Working in a leadership role 40 hours a week means that I am responsible for creating a productive, motivating, and engaging atmosphere for the team of people that work underneath me. This, by far, has been one of the bigger challenges in my managerial career. With a variety of personalities and responsibilities, team building becomes difficult and can sometimes seem as extra work, something that you’re doing outside of your general responsibilities. The funny thing, team building is a huge part of your responsibilities as a manager, it is part of your job to ensure your team feels like they can accomplish their goals with the group of people they work with. It’s a tall order for sure.
In my [not so] extensive experience, I have found a few strategies that work for me that don’t seem like a ton of extra work. Sometimes it forces me to think outside of my comfort zone, but I suppose that’s part of the experience as well.
[WEEKLY TEAM MEETINGS] Previously, I used team meetings for very little OTHER than going through an agenda of to-do lists, updates, and planning sessions. I had tried a variety of frequencies – monthly, bi-weekly, as needed, etc. Eventually, I realized that these team meetings were the only time that we were all together and they had much more potential than just program updates. Weekly Monday Jumpstart Meetings were born. Now, every Monday morning my team comes together to share a few different things. Our standard agenda includes:
- A view of the program calendar for the week ahead
- How was your weekend?
- What did you work on last week?
- What are your projects and goals for this week?
- Program Updates/Tasks
When we have time, I develop additional team building activities within the meetings. Most recently, we went through a Strengths-Based Leadership assessment and I developed a two-session series to discover their strengths and how it impacts their ability to work together as a team.
[MONDAY E-MAILS] Before weekly Jumpstart meetings were developed I started sending Motivational Monday E-mails. An e-mail sent early on Monday morning (usually) that includes inspirational quotes, a round up of weekly tasks, pictures, and three things I am grateful for. Two years ago, after watching a TED talk, my time decided that they wanted to adopt an “Attitude of Gratitude” so each week we list the 3 things that we are grateful for. I start it off in the Monday e-mail and throughout the week they hit “Reply All” to share their three things as well. Recently, I included 3 Things I am Excited About, by starting off the week thinking about what we are grateful for and excited about, it seems we are more prepared to hit the ground running in a positive way.
[FORCED FAMILY FUN DAYS] In college I went on a few mission trips, every night we had devotional time that usually included what was called “Forced Family Fun”. Time that we spent together doing different activities, sharing with each other, and enjoying our time together. I stole that idea and a few times a year, I take my team away from the office and we spend an afternoon doing something out of the ordinary and fun as a team. Over time I stepped away from planning each afternoon, and at this point each of my team members have planned their own Forced Family Fun afternoon. We’ve watched movies, always eat a ton of food, gone to the apple orchard, visited Belle Isle, art therapy, and we always end each afternoon with writing cards to each of our teammates for them to read when they get home. I always let them leave early, and I always feel a little recharge after a fun afternoon with my team.
[TEAM BOOK CLUB] A few times a year someone on our team will pick a book for everyone to read, we spend some of our Jumpstart time talking about the book content and how we think it relates to our work. We’ve read several books as a team, some great and insightful, some were agreed to be not so great. I have found that reading books together gives the team a foundation of common language and understanding on how they relate to one another.
[ASSESSMENTS] Not assessments of their performance, however we do those as well. Personality and Stregths-Based assessments have come in handy to help increase that foundation of common language and understanding I mentioned above. I have used the Stregths-Finder 2.0 and Strengths-Based Leadership books on several occasions, and will be doing the DiSC Assessment with them in the fall. Giving them the opportunity to learn about themselves and sharing that with each other gives insight to how we work as a team and how our personality traits may influence how we interact with people.
And there you have it! My top five team building activities that I use with my team on a regular basis. They aren’t full-proof and may not work for every team, but for the time being they are working for me.
May the odds ever be in your favor.