Thinking about your team building objectives beforehand is a crucial step in the planning process, and could make or break the effectiveness of the program.
Setting goals is important for lots of situations. Obviously, for work it’s important to set goals as a team so that you can see where you’re going, how you’re going to get there. Goal-setting is also present even in mundane activities – creating shopping lists and figuring out what kind of shoes you want to buy next season.
Let’s stay on those mundane examples a little longer, because they emphasize something crucial about team building that often gets overlooked. Finding the right team building activities is like finding the perfect new set of shoes, or a good suit or dress: it has to fit right, according to your body’s proportions and how you want to look.
Similarly, a shopping list isn’t going to do you any good if it’s written without any thought put into it. You need to figure out what you want, what you need, and what you don’t have.
Put these two together and you have a good sense of what needs to go into thinking about team building objectives for your team and for specific events. You need to think about the state of your team and the proportions that it has, the image of your team that you want to achieve (the ideal), and specific things that you want to do to gain what you don’t have.
Thus, In order for your team to get the most out of team building, it is important to think about your objectives and goals beforehand. Don’t just choose an event because it looks snazzy, or because you can’t think of anything else to do. Really think through what your team needs are at the time, and what the activity is offering that will benefit your team.
It’s also useful to come up with year-long and long-term team building goals for your team, just like any aspect of the work you do together. This will get you to think more critically about your team’s structure and the steps you can take to slowly improve it (it does take time and consistent effort). It will also help you schedule team building events throughout the year (something we highly recommend doing).
So in this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the main team building objectives that can help you find the right framework for your events, and we’ll give you some advice about how to figure out which objectives are right for your team.
5 Core Team Building Objectives
1. Bring your team closer together
A team building event is a great way for your team members to get to know each other on a more personal level. If team members are able to bond over common interests or situations that they experience together, it will improve their personal connections and can therefore make communication in a work environment run much more smoothly and efficiently. This will increase the productivity within your team and the company as a whole will benefit from a closer relationship between team members.
Lots of teams may not really know each other in these kinds of ways. It could be that the team is new (in which case there is even more of a reason to get to know each other as quickly as possible). But it could also be that team members haven’t had the right opportunity – which is something a team building activity can provide.
Especially for remote teams, it’s important to ensure that everybody knows each other and is more than just a name on an email signature or Zoom screen. Knowing more about your remote colleagues also helps you understand their routines a little better, and to know when and how to contact them best if you need their help.
If you are working with a remote international team, team building events will also help to bridge cultural differences and provide a chance to learn about the different ways of life and cultural influences of your colleagues.
2. Learn something together
The feeling of having learned a new skill, or something valuable for your life, can be very satisfying and enjoyable, so a team building event in which your team members can learn something together can bring them closer through a feeling of shared accomplishment.
That’s why so many team building activities also offer optional workshops or lectures. Learning about different aspects of team building or how to work more efficiently together is a good way to get the whole team on the same page, and to allow team members to share in the learning process.
Learning-driven bonds can also be brought about by facing a common challenge in a low stakes environment, such as puzzle-game or outdoor scavenger team building activities like the ones offered at Invite Japan. Such activities allow teams to test and grow their challenge-facing abilities in a “safe” and controlled environment.
Facing a challenge together can tell you a lot about your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, and way of thinking. This type of information is especially valuable when it comes to working together in a stressful situation – working together is just so much easier when you are on the same page.
Even when the event is not work related on the surface, anything that can give your teammates a new experience to discover together will encourage communication and help improve work quality overall.
3. Celebrate together
A little celebration together as a team can be an excellent team building objective as well. Be it the celebration of a success like the completion of a project, the launch of a product, landing a new, important client, or simply to say thank you to your team. Showing appreciation for a job well done will go a long way in terms of motivating your team.
Celebrating the fulfillment of a goal will also help to prepare your team for the next big project by teaching them the importance of appreciating each other and enjoying the fruits of success as a team.
On the other hand, fun doesn’t always need a reason. Having fun as a team helps members release stress, and it signals that it’s ok to have fun while working together. This is important, since sharing ideas often requires a certain openness and ease, which having fun together can help induce. So making “fun” one of your team building objectives isn’t as unserious as it sounds.
Along with this, more informal, loosely structured team building activities are great for this objective because they celebrate just being together as a team, and can be planned whenever you want. Adding in these fun little activities is the perfect way to include more morale-boosting team building activities without as much effort.
4. Build trust together
Remember, all your team members are individuals with their very talents, skill sets, dreams, and new ideas. But to fully unlock this potential, you have to create an environment of trust on your team. This way, team members feel comfortable sharing their skills and ideas, and harmonizing them with the goals of the team.
Creating an environment that feels safe will also encourage your team members to openly address issues when they see a problem and they will also be more willing and confident to put forth their own creative ideas.
Your team members will also have an easier time entrusting their colleagues with tasks because they have an idea of their individual needs, working style, and preferences. This in turn will have an effect on your team’s overall workflow and ability to manage projects.
Working in a team where everybody looks out for each other also decreases stress and anxiety. The “freed-up” energy can then be channeled into productive tasks and the development of new ideas and products. This what’s known as “psychological safety”, which we at Invite Japan have talked about quite a bit (and have developed a workshop about this topic).
5. Become a more efficient team together
Ultimately, becoming a closer team is important in order for the team to accomplish its goals. If it isn’t accomplishing anything, if there are no standards or stakes, then the team can end up floundering, no matter how close and tight its members are. But as we hope we have clearly laid out by now, efficiency and team building go hand in hand.
When your team is close and works well together, it is easier for them to move from goal to goal efficiently. It is also easier for them to create new goals, and new ideas to solve them. Team building thus leads to a positive reinforcement loop. With each team building activity, teams get closer, allowing them to solve more goals, which makes them even closer. It’s a win-win-win across the board.
But beyond this, team building activities also harness your team’s efficiency by showing it its weak and strong points. By engaging teams in challenges, discussions and learning opportunities – all within a low stakes environment – teams have the opportunity to reflect on their team’s performance and operation.
The only way to see the wider picture is to back away. Team building does this by taking teams out of the routine and showing them an ideal to work towards.
However, teams that have the team building objective of efficiency need to make sure that they are choosing activities that make them reflect on their team, through either guided or open discussions sections. Make sure to follow up after the event with your team, to see what they learned and how they felt about the process so that you have a way to measure progress going forward.
How to choose team building objectives
While it can be fine to have multiple team building objectives, we recommend focusing on one for each team building activity, or at least prioritizing some over others, so that you can find the best activity that fits your needs. Here are some steps you can take to do this.
1. Value your team
The most important step you can take in figuring out which team building objective to choose is to value your team. This means taking an interest in how it is developing, what structures are benefiting or limiting it, and encouraging the team to improve and better itself. This will naturally lead you and your teammates to think about what the team needs and when it requires outside help (such as in the form of external team building events).
2. Listen to each other
Communicating with your team members can help you form a better picture of the team building objectives you need to focus on. Listening in particular will help you realize what is going on with the team, and whether there are any issues that need to be addressed, which will help you find an activity or program that will actually benefit all members.
Listening to each other will also help jumpstart the process of team building, by getting team members to share and offer feedback on the team. This will help make your path forward, and your objectives, more clear. It also means that when your team gets to actually planning and participating in an activity,, they will already be at a good starting point.
3. Take time to reflect and brainstorm
Brainstorming is a great way to get your team on the same page, and to organize the various views and ideas that your team has. When it comes to team building objectives, brainstorming will help prioritize your goals and formulate ways to address the issues that your team in particular faces.
Even if your team functions at a high capacity and level of effectiveness, there are always areas for improvement. Or it could be that your team performs well but needs to find new challenges. Team building can help with this (including in areas like inspiration and creativity), so it’s always good to reflect, and discuss your performance and as a team.
4. Ask questions
Part of this reflection and brainstorming should include asking yourselves questions about your team and the team building objectives that you have had in the past. The following questions can help guide your team towards finding team building objectives that are meaningful and beneficial:
- What does your team do well?
- What areas of the team need to be improved? If you had to choose one thing about your team that you would fix, what would it be?
- How well can you rely on other team members?
- Do you want to get to know your team members better outside of work?
- How do you think your team has improved in the past year?
- What are some challenges that you think your team may face in the future? How do you think the team can prepare for them now?
- What are some team building events in the past that your team has enjoyed? Why were they enjoyable
- What are some team building events that weren’t enjoyable and why?
- Are there any topics that you think your team could benefit from learning more about?
We hope this guide will help your teams think more consciously and critically about their team building objectives and the types of team building activities that they want to participate in. Keeping your objectives clear in your mind will help you choose more meaningful activities, and help internalize the lessons they convey more firmly. Also remember, it’s important to keep your eyes and ear open for new opportunities for growing and learning together.