Stir up co­he­sive spirit

Team ac­tiv­i­ties set ev­ery­one at ease, not only the ad­ven­tur­ous, writes Denise Cullen

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

ONE morn­ing a week, not long af­ter the sun rises, all eight de­part­ment heads work­ing at the lux­ury re­sort and spa The By­ron At By­ron meet to stretch, sit and sim­ply still their minds. This reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion sets the tone for the more for­mal meet­ing which takes place im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, says Holly Gal­braith, the re­sort’s sales and mar­ket­ing Man­ager.

‘‘ It re­sults in calmer meet­ings,’’ she says with a laugh, adding that this quiet time spent with col­leagues away from usual work pres­sures has en­riched of­fice in­ter­ac­tions and led to other knock-on ef­fects through­out the week.

For years, com­pa­nies and other or­gan­i­sa­tions have cor­ralled em­ploy­ees for a range of ‘‘ ra ra’’ re­treats and ac­tion-packed ad­ven­tures aimed at fos­ter­ing closer work­place ties, but among hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sion­als there’s grow­ing recog­ni­tion that some tra­di­tional team-build­ing ex­er­cises can ac­tu­ally have the op­po­site ef­fect.

Some claim gung-ho ac­tiv­i­ties such as com­bat skir­mish or go-cart­ing are more likely to cre­ate hos­til­ity, con­flict and re­sent­ment rather than build any real sense of shared mis­sion. Even seem­ingly in­nocu­ous ac­tiv­i­ties — say, a ten­nis or golf day — can make cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als feel in­ad­e­quate if they are un­able to play, or in­ca­pable of com­plet­ing a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge.

Short-sighted com­pa­nies can miss valu­able op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing team build­ing, says Graeme Davies, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ad­van­tage Con­sult­ing Ser­vices in Bris­bane. ‘‘ Good peo­ple man­age­ment some­times gets lost in the de­sire by some man­agers to pro­vide an ex­pe­ri­ence they think will be use­ful,’’ he says.

In­sist­ing peo­ple en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties they find loath­some is point­less, he says, be­cause ‘‘ if the real aim is to build a co­he­sive team you’re in­tro­duc­ing a bar­rier be­fore you even start’’.

It can be more ben­e­fi­cial to demon­strate team­work by in­volv­ing peo­ple in de­ter­min­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties ‘‘ rather than the man­ager say­ing, ‘ OK, we’re do­ing team­work on Fri­day, so bring your sports gear be­cause we’re go­ing moun­tain climb­ing or ab­seil­ing’,’’ he says. ‘‘ Some peo­ple just don’t like the no­tion of be­ing out­doors — phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity doesn’t re­late to team-build­ing for them, it re­lates to pain and suf­fer­ing.’’

Of­fer­ing a con­tem­po­rary take on the con­cept of team-build­ing, the Cheeky Food Group brings col­leagues to­gether to in­dulge in the sim­ple plea­sures of pre­par­ing, and then shar­ing, a meal.

It is — to the re­lief of many par­tic­i­pants — far away from the ma­cho merry-go-round of climb­ing high ropes, walk­ing on hot coals or scal­ing pre­cip­i­tous cliff-faces.

‘‘ Ev­ery­one says to us, ‘ thank god we don’t have to go paint­balling’,’’ says Vic­tor Pis­apia, di­rec­tor and ex­ec­u­tive chef of the com­pany which counts the Com­mon­wealth Bank and Ernst & Young among its blue chip client base.

Cook­ing, he adds, fa­cil­i­tates the de­vel­op­ment of new skills, cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties for au­then­tic in­ter­ac­tion in a non-threat­en­ing en­vi­ron­ment and of­fers tan­gi­ble re­wards in the form of a de­li­cious din­ner af­ter­wards. And you don’t need to be a su­per­hero to suc­ceed: ‘‘ Cook­ing is a great lev­eller be­cause ev­ery­one can do it.’’

Yet the suc­cess of any form of team-build­ing ac­tiv­ity is con­tin­gent on its be­ing part of a more ex­ten­sive process, Davies says: ‘‘ Team-build­ing is not a one-off.’’

James Ado­nis, whose back­ground

in

call

Love Your cen­tre man­age­ment led him to write

agrees. Though many man­agers feel stressed, over­whelmed and al­ready too stretched to come up with bet­ter ways to en­gage their team on a daily ba­sis, ‘‘ you can’t af­ford to not spend time on team-build­ing,’’ he writes. ‘‘ Cre­at­ing an en­gaged team takes a lot less time than you think — and the more en­gaged your team is, the more time you’ll free up to con­cen­trate on in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency and im­prov­ing your op­er­a­tion.’’

Cel­e­brat­ing an­niver­saries and birth­days, ini­ti­at­ing non-work re­lated dis­cus­sions and sub­scrib­ing to news­pa­pers and trade mag­a­zines are all sim­ple, prac­ti­cal ways of build­ing re­la­tion­ships and knowl­edge. Yet tak­ing peo­ple out of

Team, the of­fice for ded­i­cated team-build­ing pro­grams is still a highly ben­e­fi­cial ex­er­cise, says Julie Sten­house, PA to the gen­eral man­ager of the Fos­ter’s Group in Queens­land.

‘‘( This) en­sures they are re­moved from dayto-day in­ter­rup­tions and dis­trac­tions to al­low them to think out­side the square and fo­cus on the par­tic­u­lar project at hand,’’ she ex­plains.

Fos­ter’s re­cently held a two-day work­shop at Tan­ga­looma Wild Dol­phin Re­sort, 75 min­utes by boat from Bris­bane — cre­at­ing a sense of semi­iso­la­tion pro­mot­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for bond­ing.

‘‘ We find that con­fer­ences held off­site gen­er­ally re­lax peo­ple, thereby al­low­ing open and free-flow­ing thoughts and dis­cus­sion,’’ ex­plains Sten­house. Sack races, dune buggy rid­ing and sand to­bog­gan­ing also rein­tro­duce fun into teams, she says.

‘‘ Un­for­tu­nately, ‘ fun’ is usu­ally the first be­hav­iour we lose or for­get when con­stantly un­der pres­sure to meet dead­lines.’’

Be­cause Fos­ter’s em­ploy­ees work in just about ev­ery re­gion of Queens­land, team-build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties achieve re­sults not avail­able in their usual work set­ting.

‘‘( They) al­low the in­ter­ac­tion of teams across the dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the busi­ness, there­fore grow­ing their re­la­tion­ships,’’ says Sten­house.

‘‘( This) in turn opens the chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, re­duces the amount of mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and as­sists with con­flict res­o­lu­tion.’’

Team work: Cheeky Food Group builds teams through ev­ery­one cook­ing, and then eat­ing

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