I always dreaded it—team building training, like the one where you fill out a profile and learn whether you’re a lion or a fox.
Then you stand around the room with the other “animals” like you and talk about how to work together better. I guess that meant without eating each other for lunch.
I’ve also been to outdoor courses where everyone collaborates to solve a physical problem, like getting the team to stand together on a wooden box without falling. That was awful for my friend, Joe, a super respectful guy who inadvertently grabbed my breast when I started to fall. He blushed so hard I was afraid he’d pass out.
Not only did I attend these programs but I also arranged them over the ten years I was the company’s training manager. Sadly, I never saw any sustained team building come about.
The work builds the team.
Last week NBC’s Today Show had a “Today Goes Viral” series, designed to drive social media sharing of video clips. The Today Show anchors invited noted YouTube video creators to work their magic with them.
For the series finale, the Today Show cast and crew came together on their own to film a music video to “I’ve Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. The video had to be shot in one continuous take, mirroring what had been done by students at the University of Quebec.
This was a never-done-before undertaking for the Today Show’s150 coworkers. Because the goal was to film it in one uniterrupted take, everybody had to perform their part correctly or they’d have to start over.
As you will see in the link, staff members wore black t-shirts showing their job titles, had specific song parts to lip sync, and could “perform” in a way that showcased their personalities.
They were all in it together. As you can see, a lot of great things happened to build their team, allowing each person to make an indelible contribution to something unique.
Teams thrive when the goal is clear.
This video experience speaks volumes about team building:
- There are no small parts—everyone impacts the end product.
- Working together generates energy and produces the best result.
- Self-expression and uniqueness make the outcome richer—so wear that boa, bring your funny hat, ride your unicycle, and turn that backflip.
- Age excludes no one—the Boomers, Millenials, Gen’s X and Y make it happen together.
- Trusting in each other to deliver on cue tightens the bond.
- Celebrating the collective result and recognizing each individual’s contribution create a lasting marker.
When the music in the video is over, everyone is gathered in Rockefeller Plaza singing a cappella but with a twist. Instead of the Black Eye Peas’ lyric, “Tonight’s gonna be a good night,” the group sang, “Today’s gonna be a good day.” If anything can build a team, that line surely summarizes it.
Take a fresh look
If your team is flat, resistant, or non-collaborative, try looking at the work rather than the personalities. Most of us do work that can become pretty mundane. But there are things that can bring everyone together.
Ask yourself, “What excites my staff?” Is it the chance to visit customer sites in small teams? Working together on a new marketing, product, or program idea? Arranging an event to recognize internal customers, a company milestone, or completion of a special project?
Maybe creating a team commitment to building their collective “business fitness” would be interesting. Coworkers could identify areas they want to grow in, come up with creative ways to get there, and then help each other. Let it become a kind of group employee development commitment, a “The Biggest Winner” program. Whatever the strategy, try to build your team around the work that binds people together and enjoy the energy it creates. Today is gonna be good day!
What team building experiences have you had? Anything you want to recommend? Thanks.