Having recently spent two days in a hotel in Stratford with just over 50 marketers the experience reminded me of why it is so important to create time for team events and on a personal level why I love leading a marketing department.
Taking the whole team out of the office for two days may seem unthinkable. The cost of the event and the cost of the missed work time is a significant investment but a successful business is based on engaged and motivated teams that work effectively together to get stuff done and events like this are a great way to super charge relationship building, sharing and creativity. So aside from just being an excuse to spend time together, team building events like this have serious business benefits.
The most obvious benefit is that it encourages all members of the team to get to know each other better. We’re lucky, working in the live events industry provides us with a lot of opportunities to attend events and shows and the industry tends to attract people who love live events and have similar interests and passions. But like all great teams we’re a diverse bunch so whilst it isn’t uncommon to find yourself alongside other members of the team at a Kylie gig, belly laughing at a comedy event, stuffing your face at Good Food Show or admiring pooches at Crufts there aren’t many occasions where we get the opportunity to get the whole team together.
Like most big businesses we also always have a few new recruits and a team building event is a great way for them to get to know fellow team mates in a more relaxed environment.
Gives External Focus
For us this came from a couple of different areas firstly speakers we had two presenters on day 1 who don’t sit in the marketing team, firstly our CEO who made time in his busy schedule to present to the team and be on hand to answer questions. Having the CEO set one of the challenges really helped reinforce the importance of the work the guys were doing in driving improvement for the organisation as a whole.
Our second presenter wasn’t from the NEC Group, he was a consultant who presented on innovation in general and brought along a load of stimulus on external companies getting us to think differently about what an innovation culture could mean for our business and took us through a number of different exercises giving us alternative frameworks to think about.
And finally the venue. It often seems odd to book a venue for these events when we run so many great venues ourselves but there is also something quite powerful in getting away from their desks and in a venue outside of work and whilst the conferencing facilities at the ICC or Vox are second to none they can feel like a bit of busman’s holiday for the teams working on those business so we usually use these events as an opportunity to check out the competition. And whilst the team are generally a very sociable bunch as work is the thing we all have in common it can sometimes be difficult to step outside of conversations about the latest project and getting away from the office is a great way to break down those barriers. We also benefitted from the surprisingly mild weather in March and managed to run a few of the team exercises out in the sunshine.
Everyone at our event was a member of the marketing department but as the function is made up of smaller teams working on different businesses or in specialist teams the networks people have are understandably stronger with those they work with on a day-to-day basis. Bringing everyone together and structuring the sessions so people work in mixed groups creates an experience where people can build relationships outside of their immediate teams and share learnings and experience which all help strengthen the team as a whole. As I wandered around the room it was great to hear people swapping ideas and making suggestions for activity to help areas of the business they don’t work on so I’m sure some great campaigns will come out of the collisions of creativity and sharing.
As I organised the session I don’t want to overclaim credit on this one but it always amazes me how energised and enthusiastic the team are, regardless of the tasks they are set. We generally try to avoid too much PowerPoint and plan the sessions for maximum interaction and involvement. Too often team meetings can become more about information cascades which is fine but when you have the luxury of having 50 marketers in one room it is amazing what the collective brain power can achieve when set some live challenges. The levels of creativity are always great even down to how the groups choose to present their ideas. Don’t get me wrong the preparation of events like this is just as intensive and time consuming as writing two days worth of PowerPoint presentations but it is definitely worth the effort – planning is everything when it comes to team events.
Shows People They are Valued
Away days are both a time and financial commitment and a great opportunity to give people a mental break from their day-to-day job. As a business we have a key focus on recognising achievements so we carry this into our Marketing events and always reserve time to celebrate particularly successful initiatives as well as individuals whose contribution has really stood out. A year ago I changed how we do this and the whole team now get the chance to nominate their team mates for different awards from more expected categories like Creative Thinker and Collaborator Extraordinaire to Behind the Scenes Wonder and Calm in the Eye of a Storm. And for me it’s a great opportunity to see which individuals are recognised and valued by their peer group.
Encourages Teamwork and Builds Trust
I guess this is an output of the relationship building but all industry reports claim that team building reduces conflict and builds trust. For me it is important to have a mix of people with different styles and different characters as this gives us a richer team but it can also cause issues if people don’t get what makes other tick. Understanding the idiosyncrasies of their fellow team mates can eliminate the little frustrations that occur in teams and whilst our focus at this year’s event was innovation, last year we covered off Myers Briggs profiles and learnt more about the consequences of different personality styles.
All-in-all we had a great couple of days and at the end of the session I felt energised and shattered in equal measure as did the senior team who lead many of the sessions. The feedback we captured from the team was overwhelmingly positive and judging by the energy levels and general chatter as everyone filed into the car parks I think it was a very successful event.