Say "team building" to your employees, and you risk a mass outbreak of eye strain from the widespread eye-rolling that's sure to ensue. Cultivating camaraderie among team members can improve morale and productivity, but a shared history of poorly executed events involving trust falls and cliched icebreakers has soured many workers on the entire concept of team-building.
Enter Kevin Cloutier, co-founder of Feet First Eventertainment. Kevin and his brother, Dave, started a DJ business in Los Angeles during college, and the events they hosted often involved their own creative, proprietary games. Before long, entertainment industry professionals spotted the brothers' potential and recruited the duo to create games for reality TV shows, including Survivor and Endurance.
After years developing innovative games that put TV personalities to the test, Kevin and Dave turned their expertise to the corporate sector. They co-founded Feet First Eventertainment to offer creative team-building events that amped up the fun and tamped down the skepticism.
I invited Kevin to Marketing Smarts to discuss his approach to team-building, how it helps companies improve performance, what makes for a great team-building activity, and how incorporating games into your hiring process can give you a more holistic view of prospective employees.
Many of the company's team-building games include a charitable cause, so your employees can take pride in helping the community while having fun and learning to work better together.
Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Kevin:
Team-building can't fix a broken culture (10:40): "Most of our events are reward-based. We do not promote ourselves as a company...trying to solve your problems. If you've got big communication problems at work or people really aren't getting along and you're trying to fix something, that's not necessarily where we come in. Our [games] are based in fun, so when people are trying to reward employees because they have a sales launch or because they hit certain goals, things like that, that's when we come in."
Team-building can help your team work better together to achieve company goals (11:13): "We do have people coming in with goals in mind, where we want to make sure that we're touching on communication and they have terms that they want to make sure that we're incorporating in our events. We do that all the time....
"If you've got a large group and you want to make sure that you've got people meeting people that they don't always work with, then...mixing up teams is going to be a great way to do that. But sometimes it works out great when you have a large group but you want this team together because maybe they're usually video-conferencing, or something like that, but they're not usually in the same room. This is a great way for this team to work together under pressure, but having fun while they're doing it, too. They're trying to meet some timed goals together."
Not everyone has to play the games for team-building to work (12:33): "My goal is to create games that are easy enough to understand...but they need to be hard enough to play where people feel like they're really accomplishing something, yet easy enough where I know they can accomplish it. It takes a lot of prototyping and a lot of practice...
"I think one of the main elements to a game for us, too, is that watching the game has to be fun. Lots of times you might have 200 people and maybe only 20 or 30 percent of them are actually playing. I learned this back in TV: The game can be fun to play, but it needs to be really fun to watch as well so that anyone not playing looks at it and says, 'That'd be fun to do, maybe I"ll try that,' so maybe they'll want to volunteer for the next one."
To learn more, visit FeetFirstEvents.com.
Kevin and I talked about much more, including why executives should be ready to jump into the fun and how small teams can plan effective team-building games, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
Intro/Outro music credit: Noam Weinstein.
reality TV game consultant Kevin Cloutier. Kevin co-founded team-building events company Feet First with his brother, Dave, after years developing creative games for reality TV shows, including "Survivor." Follow the company on Twitter: @FeetFirstEvents.