In sports, teams spend more time practicing than they do competing. In business the opposite holds true. When was the last time that your work team took time out to practice team effectiveness? Teams in the workplace tend to engage in on-the-job training. This brings to mind the overused analogy of building the plane while flying it. If sports teams only worked together during competitions and did not practice, the likelihood of a winning season would be very rare.
Unlike in sports where the competitions are scheduled, in business the competition never stops, unless your team calls a TIMEOUT. When was the last time your team called a timeout? A timeout is a valuable opportunity for a team to regroup, to access its performance and to make adjustments. An effective timeout is typically led by a coach who has been observing the team’s performance. In business this is a much more difficult task, although not impossible.
As an executive coach and a former corporate team leader, I am keenly aware of the challenges of calling timeout in business. Breaking the daily cadence requires a major time commitment, it can be disruptive to operations and can impact service delivery just to name a few of the challenges. At the same time, I have seen leadership teams make very impactful business breakthroughs as a result of calling timeout. I believe the formula for a successful team timeout includes three components:
1. An interactive facilitated discussion of the current team dynamics. What’s working well, what could be done to operate more effectively as a team, what destructive activities are the team engaged in, and what more could the team use from the leader?
2. A highly engaging non work related activity outside the office that is fun and pushes all team members out of their comfort zones while encouraging team work and collaboration.
3. A facilitated debrief of the activity that relates the learnings from the team building activity back to the way the team functions on the job.
Here are five easily accessible team building activities that can be done for teams of all sizes right here in Charlotte.
US National Whitewater Center Low Ropes Course: The USNWC (5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28214) has a great low ropes course that includes many team challenges. The staff are well trained in working with corporate groups and can structure the activities around the specific needs of a team. I utilize the low ropes course with clients for leadership development program orientations, post-merger integration work and general team effectiveness improvement. The ropes course can be scheduled for a half-day session. I would highly recommend partnering with an outside facilitator who can relate the learnings back to your workplace.
Charlotte Curling: Curling, the Olympic sport played with brooms and stones is a really fun and effective team building activity. Charlotte Curling (6525 Old Statesville Rd, Charlotte, NC 28269) will structure a team building event for groups between eight and thirty-two people. The three-hour activity includes instruction and several rounds of curling. Curling involves a great mix of strategy, team work, communications and fun. There are several business metaphors in curling including keeping your eye on the target, the importance of balancing offense and defense, and team communications. As an activity that many have watched on TV but few have tried, I find the curling team building to be unique and really fun for corporate groups. Remember it is really cold on the ice, so make certain your team dresses appropriately. We made woolen logoed hats for the Cree team when we did a similar event in the Raleigh area.
Charity Bike Build: Team building events that also include a charitable component are always well received. The charity bike build is a highly impactful event. The bike build is appropriate for teams of twelve to three hundred people. Participants are broken into sub-teams of four to five participants and told that they are to build a product within the allotted time and be prepared to give a one-minute marketing pitch on their product. Each team is given a box containing a child’s bicycle disassembled and with no assembly instructions. What they soon realize is that some boxes have too many parts and some have too few. The activity requires collaboration and team work across sub-teams. The activity highlights the desire to compete versus collaborate and showcases the need for people to work together towards a common goal. Once time has expired each team provides a sales pitch for their bicycle. It is always interesting to hear how different the pitches are even though each team has the same product. A discussion is facilitated regarding the quality of the product and the quality of the work. “Would you be comfortable giving the product in its current state to your own child?” We then discuss who the bikes are for and the fact that had the team known who their customers were would they have paid more attention to quality? At that point we introduce the customers. Through partnerships with local charities including Always Believe Inc. we then bring in school age children who will be the recipients of the bikes. Each child gets a bike, a helmet and a bike lock. A professional bike mechanic fixes all the bikes to ensure that they are safe and properly assembled. This half day workshop can be held in several locations depending upon the size of your group. Bart at Queen City Bicycles does a great job of helping to arrange for the bikes and coordinating the event. This activity requires a longer lead time and much more external facilitation.
The Escape Room Challenge: Codescape (933 Louise Avenue #201, Charlotte, North Carolina 28204) provides a great team building activity for teams ranging from five to fifteen people. If you have several teams there are multiple challenges to be done at Codescape. The escape rooms are a fun way to get teams to collaborate to solve a problem. Leadership, communications, conflict management, problem solving are all lessons that get explored during the event. Teams work together to solve puzzles and to strategize how to escape from the room within the allotted time. The challenges range in difficulty and success is very dependent upon team work and collaboration. Codescape has a nice conference room which can be used for pre-work and for a facilitated debrief. This activity is great for non-profit board retreats, newly formed teams or teams who need a break from the day to day.
Team Adventure Simulations: Groove Management conducts a number of team simulations that can be done within an office conference room or at an offsite location. These portable simulations focus on team synergy and teamwork. The activities are fun and thought provoking for teams of all sizes and the simulations can be tailored to the specific needs of your organization. These workshops focus much of the attention on the post simulation debrief and applying the team learnings back to the job.
Charlotte offers numerous fun and educational options for Team Timeouts, the key is for leadership to invest the time and effort in calling timeout. The results for the business are always positive. Employees return to work more engaged, more excited about their team and ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead. Leveraging a professional facilitator to structure the learning and the tie back to your business is an important investment in making your team timeout most effective.