The Business of Team Buidling
It comes in many shapes and forms, but no two types of team building are the same. These three local organizations have found interesting ways to practice the art of team building.
Reason to Believe Equine Therapy Center
Back40 Design and Outlook Magazine leader Dave Miller didn’t let lack of equine skills stop him from enlisting his crew in an afternoon of team building activities with the horses at Reason to Believe Equine Therapy Center. The retired thoroughbreds typically serve as therapy animals, helping troubled children and adults rebuild confidence and trust. But lately they’ve taken up an additional job—helping co-workers like those at Back40 find unity through team building.
He recalled one successful exercise in which the group split into two teams, with one taking a horse that’s an expert jumper and the other taking a less-skilled jumper. One by one, the team members led the horses over a small obstacle as they also balanced an egg on a spoon. Having been told ahead of time by Prim Cockrell, Reason to Believe director, that horses are especially in tune with human emotions, the team members were mindful of their emotions and actions with the animals.
“We switched horses to see how the different horses reacted to our confidence levels, our direction and our technique,” Miller said. “It was interesting. They related it to working with different types of people. Different people need different kinds of training or treatment.”
For Miller, team building doesn’t need to have a rigid itinerary or come with a hefty price tag. Sometimes it just needs to get people into a different setting, to get them talking to each other. The group strives to participate in one outing each month. They’ve also made trips to H&H Shooting Sports, set up a projector for a movie day at the office and grabbed ice cream to enjoy at nearby Stephenson Park.
Infant Crisis Services, Inc.
Infant Crisis’ staff as well as the non-profit’s teen, young professional and governing boards are all familiar with team building, whether it’s in the form of a retreat or icebreakers that kick off meetings.
“We weave it into our meetings and it usually produces what we want, which is that cohesiveness and camaraderie—just getting to know each other better,” said Miki Farris, Infant Crisis executive director and co-founder.
Phi Nguyen, a member of the Infant Crisis young professionals’ board, said the diaper pack-off event is one of her favorite team building activities because the board members are challenged with working quickly, assembly-line style, and they do this in the company of friends and community members who are invited to participate.
During a recent pack-off, Infant Crisis board members and guests packed more than 23,000 diapers that would allow them to serve more than 500 babies. The diaper-packing event teaches participants that communication is key if they want their five-person team to pack a pallet and a half of diapers in two hours.
In addition to the team building events, Infant Crisis staff and board members use icebreakers to learn about one another. “We have icebreakers for a reason, and that’s for us to more easily identify what we have in common with each other,” Nguyen said. “In today’s world and the way we communicate, information is so readily available, and that makes us lazy as far as sharing it with other people.”
Farris agreed, saying the activities allow people to let their guard down and build camaraderie through communication. “We all like to stick to our own little clumps, and these force you out of that to get to know other people from other schools and other groups,” she said.
Danielle Mezo, a reservoir engineer with SandRidge Energy, recently spent a day at the Oklahoma River Boathouse rowing and learning firsthand how the river sport builds effective teams. Strata Leadership—which offers training, executive coaching, leadership retreats, and management consulting—led the event.
Mezo and her coworkers spent the first portion of the day learning from Strata members about effective teams then practiced rowing on the indoor machines before putting their skills to the test in the practice tank.
“My biggest takeaway is how successful teamwork requires awareness of yourself as well as your teammates,” Mezo said. “In rowing, you have to have good technique, but you also have to be in sync with the team to be successful. Likewise, with my co-workers, everyone has an important role to play in the team. You have to give your best effort and foster the best in each of your teammates.”
What effective teamwork comes down to, says Dr. Jason Jones, vice president of leadership development at Strata, is character. “Having a really good understanding of each individual’s character lays the foundation for being a good team member,” said Jones.
Jones said Strata’s 100-minute workshops as well as half- and full-day trainings go beyond just games. Strata sets up teams to start showing success as soon as they get back to the job.
“Games offer good insight and application, but how do you take the next step for people to implement it and make changes in their teams?” he said. “And I think that’s really the acid test. If I’m going to have someone come in and work with my team, I’m going to want to know what’s going to be different tomorrow about this team and will I be able to see that difference three months down the road? Six months down the road? A year down the road?”
Strata Leadership, A Reason to Believe Ranch and Infant Crisis Services, Inc. are just a few businesses and organizations around central Oklahoma that see value in team building to identify character, create a common ground and improve employee communication.