The Complete Blueprint to Executive Team-Building

The Complete Blueprint to Executive Team-Building was originally published on Ivy Exec.

Executive team-building activities

Is your team working well together? Even the best teams could do with a little nurturing from time to time. Everyone knows how crucial effective teamwork is to success in business. This article explains how team building can help improve your team’s performance and sets out a few ideas for you to try.

What is teamwork?

“Even if a team is made up of experts, it can still fail if they do not know how to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate well together.”

This quote is from a paper written by psychology researchers Salas, Reyes, and McDaniel and published in American Psychologist. The respected journal dedicated an entire issue to the subject of teamwork back in 2018. It covered topics as diverse as how teamwork functions in terrorist networks to how innovative formats for studying teamwork are helping us prepare for the planned mission to Mars in 2030. Frankly, it’s a fascinating read.

The quote about how expertise itself is not necessarily enough, is instructive here. It’s a salutary reminder of how crucial it is to ensure cohesion in your team dynamic. (This might sound familiar if you have been wrangling with the practicalities of engaging hybrid teams recently.) You may have hired the best in the business, but if your team is disconnected from one another, they simply won’t function at an optimum level.

We all know that to get the best out of your people, they need to work well together. Effective teamwork is paramount in the modern workplace.

Why is teamwork important in the workplace?

Teams that work well together tend to deliver better results than individuals working separately. Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. For one thing, working in a team allows each individual to specialize. One large task can be broken down into smaller ones that are then distributed among the team members according to their strengths. It’s a question of making the workflow more efficient.

But there are other benefits too. Imagine this: a remote-working team has a daily catch-up via Dialpad video call. One of the team members, let’s call him John, habitually joins the meeting half an hour late and rarely contributes to discussion. Very soon, the whole team recognizes that John’s lack of engagement is a problem.

If John were working autonomously, at some point, a manager would have to step in to address the issue. But because the other team members have a vested interest in getting him to pull his weight, it’s likely they will intervene themselves. In this way, teams tend to self-regulate, allowing senior managers to focus on other tasks.

What’s more, team members learn from one another as they work together. And the benefits of having multiple perspectives on any given problem can also lead to faster, better solutions. This applies to all teams, whether they’re working face-to-face or using cloud computing to collaborate online.

And what’s the secret to building a great team that delivers results? Read on.

What is team building?

In some quarters, the phrase “team building” can provoke the occasional skeptical eyebrow-raise. It’s understandable. Today’s team-building activities are much more varied in nature and intelligently focused on developing skills and good relationships in the workplace.

There are also a number of virtual options for remote workers. Click here to see a small business VoIP solution you can use to help implement them.

Modern team-building exercises are an excellent way of improving communication and increasing staff motivation. They create a space where employees can see each other in a different light from their everyday work environment. Often, they give individuals a chance to shine, and the resulting recognition can boost morale.

Of course, many top executives feel that while this is useful for more junior staff, it’s not for them. After all, if you’re at the director level, you have a million responsibilities. Maybe you think you simply don’t have the time to spare to participate in something like this. If that’s you, it’s possible you’re missing out.

Difference between regular team building vs executive team building

It’s true that there are great benefits to be gained from senior executives joining in regular team-building sessions. For example, it demonstrates that senior leadership has a serious commitment to the workplace culture. Regular employees will respect that. And of course, it’s nice to take the director hat off sometimes.

Instead of explaining to a junior writer how to optimize a blog post, your SEO lead may find themselves learning something completely new from that writer. Regular team building temporarily disrupts the workplace hierarchy and, in so doing, breaks down barriers.

Even so, some executives prefer to take advantage of dedicated executive-only team-building opportunities. These, by their very nature usually focus on smaller groups. Often, they aim at boosting the kinds of skills top executives need to use every day. This could include decision-making, coaching skills, or active listening.

Why is it important for executives to conduct a separate team building?

There are two main reasons for this. First, there are occasions when it’s not appropriate for top-level executives to get involved in some team-building activities. For instance, if the aim of the session is to encourage junior staff to speak freely about their workplace experiences, it’s best if the leadership team bows out.

This isn’t just a question of emotional intelligence. Having senior figures present in this case would doom the session to failure. The team-building environment may seem relatively relaxed, but it’s still a professional setting. Nothing is more likely to discourage dissatisfied employees from speaking honestly than having the CEO paying rapt attention.

Second, there are positive advantages to executive-only team-building activities too. It means they can be tailored specifically to the needs of the leadership team. This could mean focusing on top-level skills as mentioned above or even improving tech knowledge, such as learning the difference between an ai and an ae domain definition.

Executive team-building can also sharpen up the way the team conducts strategic planning together. Any experience gained in the session will be directly applicable to the workplace.

Benefits of executive team-building

We’ve already mentioned several of the well-known benefits of team building: improved communication, increased motivation, upskilling, etc. Of course, these benefits hit slightly differently for regular employees, senior executives, the company as a whole, or even customers. So let’s break it down in a little more detail.

Employees

If your employees spend most of their days analyzing Dialpad’s chatbot use cases or developing apps, a change will be as good as a rest. Taking on the kind of new challenge they’re likely to meet in a team-building exercise will be refreshing. They’ll get an opportunity to be creative in a different way and maybe even try something new. This could reap huge rewards in terms of employee morale and wellbeing. To sum up, team building for employees:

  • Improves creativity.
  • Increases morale and motivation.
  • Leads to better physical and mental health.

Executives

As you climb the corporate ladder, it’s easy to become more and more disconnected from the shop floor. That can lead to discrepancies between how you perceive your company is performing and the reality on the ground. In turn, this makes it difficult to make the right decisions in a crisis or even just day to day.

Executives who participate in team-building activities with their employees earn their respect. It demonstrates the right kind of authority and shows a clear commitment to the community of the workplace. Team building for executives:

  • Projects good authority.
  • Establishes trust.
  • Earns respect.

Company

Business is all about the bottom line. It’s well known that one of the best ways of boosting this is by finding ways to increase productivity. However, too often, the drive to do this can end up having the opposite effect as workers burn out. Good leaders know that it’s vital to avoid overworking employees.

Executive team-building can strengthen communications between individual workers and management. In turn, the increase in trust that results can have a positive impact on the work environment as a whole, leading to greater productivity. Team building for companies:

  • Improves productivity.
  • Enhances communication.
  • Establishes a positive work environment.

Customers

In the end, customer satisfaction is key to any business’s success. Your company may have the best referral tools at its disposal, but could you be doing more to engage your customers?

The truth is that success breeds success. Anything your company is doing to improve its own culture, efficiency, productivity, and staff morale will shine through. Happy and motivated employees will go above and beyond to give your customers the best service. That’s because they’ll be motivated enough to truly care. Indirectly, then, team building results in:

  • Better customer servicing.
  • Better customer relationships.
  • Increased customer loyalty.

When is the best time to conduct activities and how often?

You could arrange a one-off team-building session, but the truth is that it will be most effective if it’s done regularly. That doesn’t have to mean weekly (although it could), but you’ll get the most out of the process if you arrange it to happen at regular intervals throughout the year. The longer you leave it between sessions, the more employees who participated last time will have moved on. A sense of continuity is important.

Of course, in the case of executive-only team building, it can be difficult to find a time when everyone is available. The good news is that you can still get a lot of mileage out of scaled-down activities. Remember that if your senior team can’t make time to meet together, there are plenty of virtual options these days.

Types of team building activities

Let’s take a look at the types of team-building activities that are available. They fall broadly into a number of themed categories.

Ice-breaker

Everything starts with an ice-breaker, right? Including this list. This is less of a category on its own and more of a perennial stalwart of the team-building experience. Get to know your fellow participants and get that energy flowing.

Activity-based (physical and mental activities)

Is go-kart racing your thing? Or perhaps you’d like to tap into that competitive team spirit with a laser tag session. Activity-based sessions can be huge fun. Sometimes, tapping into that inner child can unleash creativity you’d forgotten you had.

Communication-based

This includes any activity where people have to communicate well in order to complete a challenge successfully. For example, in the barter puzzle, participants are split into groups, each of which is given a jigsaw puzzle to solve. The first team to complete their puzzle wins. The twist is that some of the pieces each team receives are for another team’s puzzle. Collecting all the pieces you need to win therefore involves a considerable amount of creative negotiation.

Skill-based

If you want to focus on specific skills that are relevant to the workplace, skill-based team-building activities may be the best choice. This could include training in conflict management, leadership, negotiation, or sales, for example.

Personality-based

This interesting category covers exercises that help workers learn about themselves as individuals and, in so doing, find better ways of working together more effectively. These sessions generally use personality type systems like Myers-Briggs to reveal each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and can be a very thought-provoking experience.

Problem-solving based

Everyone loves an escape room. Solving the clues in small groups to get out in time can be a fun challenge. It also highlights the importance of communication and working together to achieve a result. Or why not try your hand at solving a murder mystery?

Educational

A favorite here is the “lunch and learn” idea, partly because it slots neatly into the working day. Employees can learn about new topics during their lunch break. (If you’re doing this, I’d advise actually providing the lunch rather than expecting people to bring their own sandwiches.) The topics can be as eclectic as you like, anything from continuous integration to drawing or public speaking.

Wellness-based

Host a lunchtime walking group or hire a yoga teacher. Any kind of healthy activity can only benefit both your employees and the company as a whole. And sometimes, relaxation is the best medicine. So if you’re willing to budget for it, why not organize a spa awayday?

The importance of team building in teamwork

Sure, great teams can be forged through work alone. It’s possible. But directed team-building activities really can be very effective in enhancing cohesion and mutual trust. You’ll reap a return on your time investment many times over in better communication, employee satisfaction and staff loyalty.

Ready to give it a go?

Be a connector manager and give it a whirl. There’s such a diverse selection of options available these days that there’s bound to be something for everyone. You’ll be glad you did.

By Grace Lau - Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.