Team building is one of the most important jobs for any manager. After all, unified and collaborative teams are exponentially more powerful than any one person alone. And one of the best ways for managers to bring teams together is by emphasizing communication and team-building activities.
Unlock the Power of Communication With Team-Building Activities/
You’re facing the blank page. Or the tough choice. Or the constant flow of distractions and the endless to-do list. What now?
There are always going to be times when you’re feeling stuck, not sure where to go next, what to focus on or how to get back in gear. While it may seem counter-intuitive, one of the most valuable things you can do to get moving again in these situations is to stop and think.
Planning any big vacations for the coming year? Looking forward to a little rest and relaxation?
Or maybe, deep down, you’re dreading it.
You wouldn’t be the only one. According to a Glassdoor survey of over 2,200 workers, the average U.S. employee who receives paid vacation/paid time off (PTO) only takes about half (54%) of those days. The top reasons? They fear getting behind (34%), they worry no one else can do the work while they’re out (30%), they’re completely dedicated to the company (22%), and they feel they can never be disconnected (21%).
Being completely committed to your company and the work is a great thing. But being so stressed or fearful that the work will pile up (or be screwed up) if you take some time off isn’t so great. It’s certainly not healthy. And it’s not even necessarily good for your career or your bottom line. A Project Time Off study on the State of the American Vacation found that Americans gave up $66.4 billion in 2016 benefits due to the number of vacation days they forfeited. And get this: According to the study, those who had given up their vacation time were “less likely than non-forfeiters to have been promoted within the last year (23% to 27%) and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years (78% to 84%).”
When the team needs some creative ideas or innovative solutions, who’s the go-to?
Maybe it’s you. Or maybe it’s definitely not you.
When you think about the “creatives” that you know, your mind probably instantly goes to certain people. We all have some preconceived notions about what it takes to be creative and innovative, as well as who should be involved in the process. We pretty much know who’s got it and who doesn’t.
Sometimes these “things we know” don’t really tell the full story.
If you’re trying to get more productive, organizing your to-do list might be number one on, well, your to-do list, especially if you’ve got this endless checklist that you keep adding to. But here’s a thought: Maybe the best productivity hacks are more about subtraction than addition.
With our work and personal lives overlapping, today’s world creates a lot of cognitive load. We’re checking e-mails in the evening and on weekends, and making phone calls to resolve personal issues during the day.
How often do you wake up already feeling overwhelmed? We complain about the complexity of our lives, but we also forget how much of the chaos in our lives is self-imposed. Yes, your calendar is probably overcrowded and maybe your desk is a mess. You need to plan your holiday menu and finish up your gift shopping. Your news apps and social media alerts are going off constantly, while that co-worker who’s been emailing you all day is now texting you, too. You click through, thinking, “Now what?”
In their new book Up is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility, Beverly Kaye, Lindy Williams and Lynne Cowart point out that advancing your career doesn’t necessarily mean you have to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. That might be your journey, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s up to you.
“In place of a ladder of promotions,” they advise, “think of [your] career as a rich, flexible mix of experiences.” From this point of view, you could even embark on a fulfilling journey of growth and new opportunities without ever leaving your current job.
This isn’t just inspirational advice; in a world where fixed, linear career paths and stable, predictable job markets are a thing of the past, it’s both practical and realistic to think this way. Technology and the “gig economy” have also dramatically changed not only how work gets done but where you do it, who you might collaborate with and what you can feasibly do. You might have a more traditional job as well as a side gig. Or you might work a series of gigs, requiring more flexibility and personal control.
See if you can imagine this scenario: You're in the middle of a heated discussion with someone about a big political, religious or personal topic. The conversation is getting tense, on the verge of an argument. Tempers are rising. Voices are getting louder—or the type has moved to ALL CAPS. You’re feeling angry, maybe even a little afraid. On the one hand, you really want to win this debate. On the other, you just want to run away.
We live in a pretty charged atmosphere these days, so you probably didn’t have to do too much imagining to conjure up that image in your mind. And sure, we know that a diversity of thought and perspectives can be valuable, but knowing that doesn’t make these moments any easier to deal with.
In fact, there’s a lot going on in your head in these kinds of situations. Your bloodstream is flooded with cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones that fuel the “fight or flight” response. Your neocortex, the part of your brain that controls rational thought, is on a temporary time out. You're triggered—not really thinking, just reacting.
Do you feel inspired in certain environments? Stifled and stressed in others? It’s not just your imagination. There are scientific studies that explain why most people hate working in cubicles, or why we’re better at conceptual thinking when we’re in rooms with high ceilings.
In his TEDx Talk, Designing a Better Future, architect Scott Wyatt explores the power of design and how it shapes the way we think and perform. He’s now applying what he’s learned to create elegant, functional floor plans and building arrangements that are designed for the way work gets done today. “Generative” buildings, for example, encourage collaboration, creativity and chance meetings with people you don’t see every day.
Looking toward the challenges of the future, Wyatt reminds us that this is a choice: “We’ll choose to build workplaces that distract, or we’ll choose to build workplaces that motivate.”
But of course, the structure itself is only part of the solution. We have to break down the other barriers that undermine quality thinking and performance. And there seem to be more of those now than ever before. As the world of work changes, your learning and development strategy will have to change, too. The question is, will you wait until the point where you have no other option, or will you take the lead and build that future now?
At Herrmann we talk about learning as a mental process that leads to lasting change in knowledge, behavior or both. A key word to notice in that sentence is process. It’s not an outcome; it’s the action. It’s what you have to keep doing to keep growing.
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean dropping everything and taking a six-week course or attending a formal lecture. It could. But it could also mean taking advantage of the everyday opportunities you have to pick up a new insight, expand your horizons or stretch your thinking in different directions.
What could be more fun than a team building exercise? Before you say, “Just about anything,” maybe we should look at some of the reasons why team building activities get such a bad rap.
Let’s start with that loaded word “fun.” Fun activities are a great way to lighten things up and spark new ideas, especially when the team’s been under a lot of pressure or needs a break from some intense work. One study even found that humor and laughter are effective coping strategies for dealing with failure and stress.
Having fun at work is a good thing, and in some cases, the break might be just what the team needs to recharge its thinking and get a fresh outlook on the task at hand. But sometimes these activities don’t really have a point. Either they’re not serving a clear business purpose or they haven’t been designed with a specific goal in mind. In this sense, they’re not really team building exercises; they’re socializing disguised as team building. It’s no wonder then that some team members will end up annoyed, feeling like they’re wasting time that could be better spent working on meeting that critical deadline.