There are a lot of team building activities that exist, and there are also a variety of team building companies that boast everything from a Drum Circle to Cooking to get your team engaged, communicating, and more productive. Sure, they may sound like fun, but what makes a team building experience worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it?

In my opinion, there is really only one criteria that determines if a team building experience is effective: did it transform your team? Now, understand that one individual experience may not transform your team; however, if you went through a series of activities with your team (or one longer one), can you measure its success? Did it truly make a difference with your group? As a leader, you know what impact it had or didn’t have on your team.

What’s the secret to a great team building event? It has to make a difference in your team, and that is done by being intentional with the time you have invested.

Plan the Difference.

From the very beginning, as a facilitator, you need to decide what difference you want to make in the participants. How will they feel at the end of the day? What transformation do you want to see in them?

Set your goals and plans but also be willing to veer from the plan as you see issues being opened up and communicated or as other issues arise. A great facilitator is not bound by the schedule but is willing to flex as the experience unfolds.

Create the Difference.

Once you have in mind the difference you want to see in your team, you need to plan activities and experiences that will bring out the feelings and change you want to see.

  1. Activities that address specific issues.
  2. Experiences that are fun yet challenging.
  3. Challenges that are interactive and engage everyone.
  4. Exercises that expands participants view of what is possible (both individually and collectively).

Be the Difference.

As facilitators, we often use the same (or similar) activities over and over again. Mostly, because we like them and because we’ve seen the value in them. However, as we lead groups and teams through these activities, they can often become rote for us and therefore, begin to lose their impact for others.

Leaders of experiential activities need to stay fresh and challenged as well. We need to model the difference we talk about and “be the difference” for every group.

  • How are we challenging ourselves?
  • What new learning have we experienced lately?
  • How are we impacting each group?
  • What elements of our programming do we need to change to make that happen?

Continually asking these questions can give us a fresh perspective on learning and leading others through a series of exercises. It’s not just about the experience (although that is part of it). Just as leaders must be intentional with their followers, so we must be intentional with our groups and focus on the difference that we want to see, and ultimately, be.

How do you determine if you’ve made a difference in the groups you work with? What’s your plan for moving teams through a transforming process? Let me know in the comments below!