Teambuilding: Luring in Leadership DevelopmentJuly 1, 2014

July 1, 2014

Teambuilding: Luring in Leadership Development

Playing Picasso and similar teambuilding activities need appropriate space to be implemented successfully. Credit: metroConnections

Playing Picasso and similar teambuilding activities need appropriate space to be implemented successfully. Credit: metroConnections

Graves,David-Metroconnections-110x140David Graves is president and CEO of metroConnections. He is responsible for ensuring that the company is operating efficiently, and he directly leads the award-winning Event Services and Production Services divisions. Joining metroConnections in 1988, just four years after the company was established, Graves led the growth in event management and teambuilding and soon became a partner to founder Sam Thompson. Graves is responsible for leading the company expansion in both geographic locations as well as service offerings. MetroConnections has been profitable 17 of the 18 years Graves has been with the company. Prior to joining metroConnections, Graves spent six years with the Marriott Corporation in conference management and sales. Contact Graves at 952-767-1250 or

Leadership and team development activities are being infused into corporate meetings and events in lieu of guest speakers as a way to spread a dynamic message and generate attendee engagement. Although they create an opportunity to give attendees a breather from endless speakers, their impact can be much more than a break. In fact, many event organizers are specifically seeking activities that challenge participants’ abilities to take calculated risks, identify team roles, and allocate resources efficiently and effectively. By selecting the right activity for your team and following some best practices, you can plan a successful event that caters to your organization’s culture and message.

The Big Picture

Although teambuilding and leadership activities have been included in events for decades, such interactive activities are gaining in popularity as additions to meetings, conferences and events. Groups are looking for new ways to build leadership qualities and allow people to discover their potential through a team environment. These types of activities offer a change of pace to the usual sit-and-listen meeting environment, and the experiential type of learning pushes comfort levels and leaves a lasting impression.

Teambuilding exercises, while fun, also can be quite valuable if they are well conceptualized and strategically organized. So how do you know if an interactive activity like teambuilding will be beneficial? In addition to considering the actual cost of a given activity, it is prudent to consider whether or not the activity’s value will be perceptible to participants. Getting the most bang for your buck will hinge upon careful goal-setting while still in the planning stage.

How do you know if an interactive activity like teambuilding will be beneficial?

To begin your planning, start with outlining the desired outcome from a big-picture perspective. Too often, teambuilding is simply incorporated into an event for the sake of having an activity. However, identifying a goal is as important a step as selecting the activity itself. Sure, most activities promote employee camaraderie, but can it support other goals and objectives of your organization? Can you hone in on specific group dynamics? Whether participants realize it or not, activities may be formatted to achieve specific results or deliver a distinctive message. For example, interactive activities are a perfect fit if your messaging revolves around:

  • Teamwork and partnerships
  • Communication
  • Developing new leaders
  • Building trust and camaraderie

Case in point is an activity called Ice Odyssey. This leadership development activity, suitable for groups ranging from 30–250 people, can be tailored to deliver key messages and customized specifically to your group. It takes a themed and interactive approach to practicing the business fundamentals found within a workplace as it is a scenario-based exercise. In Ice Odyssey, the group is split up into multiple teams and asked to accomplish one common goal (to catch the most fish). Each team is given directions, resources and guidance as they sort through the information, prioritize and strategize about the best way to navigate themselves through the Ice Odyssey. Along the way, teams are tested in circumstances that challenge their ability to take a calculated risk, identify team roles and allocate resources efficiently and effectively. As teams work to catch the most fish, they address common work themes related to shared objectives, delegation and team collaboration. At the end of the Odyssey, the debriefing session allows everyone to identify behaviors and outcomes that led to their overall level of success.

Selecting the Right Activity

The desired outcome/goal should be the primary focus when selecting an activity. With the goal clearly identified, it should be treated like every other aspect of that meeting/event in terms of preparation, budget and coordination to ensure a positive experience.

If you are stumped about how to pick the right activity, talk to an expert in the field of leadership and teambuilding. Companies that offer teambuilding, leadership development and interactive activities can guide you to the best option based on several factors:

  • Desired outcome and learning
  • Time frame and space you have for the event
  • Attendee demographics including group size and culture

You also should consider having professional facilitators manage and host the activity as they have the expertise and can work with you to integrate your goals, messaging and culture.

Another major consideration when selecting the right activity is the location. Some activities require a lot of space or an area that allows for “getting dirty.” For example, Playing Picasso is an activity that starts out by dividing a painting into smaller sections and giving each team a photo of a section to replicate on a blank canvas using paint, brushes and sketching tools. Once the teams have finished, the individual canvases are pieced together to create a reproduction of the full painting. The activity demonstrates that even when working separately, the whole contributes to the bigger picture. Further, by incorporating a specific theme, location or image as your graphic, the activity can be personalized. Securing an appropriate location for your activity will ensure that your activity is executed the way it was intended.

Dream Big

When goal-setting for your corporate teambuilding activity, it is important to think beyond the traditional objectives of networking, sharing and leadership development. Many have stretched their objectives to also benefit the community. For example, one popular activity involves teams competing to create the best built wheelchair. Small groups work together to answer a series of questions to earn “bucks” to purchase wheelchair parts. Once all required pieces have been earned and wheelchairs have been assembled, they have to run through the obstacle course to become eligible for inspection. After teams create a custom license plate, final judging takes place in which teams are rated on quality and creativity.

In addition to the obvious benefits of teamwork, this activity offers the opportunity to give back to the community by donating the finished wheelchairs.

Communication Is King

As in all aspects of planning an event, communication with your interactive activity planner is crucial. In addition to clearly outlining the objectives, it is key to communicate shifts in terms of group dynamics, personalities and size — all of which can drastically change the effectiveness of an activity. However, with proper communication, teambuilding and leadership development can be an effective component of your next event. I&FMM



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