Team Building: 5 Strategies for Executive Engagement

Why CEOs should be involved in team building and training

by Anne Thornley-Brown, President, Executive Oasis International

Want to discuss this article and other strategies for boosting the bottom line value of team building? All executives who are interested in team effectiveness, shaping a vibrant corporate culture and fostering innovation are invited to join the “International Business Team Building Alliance” group on Linkedin.

I am a member of the CXO group on Linkedin. There is a discussion starting to heat up at the moment. I started to respond to it and was so inspired that I decided to blog a more detailed response.

The topic is “Why can’t CEO’s be involved in Training???” and it was started by Ajit Kamath. I have broadened it slightly.

Why should CEOs and other executives be involved in team building and training?

This is related to one of the team building tips we discussed in another post:

7. Team Building Tips: Senior management should never relegate decision making to a committee consisting of inexperienced employees.

The simple answer is that team building and training that isn’t closely linked to real world issues and challenges of your business is a waste of time. It is really important for CEOs and other executives to support team building and training to ensure that:

  • The company vision gets communicated clearly
  • You leverage each and every opportunity to reinforce the corporate culture you are trying to shape
  • Team building and training exercies get infused with real world issues, not theoretical cases.
  • You have a feedback mechanism to help you keep your finger on the pulse so that you get unfiltered access to what is going on in your management team and on the frontline.

Another important reason for your involvement is that, without it, team building and training can be perceived as irrelevant to the organization and the facilitators can be perceived as out of touch with organizational realitiess. This is particularly the case if there is aready a disconnect between the corporate culture you are trying to foster and existing organizational practices.

There is another important aspect to this question. Senior management involvement in team building and training is really important to ensure that the company’s resources are used wisely. Relegate decision making to a committee of more junior employees and you can end up with a range of training programmes that are loaded with the fun factor but of questionable value in terms of content. You can also end up with a good chunk of your team building budget being blown for programmes that are, in fact, team recreation. Delegate fact finding but never decision making. Ensure that someone on your executive team has the final say about which initiatives get approved.

5 Strategies for involving busy CEOs & executives in team building & Training Sessions

1. Make presentations at orientation.

Make it a priority to make a presentation at your company’s monthly or quarterly orientation sessions. This will ensure that new employees get clear and targeted communication about your corporate vision and culture early in their tenure with your organization when they are most impressionable.
When I started working at Bell Cellular, the Canadian wireless communication firm that eventually merged with its sister companies and became Bell Mobility, I was pleased to see that this model in action. Our CEO at the time was Robert Latham (Bob). Once a month he made it a priority to make a presentation at new employee orinetation. Orientation was booked into his calendar from before each year began.
He would come and make an excellent presentation so that each and every new employee had a clear picture of the company’s vision and the type of corporate culture we were trying to foster. Then, he would answer questions. These presentations had a HUGE impact on new employees.

With a little bit of planning, CEOs can designate a different member of the executive team to pinch hit for them each month just in case something crops up and he can’t make it. If a CEO can’t find time to speak to employees once a month or once a quarter, something is wrong.

2. Make presentations at training sessions.

Members of the executive team can really have an impact by making presentations at training and attending portions of training sessions whenever possible. Otherwise, what gets conveyed in the training room can get dismissed as irrelevant and fluff. I have always made it a priority to invite executives make presentations during team building and key training initiatives. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

After Bell Cellular became, Bell Mobility, our VP Pierre Robitaille made a presentation at the Foundations of Management programme for new, or about to be promoted managers. He came, made a presentation about the company direction and answered any and all questions. Our director at the time Marc Berwald, felt just as strongly as I did about the importance of senior management presence during training and development initiatives. It was Marc’s idea to have the VP present. He and Pierre made it happen.

3. Include Executive Briefings in your team building sessions

By now we’ve had enough discussions in this blog to make it clear that I am talking about business team building sessions and retreats, not the frivilous recreational activites that often get passed off as team building.

Whenever Executive Oasis International organizes a team building session or retreat, I always ensure that the most senior executive who is present provides a briefing. During this briefing information about the corporate direction is communicated. Links are made between the team building exercises and some of the key business issues the company and department are facing. This is so important to set the stage and ensure that team building isn’t treated as just an event.

4. Unleash the power of the internet

With the techonology that is now available, busy executives can find creative ways to demonstrate their support for training. Internal company blogs can be utilized effectively to post short and targeted communication pieces about specific a team building or session a week in advance. A follow up communique can be posted about a week after team buidling or training.

5. Expand your presence the MTV way with DVDs

Executives can learn a lot from the MTV generation about how to expand their presence and communicate with employees. With the techonology that is now available, busy executives can find creative ways to demonstrate their support for team building even if they don’t have a lot of time.

Second Life has exploded onto the scene. Whether an executive is in Singapore, Silicon Valley or Stockholm in the real world, through virtual virtual worlds technology, he or she can be “present”, provide a briefing and answer questions at ANY team building retreat, seminar, or orientation session .

Video briefings with executives, can be recorded and played at various training and development sessions. The CEO can record material for orientation and training sessions for new managers.

Another Bell Mobility CEO, John McLennan, prepared a video to be played at all orientation sessions. Today it would, of course, be a DVD.

If he or she can’t make it in person, the VP who is pinch hitting can play the DVD, add his or her comments and then be available for questions.

Your CIO can make a few recordings to be played during IT training. Your Chief Marketing and Sales Executives can record material for marketing or sales training. In fact, all of these recordings can be made on the same day, once a year, twice a year, whatever works for your company.

Internal company blogs can be utilized effectively to post short and targeted communication pieces about specific a team building retreat or session a week in advance.

I hope that you have found these suggestions helpful and that one or 2 of these suggestions will help you and the rest of your executive team become more involved in team building and training despite your busy schedule.

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4 thoughts on “Team Building: 5 Strategies for Executive Engagement

  1. Joseph Professori says:

    Ann,

    I agree with your article 100%, I believe that is is the CEO job to effectively communicate the brand of the organization to its current and future (new hire) employees. I don’t believe that the CEO is excused from this duty in any way. For it is she or he who’s vision is to be clearly communicated.

    I know I wouldn’t want anyone to speak for me regarding where I believe our organization is going. Reminds me of a job a former compnay of mine once had. The CEO wanted a quality system installed for is company, and everyone was to utilize it, but him. Needless to say it failed due to no upper management by in. This is the same senario. When the CEO thinks he or she is above the values and direction of the firm, its doomed to fail.

    Excellent article, I appreciate your thoughts!

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