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Invest in your crayons – reap the benefits

Colette Lourens

We can learn a lot from crayons, that is, using the analogy of a box of crayons to define the different members that make up a team. Some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have strange names and all are different colours... but they all live together in the same box. When defining employees as crayons, it becomes evident that team building is a very important component of every organisation. Unfortunately, not many share this opinion.

Team building has been tainted by the view and expectation that it's merely a fun breakaway with no relevance to the organisation or employees' work life. A fun day out of the office may sound appealing, but after a few days, the effect has worn off and employees revert to their old behaviour.

Team building can be a creative and alternative tool to:

  • Clarify individual expectations,
  • Enhance skills and abilities, and
  • Form a cohesive unit.

Here are my six tips to bring all your crayons in the box together optimally:

  • Have a clear understanding of underlying issues that the team-building activities need to address – does the team need to get to know one another, does poor communication or distrust slow their progress or is conflict between certain people creating division in the team?

  • Ensure that the facilitator understands the expectations of the session. Provide the facilitator with the background, history and context relating to any current social situation and team dynamic.

  • Activities should facilitate discussion and participants should reap the benefits of both self-development and group-development.

  • Set aside adequate time to ensure sufficient time for engagement, debriefing and reflection.

  • Determine a realistic budget based on your requirements.

  • Prepare the team by providing the members with details as to what the team-building activities will entail.

Teambuilding should be strategically planned so that it elicits behaviours that relate to the challenges a team may be experiencing - linking back to their daily job and workplace habits. For an organisation and its teams to evolve, team building needs to be an ongoing process. This doesn't mean that every session has to be a breakaway, but there should be time set aside to address this important component strategically.

Colette is a registered industrial psychologist at Bizmod holding a masters in commerce with Cum Laude from the University of Johannesburg in industrial psychology. She completed her internship and started her career as a member of South African National Defense Force (SANDF). In the SANDF she was part of the Military Psychological Institute and later the Institute for Aviation Medicine before becoming a consultant in the private sector. During her career in the military she gained extensive experience in job and competency profiling, specialist selection, organisational development as well as facilitation and training. In the private sector Colette expanded and focused her professional scope to change management, and organisational development and effectiveness; having worked predominantly in the financial sector.