Getting the whole team on board with a new initiative at work can be a mixed adventure… some will be up for it and enthusiastic to get started, others will be cautious and want more information, whilst a tiny few would rather stick to the usual routine and maintain their comfort zone.

The trouble is, this mixed response is likely to be what you face if you’ve got the task of getting your team involved in a team-building activity… and is possibly the whole reason why team-building is on the agenda in the first place! So how can you garner enthusiasm for participating in team activities from your most reluctant team players? It’s an important question that we at Team Tactics address in the following ways:

Anticipate the “do we have to?” element

As an opportunity to do fun and exciting things with your colleagues, team building activities can be fun for everyone, but presenting such activities as mandatory smacks of a “done to”, rather than “done with” management agenda. Savvy managers will understand this and pre-empt such problems by:

• Inviting suggestions as to what type of team activities individuals prefer.
• Identifying who are the most hard-to-reach members of the team and making an effort to find out what makes them tick (not so that you can pander to their preferences at the cost of those of other team members, but to enable you to make sure all personalities are taken into consideration).
• Exchanging a “same-old” working day for the activities rather than expecting your team to give up their own time to participate. Being on-the clock for an activity which is slightly more fun than the day job is a good way of getting everyone on board and, in terms of team morale and productivity, can be more cost-effective than a normal workday.

Address the “what’s the point?” question

A team always has a resident cynic and anticipating the “what’s the point?” question when announcing a team event can be the quickest way to shut down negative vibes which could undermine the whole event. Be careful to:

• Communicate the value of the event, being careful not only to highlight how it might help the company as a whole (improved communication, productivity etc) but also support individuals both professionally and personally.
• Asking yourself the “what’s in it for me?” question from the viewpoint of members of your team – and presenting this to them before they even get to ask the question demonstrates that their needs, as well as the company’s, are being considered.

Anticipate alternatives

If your usual work methods require your team to work in a certain way, consider team activities which allow individuals to explore and develop other skills, as a way to get everyone doing something a little different:

• If your team usually has to be highly analytical, try team building activities which require them to think and work creatively for a change. This will add to the depth of their thinking later on and increase the chances of some creative thinking once normal work resumes.
• If promotion opportunities are coming up, run an activity day which allows team members to develop and demonstrate their leadership skills in an informal way.

Make it about others

Although ultimately your company will benefit from running employee and team activities through increased morale, productivity and even reducing absenteeism, you could also make sure the day is recognised as being for someone else’s benefit.

Finally, don’t forget to record the event with photographs and video and gain feedback from your team and any other participants as soon as possible afterwards, to help stimulate those “next time…” rather than “never again…” reflections on team building activities!

Alex Murray, Teamtactics