Tips for Integrating Strengths Into Your Next Team Building Off-Site

For many of us, the words, “team building” conjure up images of trust falls, paper towers, and high ropes. For others, there are flashbacks to awkward icebreakers and invasions of personal space.

A quick google search of the ‘Worst Team Building Exercises Ever’ will leave you with no shortage of cringe-worthy examples. My personal favorite is Horse Whispering to improve communication. Yes. That exists. But there is hope. Team Building, that is relational on purpose and intentional by design, can have a significant impact on performance. You actually don’t need horses.

At our recent annual summit, the Leadership Vision Team participated in a superb exercise that stretched our thinking, challenged our assumptions and exceeded our expectations.

As leaders in the field of Strengths-based Team engagement, we’d like to share our experience with you, along with some helpful tips for layering Strengths into your next Team building session.

Choose Your Focus

Alignment, Accountability, and Communication were the focal points of our summit. So in designing our time together, we knew that the Team session had to be connected to these big arcs in order to reinforce the purpose. We wanted to avoid the common pitfalls of planning an amazing stand-alone activity that has no relevance to daily Team functioning or worse yet, creating something so pedantic that it would feel like work.

Connect Your Experience

We chose to take the Team to Escape MSP, where we were catapulted into a simulated Team mission. The hour was filled with critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, partnership, and laughter. We were completely removed from the predictability of our roles at Leadership Vision. It changed our pace and challenged our minds. But the most valuable part of the session came during the de-brief. It was here that our Team was able to participate in our own Strengths process of Reflection, Observation, and Application. Each member made valuable personal and Team observations that reflected our summit focal points. By adding this critical Strengths layer,  we reconnected to the client experience and deepened our learning as a Team.

Try These Tips for Planning your Team Building Experience

As you plan your next Team building session, keep these four tips in mind to get the most out of your experience.

Plan

Think about your purpose and desired outcomes. Choose or create your session around that. Try to offer something that is universally appealing and does not overly emphasize a particular physical, intellectual or emotional skill set. People should anticipate the session, not dread it.

Cooperate not Compete

Find an activity that requires full group participation, and doesn’t inadvertently pit one Team member against another. You are not trying to create a win/loss situation, but rather an environment where collaboration and communication are integral to the success of the entire Team. Do not use a Team building session to ‘fix’ an issue. This is a surefire way to deepen any cracks that may exist in the Team foundation.

Make it Fun, but Relevant

Karaoke and quiz nights certainly have their place, but they aren’t typically relevant to defined Team objectives. So choose your Team session with fun in mind, but make sure that the take-a-ways will also apply to Monday morning. Shared experiences beyond the office walls can be a powerful way to reinforce goals and naturally build relationships. You can’t force this.

De-brief

It is crucial to give people time to sift through their experience. A designated facilitator should ask meaningful questions at both the individual and Team level. This will lead to insightful reflections, powerful observations, and catalytic applications. This experience should be layered into the professional context and not feel artificial.

Sample Questions:

  • Share a stand out observation of your Strengths in action?
  • What was the most challenging part for you and why?
  • If you were watching a re-play of our session, what you observe about our Team?
  • If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
  • What is your biggest take-a-way for this Team as it applies to <insert Team focus here>?

We’d also love to hear about some of the best Strengths-based Team building sessions you’ve created or experienced. Or if you’re interested in finding out how Leadership Vision can help bring Strengths to your Team or organization, please drop us a line.