No More Mandatory Fun!
Project managers, it’s time to stop forcing your team to have fun. That is not to say you need to pull a serious face every time someone cracks a joke, you simply need to reconsider your organisation’s idea of fun.
A key difference between large corporations and small businesses is their idea of ‘fun’. Most of us enjoy a night out paid for by our company and being sociable with your work colleagues is an important foundation for success. You have to trust your colleagues, particularly when you are part of a close knit team working hard to reach targets and achieve challenging goals.
However, mandatory corporate days out are something many of us dread, hoping somehow the outdoor ‘team building’ activities get rained off, or thinking of excuses to avoid embarrassing ‘throw the beanbag’ games and ‘bridge building’ exercises or endure various other activities our bosses thinks will improve our productivity.
These activities do have some benefits and some people enjoy them but they really do not guarantee that you will get the best from everyone. Some people come away feeling invigorated and closer to their colleagues; others feel vulnerable, embarrassed or just bored. A company cricket match won’t appeal to the un-sporty types and, believe it or not, not everyone relishes the idea of racing a car around a track at high speed. Something I have done, along with a golf day and salmon fishing in Scotland – all in the name of motivation. In fact, some activities can have the potential to destroy your team because of the simple fact that they are not suited to all personalities.
We’ve all heard the story of the company that lost their best salesman because he was obliged to take part in some sort of team-building day that he hated.
So if you want to benefit from some form of motivational team building how can you get it right?
- When it comes to motivation, keep an open mind and remember that everyone needs encouraging differently, although do be prepared to push people a little outside their comfort zone.
- Talk to team members individually and try to establish just what they enjoy, perhaps something they have always wanted to try and never have; then you will start to get an idea of what motivates them.
- Allow your team to vote on their own ‘reward’ by letting them know their budget and deciding how they want to use it themselves. That way you’ll know they are happy with the activity. Make sure the options do not include anything that any team members are particularly averse to, for instance, gliding is great fun but not if you have a fear of heights.
- Encourage your team to mingle and bond without feeling forced to take part in an activity. Perhaps allow team members to choose a charity with which you can all help out for an afternoon and contribute to a good cause.
- Don’t try and draw an introvert out – allow them to be who they want to be, remind yourself of the skills they do have and how much value they add to your team.
- Ensure that work is up to date so that team members are not worried about missed deadlines or incomplete work while taking part in whatever activity they, or you, have chosen. It is difficult to enjoy a day away from the office if faced with double the workload the next day.
Remember a business benefits from all types of people and, therefore, different types of motivation are required. You cannot force people to bond and have fun, any more than you can force people to be motivated.