Stir up cohesive spirit
Team activities set everyone at ease, not only the adventurous, writes Denise Cullen
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
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