The contemporary workforce demands engagement in ways that require more than just financial compensation. Being part of a team, sharing a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and shared mission are vital to promoting positive corporate culture and engagement. I’ve read and heard all the buzz about engagement the past year or so and I’m a believer. But there’s nothing like personal experience to drive home a point and help us take ownership.
During the past couple of years my wife and I tried various ways to motivate our son, Julian, to work hard in high school, knowing that his GPA and test scores would influence his college choices. We’d tried financial carrots dangling at the end of various sticks. Cash for grades or prizes for effort. But the promise of financial compensation, or the actual compensation, never seemed to sustain effort by our son. So we thought long and hard about how to engage him in the goal. How to make our parental goal become a team goal; a goal that our son could own and become truly vested in. We stopped offering compensation for performance and we decided to try to show Julian why performance was meaningful in and of itself.
So we hit the road. We visited a college in Philadelphia on a beautiful spring day. Julian had a great time. He was inspired by the professors he met and was very intrigued with the fun the students were having. It was spring and the campus was full of students lounging, playing volleyball and studying outside. Julian said, “Wow, I could see myself here. This looks great.” When we got home from that trip Julian was engaged and ready to talk about the steps he needed to take to qualify for entrance to that college. About six months later we took another trip to a school in Chicago and had a similar experience. This reinforced what had become shared goals for all of us and we were able to see the results. Julian was studying for the ACT exam without us having to prompt him. His GPA and attitude improved because he had made a real connection to his goal.
Much like the college trips we’ve taken every six months or so, team building programs can help groups renew their commitment and remember the underlying motivation in the work they do. I’m passionate about fun team building activities because they model team engagement. Effective team building enables teams to experience moments in which individuals come together on a very visceral level and quickly coalesce with purpose and passion. Our hope is that a taste of this engagement becomes a catalyst for change, and enables further discussion on how to sustain that engagement.