Facing personal challenges can help team-building process

When the employees at SaskPower heard that they had to spend a week doing a team building program, the initial reaction for many was one of dismay.

“Some people are apprehensive. They feel forced into it. Some people are just looking at it as just a holiday,” said Regina-based Dave Kramer, a GIS system administrator at the utility company.

The 25 or so employees who were asked to spend a week at a resort were concerned that it would be a week spent giving group hugs while their own work, e-mail and voice mail accumulated back at the office, he said.

Kramer was among those who was concerned at first, but says he’s now looking forward to the team building program, which is to take place this month. The orientation process turned him around, as it made it obvious that a lot of effort was put into the program, he said. He hopes the session, which will include doing a case study, as well as some outdoor survival activities, such as taking a leap of faith, will help him put aside some conflicts he has with people.

Team building exercises have helped the new business development group at the RBC Financial Group develop into a cohesive team as well as develop a business strategy, said Craig Smith, the vice-president of new business development for e-business at RBC Financial Group in Toronto.

Last year, the business development group, which consists of both business and technology people, used a team building exercise to help it create a business strategy to suit the current economic climate using a PricewaterhouseCoopers business simulation game. The game introduced some competition, which made the process fun, Smith said.

His team used what it learned from the game to create a business strategy going forward. People will be more dedicated to the strategy because they helped create it instead of having it come down to them from higher up, he said.

In the past, the group has also done outdoor survival-type, team-building exercises, as well as occasionally going out for pizza and beer.

“Personally, I’m a huge believer of this kind of approach. You need time out in the course of a year so people can get reconnected,” Smith said. “The feedback I’ve gotten over the years is always positive.”

The fear of work building up while you’re away shouldn’t be a factor, he said. It’s like never taking a holiday – ultimately it’ll affect your productivity.

The survival exercises teach people that they can do things they never thought they could do, and that’s a valuable lesson to learn, he said.

Angela Kujala agrees. It’s important for people to challenge themselves beyond their comfort zone, said Kujala, the director of marketing and sales at Victoria-based Beyond the Peak, which creates customized team building programs.

When you do something that you never thought you could do, you feel personally strong, she said. “And when you feel strong personally, you’re ready to give to the team.”

Activities, such as walking across a tightrope can help people learn about each other and themselves, she said. In order to get across, people are forced to ask for help, something that’s very difficult for some people to do. In one such program, an employee who had a conflict with another because he never helped her when asked, learned that he treated everyone the same way. This helped, because she learned not to take it personally anymore.

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