I came away from my Marketing team building offsite with two things - a nearly crippling sunburn, and an incredible sense of pride and urgency. The sunburn was entirely my fault, as somehow I thought that a man of my complexion required zero sunscreen at the beach, but the pride and urgency was because of the team building activities we conducted while out under the sun. My marketing team had traveled over the hill from San Jose to Santa Cruz to recognize their efforts at CompCloud'14 in May, and to recenter ourselves as a team for our upcoming projects and challenges. We had come to the beach to acknowledge the skills and talents which had allowed us to produce such a successful event, and to remind everyone of the kind of interconnectivity which allowed us to pull off a multi-day conference (because honestly if you can do that you can handle any project). Why was a trip like this important to our exec staff to organize? I found myself wondering this when the idea was first introduced of making this voyage to the beach for the sake of team building. I knew it would be fun, and it would be a chance to spend time with people who had been coworkers and were now friends, but I don't know that I saw the importance of this exercise from the outset. But they understood something that I would come to learn out on the sands, and I am glad that I put my faith into an event which could have been anything but which was a really important experience.
The Right Stuff
Investing in team building may be one of the most important decisions any company can make, and whether you achieve team building through aligned group incentives or collective team recognition, it is vital that you really consider how you support your teams. Your individual employees need to be properly incentivized and inspired, but this is just the first step; the baseline at which you should already be operating. The next move is to construct teams that can and will and want to work together towards bigger and better corporate objectives. To do this, you need to focus on team building in a dynamic fashion - including setting up short and long term objectives which unite members under a common goal, encouraging your teams to be truly interconnected and interactive, and yes, even sending them to the beach once in a while.
Building a Better Team
What made our beach team building exercises so important was that we all shared something together. Marketing is a wide umbrella, and while I work very closely with a great number of people in the department, I do not directly encounter every person every day. But with the lot of us out on the sand together, it was easy to feel connected to one another. And as we worked together to build sand sculptures or fill buckets of water or dig out sections of beach (which was my job) it was a strong reminder that this team could tackle any project, could meet any deadline, because they were all thoughtful and passionate and dedicated to the company and to each other.
Passing the Rock
So how can you carry over this sense of accomplished connectivity over into your own organization? The key is to give your team a chance to work together, wherever or whatever the venue. Yes they work together every day, because that is how departments are arranged, but this is not a matter of day to day activity. You need to provide your team with an empowering task to catalyze their sense of camaraderie and their passion. I know my team returned from our outing fired up about working more closely together, and in the weeks that followed have produced content that was polished and improved by team members across the department. To achieve this sense of passion and eagerness, give your teams an objective to complete together. These shared team building experiences are more powerful and more productive than anything, as they encourage the kinds of successful and inspired behavior that most execs would kill for.