What you need to know before booking a Teambuilding Facilitator.

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The diversity of teambuilding programmes implies that almost anyone can now offer some form of “teambuilding”. Teambuilding programmes are marketed using the words “experiential”, “adventure-based”, and “facilitation”. What does this mean? And what sets teambuilding apart from fun and games (corporate recreation)?

Teambuilding has evolved from the belief that “misery acquaints one with strange bedfellows” (apologies to Shakespeare) when the belief was that teams could be built by putting people in situations where they experience discomfort; to concepts such as “challenge by choice” when the use of High Ropes courses was highlighted; and finally in the current phase where clients seem to be wanting “something new” in the face of Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) guidelines.
The industry agrees that teambuilding is not achieved in one day, but rather as a process. This is where the dichotomy lies as many providers fail to offer programmes that train team skills and rather opt for one-day, once-off programmes emphasising fun. In this case, the same can be achieved by taking the team to play putt-putt at a fraction of the cost.
Our individually based schooling system has effectively “outlawed” team work (think exams and tests) and hence for a programme to produce true teambuilding results, skills that negate self-reliance and individualism need to be taught in an outcomes-based environment. Team skills could include concepts such as Mutual Trust, Open Communication, Leadership and Constructive Conflict Resolution.
Strong teams are made up of strong individuals and this necessitates the inclusion of elements such as self-motivation, performance coaching, relationship skills and personal growth in all true teambuilding programmes.
The proliferation of one-day programmes aimed at having fun, and the existence of true, outcomes-based programmes resulting in authentic change, requires the definition of terms frequently used to market teambuilding. This allows clients to know what to expect and helps when comparing the three quotes on the table….
Experiential: This refers to any programme or part thereof employing a physical experience as the foundation for conveying a message other than the result of the activity. This method has its birth in human physiology. The greater the number of big muscle groups involved in any activity, the better the memory recall of such an activity. We can experience an event without learning from it, but it is virtually impossible to learn something without experiencing it in some form.
Adventure-based: The most common misconception in this regard is the belief that adventure can be defined by a set of activities such as abseiling or river rafting. Adventure is a state of mind determined less by the activity and more by the individual’s past experience and current abilities. These two factors can lead to feelings within a participant, the two most important of which are boredom (when the person’s ability and/or experience exceeds the demands of the task) and distress (when the demands of the task far outweigh the ability of the participant). “Adventure” lies somewhere in between these two states where perceived risk and ability meet. This implies that practitioners selling adventure-based programmes require an acute understanding of each participant’s physical and mental abilities.
Facilitation: This is the element that adds the value to the programme and usually this integral part of the programme incurs the highest expense. Facilitation is not instructing, it is not training (but may be part of it) and it is not playing the role of an umpire or referee. Facilitation is concerned with the creation of a learning environment in which groups are free to explore boundaries and try different behaviours. It is about using experiences to elicit answers to the questions of What? (happened), So What? (the significance of the behaviour), and, Now What? (how can we use this experience to improve our skills).
Facilitators are professionals and are never “free”, they never double as a venue’s Recreation Manager; and while there is no formal qualification in facilitation, one is forced to rely on experience and word-of-mouth references.
In conclusion, one must wonder whether or not it is possible to compare the plethora of service providers in the industry, whether their offerings suit your needs and if “teambuilding” is actually a worthwhile expenditure. The following guidelines could prove helpful:
  • Check Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) accreditation.
  • Ask the company / facilitator for some contactable references and phone numbers.
  • Enquire about their experience in facilitation.
  • Ascertain facilitator involvement – who will actually be running your programme?
  • Are there specific outcomes and do these meet the needs of your team.
  • Most importantly, meet with your prospective provider and give the “human element” a chance. Check to see if their culture matches your team and whether or not your team will be able to relate to the facilitator.