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Teambuilding Has Changed. So Must You.

Photo of Lain Hensley speaking.
Photo of Lain Hensley, of Odyssey Teams, speaking.
 Lain Hensley

I know, I know… just the word “teambuilding” brings to mind images of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott character on episodes of The Office

Or maybe airline commercials featuring people frantically booking themselves on early flights to evacuate the premises, as if an emotional fire alarm had been pulled. Ditching out just before their turn for a “trust fall” or to identify their team animal name.

Yet everyone knows a strong team is critical for success and must be deliberately fostered. 
After more than 30 years traveling the world delivering teambuilding programs, I/we at Odyssey Teams Inc. have faced the most resistant of audiences and learned how to tame and engage even the most cynical peeps.

Let me show you how we do it and why the need for teambuilding is not going away.

The Elephant in the Room

As much as we all want to forget the pandemic and move forward, the aftermath is everywhere and the need to build teams is needed as never before. The metaphorical body of our teams and companies have suffered and are still healing from the past three years. 

[Sign Up for Lain's Free Webinar: CSR: Best Practices for Giving Back]

Research shows a strong team is like building antibodies to fight depression, isolation, low productivity, individualism, silos and high turnover rates. As much as we all enjoy the new remote work environment, we are learning that strong teams, company culture and powerful work relationships aren’t just for Boomers! 

Here are some stats that may interest you:

  • 86% of executives feel a lack of collaboration is responsible for company failures.
  • 75% of employees see teamwork and collaboration as essential to their success.
  • Organizations that promote collaboration and communication are 4.5 times less likely to lose their best employees.
  • Companies with a fully engaged workforce are capable of generating twice the revenue.
  • Teambuilding can improve work ethic and innovation up to 10 times.

The Odyssey Teams formula for success: We believe you must give people something to think about, something to do and something to feel. The right combination and balance of these ingredients is situational and key to adult learning theory, personal transformation and program engagement. 

With this in mind and a lot of curiosity, we revolutionized teambuilding in 1999 by delivering the first bike building program and started the CSR craze. We now build prosthetic hands for people in developing nations, skateboards for inner city children and continue to deliver some breakthrough virtual programs in response to Covid. The teambuilding industry now offers a wide range of CSR programs that can have very positive impacts on your groups and also give back to the world around us. Win, win, win as they say.  

The formula is simple and easy for you to apply if we remove the fluff and distraction that make these programs seem optional to the bean counters. As Forbes magazine wrote: “Teambuilding is the most important investment you make.” 

In the early ’90s we threw out lame animal team names, goofy cheers and the standard team headband—leave those dinosaurs in the ground and catch the new world of teambuilding before you find yourself in a sinkhole. We focus our energy on delivering two kinds of ROI from any CSR teambuilding program: Return On Investment and Return On Inspiration.  

[Related: Q&A with Lain Hensley, Co-founder and COO, Odyssey Teams]

Return On Inspiration

No team or individual performs at a high level if they are not inspired. The ingredients most of us need to be inspired are very similar, and as meeting planners, we are asked to create a meeting that inspires people above everything.

Inspiration is a feeling—not the touchy-feely kind, but the kind that drives us to get better and get to work. What inspires most of us is a connection to self, team and lofty goals. 
All great meetings and teambuilding programs should deliver on these three ingredients to inspiration.

Return On Investment

We must show a connection between the investment of time and energy into teambuilding and the bottom-line results of the organization.  

If collaboration is key to business success, be sure to give them something to think about related to collaboration; give them an activity that forces collaboration and connects the feelings they felt when collaborating at a high level to the work strategy they do every day.

Odyssey Teams CSR program.
Odyssey Teams CSR program. Credit: Odyssey Teams.

Teambuilding Now and Forever

We will always need to spend time and money building teams, and here’s why.
“Me-conomics” is the new economic structure focused on the desires and needs of the individual. Before DVR, iTunes, social media and the iPhone, we all watched the same sitcoms, sporting events, movies and news, all at the same time.  

The Monday morning watercooler talk was about the latest episode of Cheers, Friends or one of the three sporting events from the past weekend. These items connected us without us even realizing it. With 24 hours of sports, endless news, unique social media algorithms and countless ways to buy anything you want 24/7, the world seems to be built just for us.
Teams require us to think beyond ourselves, to join the herd and see the connection between us and the collective goal. 

Why are we disconnected in an overly connected world? Because we're normal. We are in the middle of a tug-o-war. Our brain is learning that whatever we want we can have in any way we want, but sociology understands that we are built to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and our collective success and impact is greater when we work as a team.  

[Related: Group Bonding Gets Wild]

Teambuilding and Meetings Have Changed

When you are planning your next meeting keep this in mind: The five-day meeting is now two or three, and the boring, long-winded financial presentation of the past should just be covered in the virtual space.

If you or your clients are going to shell out the big bucks to get people together, they need to actually get together and connect. 

Here are three ways to do just that:

  1. Start with a strong keynote with lots of networking and structured interactions during the block. We like to call it an Experiential Keynote. It’s not sitting and hearing another person's story but a time to tell each other stories and create new ones…together. People will naturally stick to themselves and talk to the people they know without a gentle push or pull, but once people feel safe to engage, interact and participate, all of the other work specific sessions will have more life.  
  2. Schedule your CSR teambuilding before the last day, if possible. After you build the team and do something amazing together, don’t send them off to the airport to reflect on their own, give them time to connect and share stories with an unstructured social event. 
  3. Give them something physical to remember about what they did together. If you do a CSR event, have a picture or video of what they built together; a photo of the child they donated to; or something from the organization they impacted. Give them something to link their impact at the event to the lessons and the impact they want to have every day.

Want to learn more about how to engage and inspire your attendees and teams? Catch my webinar, CSR: Best Practices for Giving Back, for more to the story and also for some fun Q&A to be sure your teambuilding CSR rocks the house and doesn’t suck…the life out of the room.

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About the author
Lain Hensley

Lain Hensley has worked with thousands of groups in more than 21 countries with clients, including Microsoft, Oracle, Charles Schwab, Johnson Controls, Caterpillar, Gallo Wines, Shell and Genentech. He has been on Fox Business, written for Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, The Guardian and Huffington Post. For the past 22 years he has been a part of the UCLA MBA “Foundations of Leadership Program.” Lain recently launched an inspiring podcast, You Go First.