Beer, Ball Tossing and Team Building

    The idea may seem strange; having a beer at the office with your boss just a few feet away could seem a bit awkward. Add to that a couple of group games and this is just way too much fun for an office right? Well things are a little different here at ShoreTel and that’s a good thing.

    Earlier this month we held a team-building activity in our Austin office. Two theater instructors from Merlin Works led the exercise. But how could they, their improv games and two 12-packs of beer teach us about how to do our jobs and have a better relationship with our colleagues?

    I was a little unsure. Long ago (not that long ago) I was a broadcast news reporter so I know a thing or two about ad-libbing. Usually it involved a live camera crew and knowing that a few hundred thousand people would be watching, and possibly adding me to the latest YouTube lineup if I messed up. This little exercise would be cake. I think that’s what instructors Shana Merlin and Aden Kirschner wanted me to think.

    Improv For Life…

    Two hours of ball tossing, ad-libbing, memory-jogging, problem-solving exercises later, I got it. This is what work and life is all about, juggling different tasks, reacting to unexpected circumstances and working with one another to find solutions or achieve goals.

    “I wanted us to get out of the daily routine and have some fun,” said Fred Lewis, ShoreTel Cloud Division Director of Corporate Sales. Lewis organized this event for his sales group and our marketing team.

    The games WERE fun but they were also stressful. They forced us to pay attention to a number of different things all happening simultaneously while we were also performing tasks. Lewis says this was an especially important exercise for his team since most of their business is done via the phone.

    “It is so crucial to actively listen to our prospects and stay in the moment of the conversation. Thinking ahead leads to a lack of focus and it could mean breakdown in communication,” said Lewis.

    I Failed!

    If we failed at any of these games (which we did A LOT), we not only had to announce it to the group, but we had to try again. It’s a lesson Lewis says he wanted us all to learn from the exercise.

    “If we are going to ‘succeed’ as a team or company our people have to get out of their comfort zone and ‘dare’ to fail,” said Lewis. “I want the team to be okay with that and let them know I am okay with that as long as we learn from those failures.”

    It Works:

    Many modern companies regularly perform team-building activities to improve dynamics. The exercises also improve strengths, and point out some weaknesses to work on. The goal here is to make us not just better employees but more social and productive people. Lewis says in the days following the exercises he noticed his team was more aware and present during their phone calls.  “We also started to take more risks in the communication with stalled sales cycles,” Lewis said.

    Are there any specific team-building activities that have helped you become a better employee? Improve productivity or efficiency? Share your thoughts and opinions with us in the comments box below.