Whenever we have a team building event at work most people groan and roll their eyes at what is in store. We’ve done everything from word scrambles, to scavenger hunts, to reading comprehension (yes you’ve read right), so when we were told we were going to do a team building event we were a little skeptical.
But we were pleasantly surprised. This summer’s team building event would be held at the renowned Valley Forge Military Academy at boot camp! Nothing brings your team closer together than hating what you’re being forced to do together—at least that’s what we were thinking about when we imagined ourselves marching in formation and giving a drill sergeant 20. But we quickly learned that our boot camp would be a bit modified from that of the actual cadets—we’d be spending the day with our colleagues to learn to work better together to complete the obstacle course in record time, repel down the 50 foot climbing tower, participate in trust falls, flip a 175 pound tire up a hill, and to test our sense of direction we’d do some orienteering. A fun time was had by all and disguised among the fun were some useful skills that could be applied in the workplace.
So what should you get out of a teambuilding event?
- Improved Communication Skills—The lack of communication is a very
common weak spot when it comes to teamwork so any kind of event where your team needs to communicate or even better—over communicate is valuable and the best part—the lessons learned can be applied back at work. Effective communication skills were put to work when having to flip a 175 pound tire up a hill.
- The Ability to Trust—The most important part of working on a team is trust. You want to be surrounded by people that are just as committed to being successful as you are. You don’t want to be carrying the weight for someone else and you certainly don’t want someone to feel that they’re pulling up the slack for you. Hence the trust fall—it is a pretty scary feeling to be standing six feet off the ground and falling backwards into the arms of your team. You pretty much trust them with your life and if you can trust them to catch you when you fall you sure as heck should be able to trust them to do their part.
- Effective Team Organization —Declaring each team members role before you start a project is critical to the group’s success. To avoid animosity and overlap everyone’s roles should be agreed upon before starting work to reach your goal—that also means choosing a team leader (someone to make sure each piece comes together). Additionally those who bring specialized skills to the table should be appropriately paired with the tasks that best fit their skill set. When it came to orienteering (a fancy name for a scavenger hunt?) we matched our team members with the skills they brought to the table like navigation and speed.
- The Drive to Set Goals and Clear Expectations Ahead of Time—Many times we work so quickly that projects get underway and work gets started without team members having a full understanding of the final goal. Knowing the final goal is a fundamental component for a team to be working in sync. Without clear expectations, team members may not work to their full potentials because they don’t know what is expected of them. We participated in a truck push. As a team we were to push the truck to a certain point (first goal set) and beat the record time (second goal set).
So what does this all have to do with common team building events like paintball, bowling, and go-karting? In my opinion not much—they’re a nice distraction from work and a way to blow off steam with your co-workers—which also has its place in corporate America, but if you really want your team to learn something about working together—send them to boot camp!