TEAMBUILDING GETS PERSONAL!
Long gone are the days when co-workers chatted around the water cooler, catching up on how Johnny fared in his soccer game, discussing the newest, coolest restaurant and hearing all about a colleague's recent business trip. It's much more likely that by Monday morning you have already viewed pictures of the winning goal on Facebook, received a tweet about that trendy bistro and opened a group email highlighting the success of an innovative sales pitch.
Social and electronic media have certainly increased intimacy among employees, speeding up the transmission of information as well as expanding the circles that personal and business news reaches. Kudos to technology, but despite all the benefits, communication has inevitably become less personal, and therein lies the reason that team building is more important than ever.
"The way the world works and communicates has greatly changed over the past 20 years," says Frank Price, co-owner of TeamBuilding Unlimited. "Companies are composed of more people from different nations, cultures and languages than ever before. Because of the Internet, there is often a lack of face-to-face meetings and relationships. The change of culture allows for a variety and diversity of events and activities to enhance team building."
Price brings valuable, practical experience to his San Francisco Bay Areabased company, having served as a teacher, sports coach, consultant and mentor to educators. He spent three years in Francophone West Africa with the Peace Corps and later traveled to Nigeria through the Fulbright-Hays Program.
Janet Rudolph, the other co-owner, boasts more than 25 years of experience in team building, hospitality and meeting planning. She is a member of MPI, the International Society of Special Events, the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Napa Chamber of Commerce. Together, Price and Rudolph form a power teambuilding couple who help businesses, corporations and organizations improve internal relations, which often translates to improved productivity.
"Participants will learn about their co-workers, their strengths and their weaknesses, as well as personal information that will help them bond and create a better working environment back at the workplace," Rudolph says. "Teambuilding activities give co-workers the ability to work together on a level playing field where their jobs and critical company work are not at risk. It's great to mix up the teams—by country, by work group and by job level. It's so much fun to learn about others, and the goal is that this follows through to the workplace."
Beating the Bad Rap
Somewhere, somehow team building got a bad rap, much like the meetings industry as a whole. People often roll their eyes when they learn of an impending team-building exercise or activity, which can understandably trigger reluctance among meeting planners. For that reason alone, it's important to turn to dedicated and experienced companies to facilitate team building.
"I believe people groan about team building before they realize how much it will benefit the group and how much fun a team-building exercise can be," Rudolph says. "Maybe they've had a bad experience with a less than fun or meaningful activity. That's never the case with TeamBuilding Unlimited."
Rudolph has coordinated scavenger hunts for MPI members to help introduce them to hotels, venues and offsites. "What a great way to learn about a property, an organization or a city—as well as others in the group," she says.
TeamBuilding Unlimited is actually a byproduct of Rudolph's earliest venture, Murder on the Menu. Rudolph orchestrates interactive mystery entertainment for corporate meetings, incentive programs and conventions, customizing murdermystery events that complement group interests. Adding specific team-building activities to her portfolio was a natural progression for Rudolph.
Stirring up Group Chemistry
Just as coaches often bring out the best in their teams, Price believes that team building can accomplish the same thing among co-workers. "Chemistry is an elusive term for sports and business, and I enjoy the challenge of kick-starting that kind of chemistry," Price says. "Giving a simple gift to a participant and letting that person know he or she is unique brings a smile and positive comments. For example, if I know that John is a huge fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team and I give him a custom-designed T-shirt with the upcoming football schedule, it's an excellent way to get conversations going."
Price says his Peace Corps experiences have been valuable in developing team-building exercises, providing insights into the variety of ways people view the world. "It is important to respect that differences do exist," Price says. "I may still hold on to my viewpoint, but I need to be able to look at the world differently. Diversity and variety make for better team building. Laughter is a common human experience, and when people laugh and smile, they can share."