Business Team Building

Business Team Building for Executive Solutions

by Anne Thornley-Brown, President
Executive Oasis International
Facilitated Business Team Building Specialists

Business Team Building: Towards Executive Solutions….Beyond Fun and Games

We have already discussed the fact that effective team building is much more than fun and games. A simulation or activity is only as effective as the briefing that precedes it and the debriefing that follows it. In fact, although our bias is that team building should incorporate activities that enhance team bonding, team building can still be effective on-site, in a corporate boardroom without any activities. The same cannot be said for some of the recreational activities, games, and entertainment that has flooded the market, masquerading as team building. The term “snake oil” comes to mind. Of course, that is too strong but it’s within the ballpark.

3 Highly Effective Business Team Building Approaches

Business Team Building with Real Business Projects

As a participant in one of our Visexecutaries: Seizing Opportunities in our Shifting Corporate Landscape said “It’s like firing with real bullets”. The approach is simple, direct and tied to real-world business opportunities.

  1. Select a business issue.Identify a specific business issue, challenge or opportunity that your company must resolve in order to be profitable.
  2. Provide ResourcesYou’ll need a main meeting room, 1 project room for each team with printers, internet access and other resources the team will need. If you’re going to use print, then add space has to be booked and paid for in advance. Depending on your production values, you may need to make a marketing assistant available to each executive project team.
  3. Form your project teamsDivide your executive team into at least 2 project teams.
  4. Review brainstorming tools.Use an external or internal professional facilitator to do a short simulation introducing your team to new brainstorming, decision-making and problem-solving tools. (Even a quick review of tools with which you a familiar would be helpful to ensure that you are all on the same page.)
  5. Assign the task to the team and give them time to brainstorm design and execute a strategy.If you have different dealers or retail outlets, assign 1 to each team. If you are using a B2B sales model based on cold calling or visits to existing customers, then this is the basis on which the project should be designed.
  6. Develop your presentations . At least 2 people on each team should be tasked with developing a presentation to prepare an executive summary of the team’s strategy and present its results. If your executive team is small, pull in a couple of managers or even some inexperienced but talented employees to get more bang from your management development bucks.
  7. Execute the project.
  8. Report your results.

Meet in the boardroom and have each team make a presentation to describe their strategy and report results. Select a winner and award prizes.

  1. Identify best practices and prepare a strategy to launch them in the real world.

Business Team Building Simulation with a Project

This approach follows the same steps as the previous example but a simulated project is used the project should be directly relevant to the task of the team or business unit that is participating in the simulation. For example, if your group consists of business development professionals, their task should involve selling some kind of tangible product. If the participants are sales professionals or managers, the tasks could consist of coaching small business owners in the community and  designing and executing a new sales and marketing strategy their businesses.

Here is an example from a session we recently did in Egypt:

 Apprentice, Team building, Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia

Business Team Building Simulation for Pharmaceutical Industry Sales Team

Team Building That Gives Back to the Community

Finally, another approach to consider is philanthropic team building in which the project teams are assigned the challenge of raising funds for a local charity or completing a specific task for a charity like Habitat for Humanity or Samaritan’s Purse.

Through our simulations at Executive Oasis International, participants have raised funds for a number of charities including the National Kidney Foundation in Malaysia, the Save the Train Fund in Kansas, the Stepping Stones Shelter in Kansas, and to help Miguel Giner, a highly respected social in the Hispanic community in Liberal Kansas, with medical expenses.

We have used this approach with retailers and executives in the wireless communications industry combined a real business project and philanthropic activities in their retreat:

Business Team Building Projects for Wireless Communications Industry Executives

The participants in one of our senior management  retreats  for one of our client organizations provide a meal for the residents of a mountain village in Oman, made a donation and gave everything that they had purchased as part of their treasure hunt and shopping challenge in the Nizwa souk to the villagers. The villagers were involved in the role playing that was part of the business simulation.

Mountain Team Building for a Middle Eastern Wireless Communications Firm

Returning to a Bottom Line Approach to Team Building

In the fall of 2008, TARP fund recipients were severely criticized for taking executives on expensive, luxury retreats and junkets. The AIG Effect made many organizations shy away from team building, executive retreats, and sales incentive trips. If these organizations had focused their team building and executive retreats on generating strategies to resolve their significant business issues, they would never have been criticized.

Organizations would be wise to return to a bottom line approach to team building.  For companies that are doing well and seeking to reward their teams, charity team building or a philanthropic endeavor at home or abroad as part of incentive travel would help companies give back to the community and steer clear of negative publicity. This approach would definitely boost team cohesion and give employees an experience that would be FAR more rewarding than anything money could buy.


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