Teambuilding Takes a Right Turn

Paul Nolan

It is uncanny how life events so often intersect with a topic I am writing about in this magazine, or maybe it’s just evidence that the concepts involved in leading work teams and producing peak performance are ubiquitous both in and out of workplace settings.

The latest example involves my youngest child, who began her senior year of high school this fall. She volunteered for Link Crew, a transition program for incoming freshmen in which upperclassmen serve as mentors who help calm freshman fears and ensure a strong first year of high school.

The training in late August involved two half-days of learning games and activities the Link Crew members would lead freshmen through on that first morning of school. My daughter came home after both days of training irritated by the childishness of the games as well as the fact that no one explained the point of many of them. She felt she was being asked to treat the incoming freshmen like first-graders instead of ninth-graders.

Her frustration sounded eerily similar to what I heard and read about in reporting this issue’s cover story on offsite teambuilding exercises. “These events now have a soiled reputation for being either too boring to make an impact or too extreme to come away unscathed,” states a story on teambuilding from U.S. News & World Report.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about keeping Millennials challenged and engaged in the workplace. That is an important objective for every employee, no matter what generation they belong to. People of all ages want to spend time wisely, whether they are enhancing workplace experiences or helping ninth-graders adjust to their new school environment.

Effective team building defines a purpose and delivers a takeaway, and it steers clear of anything that could be categorized as “forced fun.”

There is nothing wrong with creating a golf tournament or a scavenger hunt during a group incentive travel experience. But a number of companies are taking teambuilding more literally these days and their employees are grateful.

As David Jacobson, founder of corporate entertainment and teambuilding company TrivWorks explains, “It has to have some form of structure and someone who has put it together with clearly defined goals. If the exercise is good, your team will take what they did or learned back to the workplace.”