Team effort - It takes more than one person to foster success

In theory, team building is a great idea for any workplace; employees learn ways to work more efficiently together and get a break from the office environment. In reality, many team-building activities evoke the grade-school awkwardness of playing icebreaker games in a circle. So how can you get employees excited about team building? Get creative. Here are two examples of ways to inject camaraderie into the workplace without sending employees fleeing for the playground:

Rent an athlete
If you think you have nothing in common with paddler Karen Furneaux or hurdler Perdita Felicien, think again. Whether it’s on the water, track, field, or in a meeting room, businesspeople and athletes rely on teams to be successful. That’s why RBC started its Olympic sponsorship program that sends Olympians to workplaces free of charge to share their coping mechanisms. “These athletes have amazing experience,” says Trish Vardy, an RBC public affairs advisor based in Halifax. “They are highly motivated individuals who find ways to overcome a stressful environment.”

Vardy says the skills that athletes possess, such as staying focused and managing their time, often parallel qualities that employees want to develop in the workplace. Most of all, Olympians must be team players. “Whether they’re in an individual or team sport, athletes depend on other people for support and high performance,” says Vardy. “They often spend more time with a team than with family and friends, and they have to learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses.” Hearing about teamwork from an athlete is useful because it gives employees a different perspective on the issue. RBC currently has six Olympians in Atlantic Canada available to lead presentations of 30 to 40 minutes followed be a Q&A session. The six-year-old program has been successful in building more co-operative workplaces across Canada.

Beat the drum
Without teamwork, some of the best music wouldn’t exist. The same goes for businesses. That’s why DRUM!—the musical production that features performers from four Nova Scotian cultures fusing their unique percussions and histories—has branched out to include workshops at conferences. After getting a request from an organization, the people at Brookes Diamond Productions, the show’s producer, remodelled the performance to be more interactive. They realized that the underlying principle of DRUM!—to celebrate diversity and show how it works as a unifying force—could be applied to team building in the workplace.

Audience members are divided into four groups and learn how to play percussion instruments from Nova Scotia’s black, Acadian, Celtic, and aboriginal cultures. Then, just like in the original production, the groups play their instruments together and sing in harmony. “When the beats come together, it creates a full sound that is more exciting than the original beat,” says Fiona Diamond. “The idea is to project that into the workplace when different departments are struggling to work together.” The 90-minute workshop helps team building because employees experience first-hand the benefits of working together. Diamond says DRUM! has been successful at conferences because the performance shakes up the regular talk format, plus it’s a great ice breaker. — Angelina Chapin