Inclusive Team Building

Inclusive team building imageMore and more people are booking “all inclusive” holidays. These are the ones that have all meals and (usually locally produced) drinks included in the base price of the holiday. Providing the food is appetising and (for me) the beer is drinkable, they do just fine.

What’s new?

Flicking through a travel brochure the other day, I got to thinking what other commercially available offerings could be all inclusive. I decided that effective team building is certainly one.

“What’s new?” I hear you ask. “I’ve never had to pay for my drinks or food on a corporate away day.” Well, food and drink are not the only – or even most important – resources at an away day or conference. The people are.

All Inclusive Team Building

So how does the term “all inclusive” apply to the team members themselves? It’s easy – think about it. They all need to be included in the activity. Sounds simple, yet I’d wager that most team building days don’t follow this simple piece of advice.

What does the term “team building” bring to mind for you? Whether they enjoy them or not, most people think of quad-biking, abseiling, orienteering or some other outdoor activity. These are activities that appeal to a certain type of person but not all. As and when a manager chooses such an option, he or she is probably forcing some members of the team to go against their wishes – or feign illness on the day. Those diligent enough not to “pull a sickie” are more likely to dislike – and perhaps even hate – every minute of the day.

So what is the answer? Select an option that meets the lowest common denominator? Choose a tea party with charades? No – this has exactly the same problem at the other end of the scale. The more extrovert, adrenaline junkies will savour this kind of activity every bit as much as their less physically-inclined colleagues would enjoy jumping off a cliff.

Does this mean that team building days are doomed to mediocrity? Selecting something that offends the least rather than inspires the most?

Ditch mediocrity and get tangible results

No. You can choose an “all inclusive” option. And these tend to have more parallels back in the workplace as well, making real team development more likely.

An all inclusive team building activity is one that has a core challenge or task that is ongoing throughout the session. This core challenge will contain the overall goal of the group, or teams within the group if it is a competitive activity. It will be something that everyone can either do or play a part in. Ideally it will also be something that people will most likely enjoy, although it is not essential that everyone does enjoy it.

Parallel to the main challenge should be ancillary challenges that are optional and wide-ranging. These tasks should make sense within the overall context of the main challenge. That is, people will not wonder what relevance they have to meeting their overall goal or feel that the link is unrealistically tenuous.

Chosen well, these discrete yet integrated challenges are what make a team building session all inclusive. Include some that will appeal to those who like a physical challenge and the adrenaline junkies will be happy and involved. Include some construction tasks and the engineering-inclined will be ecstatic. Include some more cerebral tasks and those who enjoy using their grey matter will be in their element.

Make each of these ancillary challenges optional and people can choose their own idea of fun for the day and genuinely contribute to their team’s achievement. Everyone will leave happy and the opportunity is there to highlight the similarities to the workplace and identify real team improvements. Inclusive team building engages all and accommodates all team strengths.

The best teams have people within them with a mix of interests and skill sets. Their effectiveness is determined by how these different skills are used within a team context to maximise the outputs of the team. Different people using different skills in parallel. An all inclusive team building session is simply one that mirrors real life.