Team Building in a Growing Economy

Team Building During a Recovery

Since the 2008 Wall Street Meltdown, it’s been a bumpy ride for many industries and organizations. Yet, indications are that the economy is slowly but surely on the upswing.


Signs of the Recovery is a great tool for tracking articles with information pointing to a recovery.


“The economy may well be recovering, but those of us who have become accustomed to operating in survival mode are having a tough time adapting to a more upbeat climate, workplace experts say. After coping with budget cuts and layoffs and making the most of limited resources, some workers are stuck in a recession mentality, unable to think innovatively, shake off their gloomy outlook and seize new opportunities.” “Are you suffering from post-recession workplace disorder?” The Globe and Mail

Shaping Your Rebound Strategy

So, how does an executive inspire team that’s battle weary and discouraged to give those final pushes required to seize emerging growth opportunities? There are no quick fixes but targeted and focused business team building can be an indispensable arrow in your quiver as you shape your rebound strategy.

This is not the time to substitute fluffy recreational activities and frivolous social outings for bonafide business team building. Now more than ever when pay-off is imminent, it’s important to devote quality time to focusing on your company’s goals and objectives and shaping the strategies that will help you achieve them.

During the 2003 downtown, the National Post ran an excellent article called In Tough Times, the Smart Firms Retreat. (In fact, I was one of the experts interviewed for that piece.) Relatively few companies have heeded this advice. Instead, many companies have put team building initiatives and retreats on ice. This is unfortunate because a carefully designed and executed team building strategy can help companies:

  • inspire team members to persist in the face of discouraging circumstances
  • brainstorm and identify new target markets for their products and services
  • identify emerging and new growth opportunities
  • harness the creative genius of the team to generate new ideas and solutions to pressing business challenges

Preparing Your Team to Seize Growth Opportunities in a Recovery

If your company put team building on hold, this is definitely the time to pull the team together and devote some quality time to planning and strategizing. Team building for a growing economy involves giving teams new tools and a refresher on new ways to use familiar tools to:

  • scan the horizon to spot emerging trends and shifts in the marketplace
  • identify new opportunities for growth
  • identify new markets and customers for your products and services
  • move beyond traditional approaches and look for opportunities in new places
  • fine-tune or completely transform your marketing and sales strategy and tactics to fit a more promising economic scenario

What does team building for a recovery look like?

    • Focus on real business issues instead of just playtime

Save on Venue….Don’t Scrimp on Content

It is astonishing how many companies still blow most of their team building budget on the venue and recreational aspects and then have little left for a facilitator. It’s like reserving a private dining room at an expensive restaurant and then spending so much on desert that there is no money left for the main course.

For many companies, it’s STILL not time to celebrate and have a lavish retreat at a 5 star retreat. Instead, a more practical approach to team building can be just as effective and it is likely the order of the day. Here is how to stretch your budget:

  • Schedule all or most of the session on-site and ensure that employees respect the “do not disturb” sign.
  • Alternatively, use one or more of the following cost effective venues:
  1. a local hotel or banquet facility to save travel and accomodation expenses
  2. meeting rooms at libraries, municipal offices, colleges, or universities
  3. the living room of an executive’s home or cottage
  4. conservation areas (for the recreational components)
  5. Trade meeting facilities with a supplier or other local company that is not a competitor.Use their meeting or conference rooms for 2 – 3 days and let them use yours for the same period.

Fun is Still Important but Don’t Make it the Main Focus

I hope that regular readers of this blog have been able to break out of the “team building = fun and games mindset”. If not, please have a look at some previous entries.

Certainly build in some recreation. It’s part of team bonding. However, make it shorter and more cost effective than you would during more prosperous times. Maybe devote half a day, a few hours or an evening to a social or recreational activity. Just don’t make this your main focus. Save the celebration for a corporate event or incentive trip when the company has turned the corner and taken advantage of the many opportunities for growth that emerge during a recovery.

Possible ideas include:

    • a mini-race activity to find the off-site location for the retreat
    • a mini-race with clues to help project teams find their mystery “mission control” location
    • orienteering
    • GPS challenges

    • cooking challenges – if budget is tight, it can involve starting a fire and cooking lunch over a campfire at a local conservation or campsite

  • dinner at a nice restaurant
  • if your company is doing reasonably well, get a corporate table at a charity polo tournament – you can provide your team with a really unique experience at a fraction of what it would have cost you to schedule your entire team building retreat off-site.Example:Polo for heart Table or Tent Reservation

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