Move over, lackluster seminars! It's time to make room for laughter yoga, scavenger hunts and escape rooms. Team-building activities are important; they help employees better understand one another's strengths, weaknesses and interests, so they can work better together to achieve company goals.
The team-building exercises you choose may be even more important.
"Experiential exercises give you an opportunity to look at yourself free of ego," said Heidi Frye, president, UPwords, Inc. "When we are attached to our ego, we aren't given permission to not know."
That's why many creative exercises result in aha! moments. Innovative insights. Big breakthroughs. You know, things that give your team drive. A bit of an edge in the industry.
Sometimes, creative team-building activities look more like games than work. Often, they're silly. Ego-stripping. We would know: The West Michigan Woman team engages in creative team-building at least once a year.
When Your Aha! Moment Is a Haha! Moment
"Let's just laugh for no reason at all," said Angēla Essick Dykes, M.A. Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and Trainer. "You have to let go of your ego, your adult thinking, your inhibitions."
A few of us were less than thrilled when we learned this year's team-building activity was laughter yoga.
"Our bodies can't tell the difference between real and fake laughter," Dykes promised. "Laughter is contagious. You can choose laughter every day."
We walked around the room doubling over in fake laughter. We danced. We chanted. We mimicked one another's movements. We didn't even have to let go of our egos—they wanted nothing to do with us.
Our egos left voluntarily.
Somewhere in the midst of the haha-ing, our fake laughter turned genuine.
"What do we take away from this?" asked our president, Kasie Smith. "What's the purpose of an activity like this?"
"Making us come out of ourselves for a bit."
"Nothing is that serious."
"Put your thoughts aside and remember to laugh."
Among elements of our company's culture are "Choose happiness" and "Grow beyond where you are."
It's not always easy, given circumstances. We can always choose happiness, though. We can always take a chance and learn something new.
"Sometimes, you gotta fake it to make it," Smith said. "Laughter is one of the ways you can do that."
How to Make the Most of Creative Team-Building Exercises
"If you do your job well and get creative, and plan well for your team activity, you can have such an incredible impact on their learning," said Heidi Frye, president, UPwords, Inc. "It's a conversation starter, and it gives you a model from which to work."
There's a much higher level of engagement, participation and recall involved in creative activities. "Because you have muscle memory involved when you're up and moving around and participating in an exercise, it allows you to do a better job implementing."
"If you don't do a good debrief afterward and tie together why you're doing this—the analogy of the exercise—it will feel like a game." Here's how to make the most of it.
Questions depend on what you want your team to take away from the exercise. As a general rule, consider asking: What was the purpose of this exercise? How does it apply to you? Is it good for you and your business? How will you continue it or change it?
Consider ways your employees could reflect: open group discussions, journaling, going for a walk with time to think.
"It's what you do with it afterward that counts," Frye said. "You need a leader who is committed to following through." Make a plan of action for how to follow up and follow through.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for West Michigan Woman.