The Relevance of Facilitated Team-Building in the 21st Century Business

A corporation’s staff of employees, i.e., corporate team, can sometimes literally make or break its business. The “right” corporate team for an entity cannot be purchased in a store, or at auction via eBay, as an effective corporate team doesn’t simply just happen–its creation is typically both purposeful and highly strategic to the particular entity. Designing the “right”, i.e., effective, corporate team generally requires the assembly of a group of people who are willing to, a) work together, sans individual agendas; and, b) be creative and non-judgmental. After the “right” corporate team has been selected, one of the quickest and most effective ways to foster the quality, seamless, superlative development often required of said team is through tailored, team-building sessions conducted by a trained, experienced, and truly neutral, third-party Facilitator.

Facilitated Team-Building

A team-building Facilitator is essentially skilled in the art and science of group dynamics. Such a Facilitator, in actual team-building exercises, is essentially the process expert in the particular session(s), whilst the corporate team members of the entity client are the content experts in said sessions. E.g., a trained, team-building Facilitator can typically create, employ, and manage exercises designed to foster the effective, cooperative development of new ideas. For instance, if the corporate client’s goal is to develop a new snack food for kids, the typical Facilitator can construct, implement, and manage sessions designed to inspire cooperative, efficient creativity amongst the subject-knowledgeable corporate team members–often through the lens of particularized effective communication and problem-solving techniques–that would ideally produce the new food product for their employer.

A team-building Facilitator essentially, like the combination of a sports organization and a referee, creates the rules, and oversees and corrects the team interactions-inclusive of ensuring that team members are:

a) not harming one another, or, the objective;
b) are playing on the correct field; and,
c) adhering to the requisite time-frames, until the overall objective of the exercise is achieved.

Additionally, a team-building Facilitator assists that “right” corporate team in learning how to creatively use any interpersonal friction toward the common entity goal–essentially merging the varied experiential levels, knowledge, and energies for a common purpose. A few important duties typically conducted by a neutral, facilitative, team-building Professional include the following:

o Gathering Appropriate Background Data:
E.g., Determining,
o What the current opportunity or problem is;
o Who is involved;
o How long the opportunity or problem has been occurring;
o What has been tried before;
o When a solution is needed; and,
o How success will be measured;

o Designing Well:
E.g. Understanding that,
o Good process doesn’t just happen, it is designed; and,
o A dynamic design takes into account desired outcomes, people involved, culture and climate of the organization, and the strengths and weaknesses of available problem-solving processes;

o Setting and Communicating the Agenda and the Big Picture:
E.g., For each meeting,
o Reviewing the situation background both in general and specific, current terms;
o Expressing what is expected to be accomplished at a particular session; and,
o Providing a big picture view of the context, purpose and desired outcome of the entire project;

o Setting and/or Assisting The Generation of Team Rules:

E.g., Employing and managing meeting ground rules, such as,
o The turning off of cell phones and other meeting-intrusive devices;
o Attendance and timeliness;
o A Two-Minute Rule for verbal participation (i.e., if any one person speaks for more than two consecutive minutes, it is likely that s/he is getting off-track and may therefore need to yield the floor);
o Holding one conversation at a time;
o Deferring judgment when generating ideas; and,
o Judging affirmatively when evaluating ideas;

o Supporting The Team in the Management of Group Dynamics:
E.g.,
o Managing conflict;
o Supporting team member honesty and openness;
o Valuing everyone’s opinion; and,
o Being transparent in discussions.

Climate Changes for Optimal Team-Building Collaboration

Facilitated team-building can occur, e.g., at the client’s corporate site. However, often, a climate, i.e., setting/staging change can quickly establish a fresher, more novel tone for team collaboration. In newly formed, as well as established, teams it is often necessary to shake things up a bit in order to avoid habitual, ritualistic performance. Namely, a climate change can provide new perspective amongst team members, toward existing, reoccurring, or currently unimagined, opportunities. Such can be obtained by something as simple as, e.g., sitting in a different chair during the next meeting, or as seemingly complex, as, e.g., meeting in a different location. Atmospheric variation can particularly be achieved by meeting at the offices of a strategic partner. For example, an air ambulance service could consider holding a series of team-building sessions at a local hospital for which it provides services, in order to achieve the desired novel, brain-storming effect of its corporate team.

Typical off-site choices for climate variation have included, e.g., hotel conference rooms, specialized retreat venues, resort areas. More contemporary off-site options for climate variation have included, e.g., rock climbing, adventure treks, sailing, erecting dwellings for the economically challenged, and even meal preparation. When rock climbing/trekking, building a house for the poor, or engineering a new pasta dish, the unknown, e.g., the possibility of encountering a wild animal, experiencing a hammer-smashed thumb, or discovering a strange spice forces the team members to use all of their senses, to be more mentally and physically prepared, and to, a) rely on the strengths, and, b) understand the weaknesses, of themselves and their teammates. Essentially, climate-changed, facilitated team members often quickly learn to merge their own individual points of light–into a blinding bolt of energy that can streak past any competitor.

Virtual Facilitated Team-Building

Optimally, facilitated team-building occurs in face-to-face settings. However, increasingly, employees are finding themselves physically distanced from their counterparts. Electronic team-building facilitation, as conducted via the Internet, can restore higher levels of communication, responsibility, and productivity among, especially, distance-challenged teammates.

Virtual team-building facilitation can be, similar to face-to-face facilitated team-building, targeted toward discreet meetings, continuous projects, and/or strategic planning. Numerous Internet-based tools are available for any need or budget. Some popular search engines, in fact, offer free virtual meeting space. Providers of more complex virtual tools typically charge a fee for their offerings. However, when compared to e.g., the costs of airfare, hotel rooms and incidental expenses required to produce some face-to-face facilitated team-building sessions, virtual facilitation fees are in hindsight, relatively nominal.

The advantages of facilitated, virtual team-building include the practical facilitation of large groups/teams, automatic documentation and updates, uniform use of various tools, file-sharing, and the ability to generate, evaluate, and develop action plans. Input to virtual team projects can be parallel or asynchronous depending upon the collaboration product selected. In addition, anonymity is available if needed. The potential drawbacks to facilitated, virtual team-building are: the requirement of computer literacy, the elimination/reduction of sometimes critical face-to-face social interaction, data overload, and any requisite user fees. Overall, however, facilitated team-building success, whether virtual or face-to-face, is dependent upon quality input and the strategic follow-up of the session participants.

Investment

Facilitated team-building sessions can be designed for almost any budget. One beauty of using a skilled, team-building Facilitator is time efficiency. An experienced team-building Facilitator may be able to reduce

Team Building Events – How to Choose the Best Corporate Team Building Event

Team Building Events (and specifically how to choose the best, most appropriate, team building event) for your group or situation can be extremely difficult because of… Hello?! Team Building Event Companies! If you Google “Team Building Events,” you will get results from every type of activity from classroom team training, to charity events, to outdoor scavenger hunts, to ropes courses. You will also get results from non-team building activities but fantastic shared-experiences that can be a fun way for teams to spend time together and can be a fun memorable event, but these types of activities are not really team building events — meaning that the results of the activity will be fun and memorable, but will not actually build teamwork unless the team atmosphere is already pretty high.

So how do you choose the best corporate team building activity?

There are three different, main, genres of team building activities or team events. I have listed them below along with the situations that each will be most appropriate.

1. Small Group Shared Experience Team Activities: These types of activities include any type of shared-experience whose primary purpose is to just let the group have fun with each other. As long as you have a small group and a pretty good atmosphere within the group, these types of activities are fun and very inexpensive. You are only limited by your creativity here, so you can do the old standbys like go bowling play golf (or miniature golf). There are neat places like Dave and Busters where your team can have dinner and play pool or arcade games, etc. You could take a day off and go to a theme park or dinner and a show. Pretty much, any type of fun activity will work here. There are lots of “non-team building” organizations who specialize in these types of events. (When I say “non-team building,” I really just mean that these organizations primarily do some other service as their main revenue stream, and team events are just a side revenue stream for them.) Organizations that specialize in these types of activities include big resort hotels, cooking schools, race tracks (racing schools), theme parks, bowling alleys, etc. Once your group size increases to more than 20 people or so, or if you have a specific challenge within your group that you want to improve like communication challenges, a new team leader, groups that have merged together, or other team issues, these type of team activities can actually be counter productive — so be careful unless you have a small group and a pretty strong team atmosphere already.

2. Classroom Team Building: Many people think classroom=boring, because for most of our lives, if we are in a classroom, we are being bored to death. However, good team building companies and instructors are enthusiastic and fun. Teams who have professional facilitators come in and lead these classroom events can really improve a lot of team building activities in a very short period of time. Since participants learn faster when they are having fun, a group can really get fantastic results and feel like the activities were time well spent. This type of corporate team building event is best for groups where a specific team result is trying to be reached such as if an organization merges with another company, and the leaders are trying to create a new team culture or if leadership has changed and the new leaders want to start fresh. If you are having quarterly meetings or annual meetings at your office or if you have breakout sessions at you annual convention, then these types of events work really well in those types of time slots. You can also have these facilitators come out and do keynote speeches that are fun and funny if you have an open slot at your convention or meeting. Unlike the shared-experience events, very few companies specialize in classroom activities, so they are harder to find. Be careful, because if the company specializes in big events and not seminars or workshops, you can end up with a bunch of rah-rah activities that don’t get you the best results. Try entering “classroom team building” or “classroom team building seminars” into Google, and you should get a nice shortlist of qualified companies.

3. Big Group Shared Experience Team Events: This type of event is very similar to the small group team events above, however they are much, much, much more challenging to pull off. For instance, if you have eight people in your group, you can go to a bowling alley and rent two lanes or have two foursomes at a golf course, and everyone will be active the entire time. However, if you have 100 people, or 1000 people, if you try the same activities, at any given time, a ton of people will be standing around watching (doing nothing and getting bored) unless the facilitators really know what they are doing. So if you have a big group and you want your team to have fun and stay active, this is where you really want to invest in a professional team building company. (Especially if your reputation is on the line.) DO NOT leave this decision to your event planner, by the way. Event planners are very good at getting great deals on hotel rooms, organizing complex events, making sure the food works for the group, etc., but many of them will do whatever it takes to please the customer (you). So if you ask them for a specific team building activity, they will give it to you, even if the event or activity is not the best result for your group. You will get a MUCH better result if you contact the professional team building company yourself, because these professionals will help you pick the absolute most appropriate event for your team. If you are making a mistake, the facilitators will tell you, however if you have an event planner as a go-between, and you are making a mistake, the team facilitator will tell the event planner. The event planner, because he/she wants to please you, will likely just find another company who will do what you want. Typically, you will end up with a group from category number one above. So be very careful when you have a lot on the line with a really big group.

The key to picking the best event for your group is to ask two main questions. Question number one is (1) Are you looking for a specific behavior change? If so, hire a team building company who specializes in classroom team training or hire a good team oriented keynote speaker. The second question is (2) Do you have a big group or a small group? If the group is small and you just want the group to have fun, some money and take everyone bowling. If you have a large group and you just want them to have fun, hire a company that specializes in big charity team building events or fun corporate activities and take charge of the hiring of the company and take their advice into consideration. They will save you a lot of money and make sure the event comes off without a hitch.