3 Unique Ways to Build Team Spirit

Forget the company picnic and the humdrum holiday party; invest in a team-building opportunity that will promote employee collaboration, engagement, and retention. Here are a few ideas.

Do you remember your favorite field trip?

Mine was definitely my middle school trip to Hemlock Overlook. My seventh grade team—the Academia Nuts—got to spend the night at this leafy adventure park, where we collaborated on a tricky ropes course, confronted fears on a zip line, took hikes, and played team-oriented outdoor games. Everything about the experience was awesome—well, everything except the mosquito bites.

There was something about the nature, the challenges, and the collaboration that really gelled us Academia Nuts—and banding tweens together over a shared purpose isn’t easily done.

If it’s true that there’s no “I” in team and if it’s also true that many employees struggle with apathy and demotivation, then why aren’t organizations heading out to the woods together more often? After all, we know from studies that only about one-third of employees feel engaged at their workplaces. If team spirit in your office is lagging, here are three unique ideas for building camaraderie.

Get out of (simulated) danger together. Getting through dangerous situations tends to bring people together—the same goes for simulated danger. And Survival Systems USA, which essentially drops a team into a pool while confined in an aircraft replica—forcing them to escape while the aircraft starts filling with water—definitely qualifies as simulated danger. A nice byproduct of the safety skills that teams learn is the bonding that occurs. “We’ve seen residual effects along the way: improved morale, self-esteem, capabilities people didn’t know they had,” Maria C. Hanna, president of Survival Systems USA, told The New York Times.

Caveat: Team building that simulates dangerous situations isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Before booking one of these experiences, make sure your staff is up to it.

Get outside together. Stress puts a damper on relationships, but the good news is that getting outside, especially getting outside in nature, can do wonders for alleviating some of that stress. Companies like Adventure Associates offer an array of team-building activities, including GeoTrek—based off geocaching—in 75 cities around the country. This three- or four-hour activity invites small teams to work together using clues, maps, and GPS technology to find different caches throughout a given city. Along the way, the individuals on the team are learning to work, strategize, and explore together.

Unbridled Learning Solutions, located in Virginia, offers another unique leadership and team-oriented program. This method, called Equine Assisted Learning, matches horses and teams together in exercises that promote emotional and social intelligence, communications skills, problem solving, relationship managing, and more.

Get into service together. Service projects are common at association conferences, but what about among your staff? Team Builder Plus and other learning companies can create service projects for association staffers, in which they work together to give back. SmileKits is one of the company’s activities. Basically, these are care packages that are tailored to children in hospitals, animals at shelters, as well as teachers and military servicemen and women. But in order to get the gifts to build the SmileKits, each group must earn them through various team-building activities. The groups get to collaborate, communicate, and get creative—while caring for others.

What do you do to build staff morale? Please leave your comments below.

(Wavebreak Media)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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