A well chosen team building exercise can deliver benefits to an organization and its individuals, but make a poor choice and the event could be a waste of time or, worse still, have a negative effect.

The first task for a manager is to carry out an evaluation and identity where his team needs to improve. If there are problems within the team, a manager has to determine the causes, If there are no problems, a manager should identify the best way to maintain or improve performance.

The next task is to choose a teaam building event or activity that will help to deliver that improvement. There are thousands of team building events and the most popular of these involve some kind of outdoor activity. These tend to be fun, but it can be difficult to translate the benefits back into the workplace.

An Ongoing Process

To get the most out of a team building exercise, a manager should have an integrated program that combines outdoor events with ongoing activities in the workplace. Do not think of team building as a single outdoor event, but as an ongoing process that takes place within the team over a lng period of time.

Workplace team building activities need not be complicated. Try to encourage joint coffee breaks and work-related discussion of the team’s roles, processes and objectives. Rather than discuss just day-to-day work, look to acknowledge past successes and make future plans. Share expertise and experience to increase the overall knowledge of the team.

Evaluation Process

Once a manager has a short-list of possible team building events, he has to take a more detailed look at each one. During this evaluation process a manager has to ask himself a series of questions. For instance, will the event achieve what the manager wants it to achieve? Is it an activity that is suitabl for all the team members and will they all do it without any coercion? If not, rule the event out as it could backfire and be damaging to the team.

There there are practical questions, such as can a suitable venue be found, is there an appropriate budget in place and can the time be found? Is there any physical risk to memebers of the team? Ensure there is a qualified instructor for any outdoor activities and get insurance. Avoid any event suppliers who use waivers of liability forms.

Minimize Risk

It is just as important to minimize any psychological risk. Any team building event must ensure all team members are treated equally and with respect. No-one should be humiliated and there should be no fun achieved at the expense of others.

Avoid any event that has the potential to stir anger between team members, expose any fears or incompetence or leave individuals feeling excluded. Instead, design the event to ensure everyone mixes and manage any conflict or feedback constructively.

Have a contingency plan, just in case something does go wrong, and after the team building exercise, be sure to perform a review or evaluation of its effectiveness. This will be invaluable when it comes to choosing the next exercise.