14 Hallmarks Of Successful Business Team-Building Activities

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POST WRITTEN BY Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.

As a manager, simply telling your employees what to do is not enough. If you want to access their full potential, it’s crucial that you get to know them—and that they get to know each other.

Team building is a great way to foster a positive work culture and exceptional collaboration between employees. These activities should actively engage your employees, making the time spent away from typical assignments worthwhile. Below, members of Forbes Coaches Council shared some key components of successful team-building efforts.

Members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss the key components of a successful business team-building activity.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.

1. Leader Participation

I notice when the staff gets sent to training, it sends a message that they—not the leaders—need help and motivation. Leaders should be first in and last out of team-building activities, or value is lost. Leaders who work with others, become vulnerable and put themselves in a position to serve during these events and exercises create new bonds that carry over into the office. – John M. O’ConnorCareer Pro Inc.

2. A Clear Purpose

Exercises of any type require a purpose. Activities in a training program must relate to business strategies, and the exercise needs to have meaning for the participant’s role in those strategies. The idea of an exercise should be to teach, illustrate a better way or show the participant’s importance in organizational strategies. – Diane BoginoPerformance StrategiesF

3. Trust

Trust is foundational to successful teams. Vulnerability is how you build trust. Don’t undervalue the simple act of just getting to know each other and sharing personal stories. This can go a long way in helping team members get comfortable exposing their true self, admitting mistakes and failures when warranted, and not questioning the intentions of others. All these are essential elements of trust. – Cari Haught CoatsAccendo Leadership Advisory Group

4. An Understanding Of Everyone’s Individual Contributions

To get the most out of team-building activities, make sure you fully understand each person’s greatest potential contribution to the team. Then create a customized team-building program around each individual’s potential contributions, with the goal of having the entire team experience how to capitalize on one another’s strengths to create a win for the team. Employees who feel their impact engage. – Cheryl PowersAlign Strategic

5. Team Feedback About What Is And Isn’t Working

Too many team-building activities attempt to dance around key issues or problems. Get a temperature of the team beforehand by surveying them on what is working well and the top one or two things that need fixing. Use the time as a team to proliferate ideas, along with rewards and recognition for the most creative and feasible solutions. – Shoma Chatterjee HaydenghSMART

6. Adrenaline

An activity that gets the group working together physically produces adrenaline. Research has shown that adrenaline-producing exercises can create very cohesive teams. Infuse physical activity into your training, continuous education and meeting environments. This will produce the aforementioned adrenaline. Egg toss anyone? – Carl Gould7 Stage Advisors

7. Outdoor Time

Taking team building offsite is a pretty common practice, but replacing a conference room in your office with a conference room offsite hardly invites ingenuity and innovation. Building in some time in nature—even a short midday hike or an outdoor picnic—will provide inspiration and stimulate creativity. – Molly WalshStandout Consulting

8. Activities That Truly Meet The Team’s Needs

Nobody wants the “forced fun” of a team-building event. The most successful leaders listen and search for activities that meet the needs of the team, not the manager or the company. Ask what they want to do! You’ve blocked the time—make it worthwhile for all. Some people may want to do charity work, others may just want an opportunity to relax and connect. Ask, and you may be pleasantly surprised! – Kathleen WoodhouseNova Leadership

9. A Link To Specific Outcomes

In order for activities to have real meaning and impact for employees, the experience needs to incorporate outcomes that they are invested in and that they value. Constructing team-building activities linked to real scenarios or challenges that the team experiences, so that they can connect the learning from the activity to a lesson that they can implement in the workplace setting, is ideal. – Carolina Caro

10. Rules That Everyone Agrees On

The very first thing I cover when running a team coaching day is to ask everyone to set their own boundaries and housekeeping. Collectively we discuss what’s expected from the group, the attitudes that would make the day a success, and what wouldn’t be tolerated. By getting the group to set their own rules, they have more ownership on the success of the day and what they get out of it. – Karen KissaneKaren Kissane Coaching. The Smart Woman’s Business Hub

11. Strengths-Based Assessments

It is best when each individual understands how to best operate their “professional lane” based on their strengths. Understanding how their team members operate makes for a more cohesive, respectful team. Use strengths-based assessments to reveal the superpowers in your team! End with participants stating how the use of each person’s superpowers will help the team achieve their goals. – Debora McLaughlinThe Renegade Leader Coaching & Consulting Group

12. Conversation Catalysts

If you’re investing in their time in person, use it to connect them more deeply to the other human beings in the room. When I facilitate groups, I plant a big-picture question (for example, “The thing I’m most proud of doing last year was …”) and set a one-minute timer. I often say, “Find someone you don’t know well” and let them keep finding new partners. It’s energetic, informative and fast. – Darcy Eikenberg, PCCRed Cape Revolution

13. An Inspiring Vision-Based Theme

Team-building activities are successful when employees leave feeling inspired and engaged with the company, its leadership and with each other. Having a really inspiring vision-based theme or event name, according to the current business focus, helps set forth this purpose. “Dare to Be There,” “Over The Top” and “Be Great Again” could be a few for further brainstorming. – Amy NguyenHappiness Infinity LLC

14. A Common, Collaborative Goal

Team-building activities can be wide ranging—from scavenger hunts, to zip-lining, to going to a baseball game—but they typically focus around getting people to communicate, develop trust, work together and so on. When we do team-building activities, our No. 1 focus is always on “succeeding together.” After all, isn’t that the same objective we are after as an organization? – Andres LaresShapiro Negotiations Institute