night before! Use high energy, wake up activities early in the morning and right after lunch. Try and alternate an action module and a learning module to keep their attention.

9. Environment: The temperature and weather always affect performance especially if you are doing outdoor training. If it is too cold or too hot, it can make participants uncomfortable and take away from the learning and  the fun. I always recommend having a back up indoor facility (or at least a covered pavilion in a picnic area) if you plan an outdoor program. I also recommend having a program where you can alternate between indoors and outdoors when possible, this way people can cool off or warm up as necessary and use the facilities indoors.

10. Level of Experience: Has you group done any team building in the past, and if so, what did they do; what were the results? Remember that, although the goal is to push beyond old boundaries and think outside the box, some people are more high strung, nervous and fearful that others. What may seem like a comfortable experience for some is very frightening for others. To have a great team building experience, you want everyone to be happy at the end of the day. Whenever possible, design your program to continuously build on the groups past experiences.

11. Level of Debriefing: What level of debriefing session do you want, and who can do this? Can the team building company that you are engaging perform this function? Do you want a light debriefing (75% - 90% fun) or a more heavy duty learning program (60% or more learning and classroom oriented). One word of warning here: many organizations and most of the younger groups (under 35) are very action oriented and like almost constant activity or at least an activity after every classroom component. People can only absorb so much knowledge intellectually and then they need a break. (My take on this is that because of all the fast high speed technology that we are exposed to, almost everyone in the workplace experiences occassional "Environmentally Induced ADHD" from time to time)

12. Metrics and Measurement: Do the team building games themselves offer measurable results? Does the client want you to do a pre and post event assessment to measure the resultant improvements in the team? For many companies measuring their return on investment is of great importance.

The team building companies that you are considering should help you in the design of your program and ask you most of these questions.

Team building can unleash the power of group synergy and improve performance!

In this era of virtual communications, teleconferencing, and constant travel and change, many individuals and teams wind up unintentionally working in silos. Team building breaks individuals and groups out of the silos and allows them to share best practices.

The bottom line at Action Centered Training is this: team building comes in all shapes and sizes and can act as an anecdote or remedy for the silo mentality that is so easy to develop in this modern work setting.
Great team building is a metaphor (and often a real simulation) for the work place and the skills necessary to succeed there. Then, when members build up positive energy and feelings about their teammates, they have higher levels of sustained success during the peaks and valleys that are bound to come their  way. By getting everyone in the same place at the same time, and hopefully functioning on the same page, communication, productivity and performance are  dramatically enhanced. and the likelihood of achieving true Alignment increases exponentially!

Finally, it makes sense if you structure a team building event to tie in with the goals of your meeting so that it has some lasting effect. Team building, at Action Centered Training, had become a form of Edutainment because it combines learning and fun in a way that creates lasting change when done correctly.