Team building is a phrase that elicits many different responses and memories. Many of us have experienced facilitated team building in corporate settings, often the “same old” activities time and again. Though the activities are intended to bring teams closer together, to foster learning and creativity, they don’t often hit the mark.
As in any field, there is a range of effectiveness within team building, and there are team building facilitators who absolutely bring teams closer together and foster creativity and innovation. One such organization is right here in Boston: True North Team Building. To discover what it is that makes True North so effective, we chatted with Cindy Crean, the director of the organization.
Cindy shared with us incredible details about the approach to team building True North takes, what her favorite activities are, and much more. We hope you enjoy reading and learning from Cindy as much as we have! For those of you in charge of planning corporate events, meetings, and retreats, use Cindy’s responses as a resource for your next events.
Team Building with True North
Cindy, we know your organization specializes in experiential learning, tell us more! How does that differ from traditional learning?
“Experiential learning is active learning — participants are actively involved in an experience; they are able to reflect on that experience, and, ideally be able to take that experience and apply it back at work. This is versus traditional learning, which is most often comprised of sitting, listening, and reading.”
“There are studies that show experiential learning is highly impactful because:
– People are directly involved in the experience
– Requires deep reflection on their experience
– Encourages participants to connect the abstract to the concrete — e.g. helps connect the experience (abstract) in terms of what they do at work (concrete)
– Retain the information/learning for a longer period because it is highly relatable and relevant to them.
We, at True North, are huge proponents of curiosity and learning, no matter what format it takes.”
What is the “why” behind what you do?
“Work can get serious and become myopic or routine. It’s beneficial for people to step away from their day-to-day and receive a fresh perspective about themselves, their colleagues, and their work. It is also helpful to get colleagues out of their routine environment and interacting with each other in a new light.”
If you had to choose the most impactful team building experiences to facilitate, which would you choose?
“My favorites, in no particular order, are:
Chain Reaction— teams build a large contraption that must achieve an objective. There can be a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into these type of events. However, when successful – they are extremely rewarding. A powerful debrief concludes this session.
Remarkable Race – teams work together to accumulate the most points by finding objects, answering trivia, taking photos and working through a variety of on-course challenges. This program can be purely fun, or we can also tie parts of it to learning objectives. No two Remarkable Races are alike…we are always customizing and changing the format, depending on where we are and with whom we are working.
Office Escape – Teams are challenged with problem-solving their way out of a room. They must work through a series of clues, puzzles and connecting all the dots to be successful. There are a tremendous number of learning metaphors that come from this program, causing a powerful debrief afterward. Our Escape Room is portable – so we bring it to the hotel or conference center. We can run up to 15 rooms simultaneously.
Everything DiSC(r) Workshops – These super-helpful experiential workshops can help people understand their own style at work and other people’s styles. With this knowledge as a foundation, it is so much easier and effective to work to together. We offer half-day to multi-day engagements.
Cooking Events – we facilitate a wide range of cooking events that participants get a lot out of, including a delicious meal! These can also be set up as purely fun or with specific learning objectives in mind. A debrief can be done at the end, usually over dessert!
There are common themes through all of these programs: they are all highly interactive and engaging; for a group to be successful, they are required to use planning, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
As an aside, often it’s the nay-sayers, the ones rolling their eyes, who receive the most out of the experience. Those same people are usually the ones vigorously shaking our hands at the end telling us what a great time they had or how much they got out of it. I feel the most success when that happens!”
Tell us about the intriguing Patio Hop/Remarkable Race, what is it? What are the benefits of these activities? How can this event be replicated at Copley Square Hotel?
“The Patio Hop / Remarkable Race we recently co-hosted in Boston, was a client event for Benchmark Resorts and Hotels. It was a turbo-charged scavenger hunt that allowed clients to see some of the remarkable Benchmark properties, the surrounding neighborhoods, and excellent restaurants.”
“To replicate the event, we would want to understand the client needs first since there are many ways we can run this event. Boston is such a great town to get people out and about in, especially after a day of meetings.”
What are the main challenges you experience within organizations, and how does your work support overcoming those challenge?
Organizations have a range of challenges. The primary ones we help with are:
Diversity/Inclusion – our programs can show how there are massive benefits to having a diverse group of people working together, whether it is culturally; demographically; generationally; how people think; behavioral styles, etc.
Working Together – People often forget the people they work with are their collaborators and not their competitors.
The How – People tend to be very task-oriented and focused on the “what” part of their job. The “how” they get their job done is really critical as well.
Having fun! Life and work can get very hectic and very serious. It is essential to schedule time for fun as well.
Thank you, Cindy, for this wonderful insight and explanation into effective team building and what your team offers. Also, thank you to the entire team at True North Team Building for supporting organizations and being a champion for their success! We know the experience has been transformational for the corporations and organizations who have held events here and hired your team.