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(Guest Post)

When you are given the task of running a team at work it can be a worrying time. After all, you now have the responsibility for a group of other people as well as for yourself.

In my first job like this I struggled a bit at first until an older colleague gave me a bit of timely advice. He sidled up to me at the coffee machine one day, pressed the button for fake tomato soup and wheezed, “Take your team away for a day”. As he shuffled off to sip his soup I realised that he was right; I had to find a way of building the team spirit and having fun with them. We had just completed the first phase of a big project so it looked like a good time to celebrate that as well. So how can you do this well?

Go to the Right Place

The first point is to choose the right location. At that point I worked in a city with a lot of breweries so I organised a team away day in one of them. I don’t drink much alcohol and I don’t touch beer but it sounded like the right kind of place to relax in .We got a tour of how the stuff is made and that put me off it even more. But after that was over there was a tasting session and I could see people visibly starting to loosen up and talk to their colleagues. A couple of them even told me that I had made a good move in taking them there.

Get a Mix of Fun and Seriousness

The key part for any team leader who runs this kind of day out is around getting the balance right. I had a few serious speeches lined up but I also took along some silly hats, plenty of sticky notes and the other things we needed for some fun and games. I mixed up the sessions by having some fun then something serious before going back onto the light hearted stuff again. It worked well and everyone in the team seemed to understand what I was up to.

Give Out Some Prizes

I decided to add in a prize giving section with some certificates and acrylic awards. It was a good time to do this as we had worked hard to finish the first part of the project and it was a good idea to reward the team for what they had done well. I didn’t want it to turn into some sort of embarrassing, drawn out thing so we got the certificates and acrylic awards lined up on a table and quite quickly read out the names of the winners. They seemed genuinely pleased to have been given something and I got a great feeling of satisfaction from this part of the event as well.

Have an Objective or Two

Of course, this sort of team event isn’t just about giving out rewards and clowning around with silly hats on. I had also worked out beforehand that I needed to go into with a clear idea of the objectives I had in mind for it. As well as building up a stronger team spirit I also had to approach the more delicate matter of a serious budget restriction which had been placed on the remaining part of the project.  I didn’t want to break this to them in an extremely blunt way but I didn’t want to be sneaky about it either. In the end I did this part after giving out the acrylic awards to the winners and it was as well received as I could have hoped for. No one ran up to the stage and hugged me but I didn’t get booed either. If you have an objective to meet then the timing of the announcement is just as important as what you say and where you say it.

Aki Hashimoto is a team leader who has worked out how to use acrylic awards to make his team building events go more smoothly and be more rewarding.

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