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How to ensure your teambuilding ‘away day’ is a success; follow my 5 top tips

Last week I brought up the subject of ‘away days’ – the teambuilding initiatives that claim to boost collaboration, morale and company culture for employees, managers or other groups of people. Without the correct foundations, vision or measure of these days, however, they can be wasted exercises, so here are my five top tips for successful teambuilding events:

#1  Focus on objectives that will make a dramatic difference

Lots can be achieved in a successful teambuilding event but be realistic about the number of objectives you want to meet.  Much better to do three things well than ten, poorly – and by ‘well’, I mean objectives that will engage and energise your team so that a tangible, sustainable difference to their performance is seen when everyone gets back to work.

#2  Involve the team in the planning of your event

ID-10067376Invite the team to shape their event.  If you’re considering multiple objectives, create a survey that asks the team to prioritise what will engage and energise them the most.  I find teams respond really well when offered a number of possibilities, or when asked ‘if there’s just one thing you’d like to achieve, what would that be?’ Subsequently enumerating (anonymously) everyone’s ‘votes’ on the agenda helps the team understand why you’re investing time in those items.

#3  Agree ground rules

Every facilitator worth their salt will ask your team to agree ground rules.  A good facilitator will take sufficient time over this, rather than glossing over any boundaries or rushing this aspect.  A great facilitator will help the team understand how strongly ground rules link to how successful teams collaborate on a day to day basis.  The team should create ground rules for ‘off duty’ time, as well as those during working hours.

I learned a hard lesson on this almost 20 years ago.  We’d spent time agreeing ground rules: each team member signed the flip chart to indicate sign off, and we used the list as a platform for several interventions during Day 1.  friends down pubAt the end of Day 1, the team were engaged and energised, and had generated a robust action plan.  The teambuilding event was in the wonderful Devonshire Arms Hotel, which has an amazing restaurant.  Once coffee was finished and dinner was over, I excused myself for an early night.  The team were enjoying themselves and getting on well, and were looking forward to similar progress the next day.

I next saw them at breakfast; all seem subdued, and some asked to see me before we recommenced.  All the progress we’d made during the previous day had been undone by the team leader, who had become so drunk after dinner, she’d verbally attacked one of her reports, fully heard by the rest of the team.  When questioned, she claimed she’d thought our ground rules only applied from 9am-5pm.

#4  Focus on the positive 

Of course, there will be areas you want to improve in your team.  For balance, ensure you have an equal focus on what’s great about the team already.  Use appreciative enquiry or get the team to ascertain the best thing about working with their colleagues. Alternatively, lift a technique from large group interventions: start at the end – what would it be like to work in the best team ever? Work back from there.

#5  Positioning psychometrics, and other tools, as means, not ends

Some people like them, others hate them.  Everyone can learn something about colleagues and themselves and improve team dynamics.  I personally like to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but only if the use of this enables the team to meet their objectives.  An equally useful tool is a 360 ° Emotional Intelligence Team report.  Encourage your team to see the tool as a vehicle towards their destination, not as a destination in itself.

There’s little point going to any effort to arrange or facilitate an away day if there’s no objective or measure. The devil is in the detail, they say; planning and setting structure makes teambuilding more than just a nice social get-together, and helps bring a return on the time and money invested.

For my help within your organisation, with all aspects of teambuilding, executive coaching and leadership/management coaching, contact me on 01302 220221.

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