Building a company is serious business, but that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun. Not just for the sake of play, but to develop your team's ability to better define objectives and  goals, problem solve, and trust one another's contributions. 

David Goldstein is the founder of TeamBonding, an Inc. 5000 company and an innovator in the team building industry. Recently, he launched a spin-off company, YoYo Events, aimed specifically at startups.  He says that team building activities are no longer reserved for corporations with the big bucks. 

"Today's startup  culture is unique," says Goldstein. "Founders usually don't have to worry about making money on day one. Instead, they have a unique opportunity to do what they love and believe in, to get people to believe in idea, and to spend time focused on passion." To achieve this, every person involved has to know that they can depend on one another and harnessing the power of play is one of the most certain ways to develop that trust. 

When you engage your team in activities like YoYo Events does: pumpkin carving and ice sculpting, cooking challenges, and scavenger hunts, it will take people out of their comfort zones. "The group as a whole is doing something that none of them is an  expert at," says Goldstein. "The stack developer doesn't get to work on tech and marketing people don't get to work on marketing. Instead they are working together to make, say, an ice sculpture--something that nobody's ever done before." When everyone is put on the same level: from founders to staff, they're all doing something that's new to them and there's no room for lack of ingenuity and focus, no room for people who don't have a purpose.

When people are taken outside of their comfort zones creativity comes out of unexpected places. Your team members get to showcase a part of themselves they might not ordinarily have the chance to express. They may even discover hidden strengths and abilities they didn't even know they possess. 

Goldstein offers these essential tips to help you get down to the business of play. 

1. Leaders: take a step back.

For a team to bond, the people who are in charge at work need to take a step back. "We once conducted a limousine scavenger hunt and learned that the leader of the company took his team and paid off local businesses so that they wouldn't help the other teams," says Goldstein.  "It was the worst team-building event I've ever seen." 

A win at all cost mentality doesn't work when you're trying to build a team. Ultimately, building solid team bonds means relinquishing control and letting other people step up. 

2. Build emotional bonds by giving back.

Goldstein encourages companies to find ways for their team members to have fun together--and to  give back. "Getting your team to work together toward a charitable cause really puts them all on the same page. It lets them share a sense of purpose."  At YoYo Events they've done functions to raise funds to give bicycles to low-income children, to provide care packages for chemo patients, and teddy bears to kids with Downs Syndrome. "Some of these events are so moving that everybody in the room was crying at the end of the day. And that's when you know you've done your job: community work is an extremely effective way of building emotional connections between people."

3. Start small.

While not every organization has the resources to do large-scale team development events, Goldstein suggests that even small-scale events can help create a sense of community at a  startup. "You don't even need an entire day," he says. The company has helped teams bond during a two-hour 'Outrageous Olympics' event. Escape Rooms are another great option: these are live adventures where your team is locked in a room with the clock ticking, and they have to find clues and solve a mystery in order to escape. "Such events consume only an hour or two, but they take your team on a journey together."

What are your ideas for team building events? Tell us what works for you! 

Published on: Jan 11, 2016