Focus Your Team-Building in a Way That Works


I’ve spent 25 years working in corporate America at organizations ranging in size from thousands of employees to organizations that could have company meetings in a Starbucks bathroom.  One thing they all had in common was at some point each year, they turned their focus from production to team building and individual development.

Often though, this focus was lacking focus.

Some of my personal experiences included a day at a go-cart facility, which inevitably led to reckless driving and weird competitions between finance and accounting. Once a company rented out the entire Universal Studios Hollywood, which was awesome in theory, but when it came to team building we all just hung out with our families and never attempted to commingle with our co-workers. A smaller company I worked for decided the best way to  boost morale was to purchase everyone an iPad. The up-tick in morale lasted about as long as the first battery charge, and then everyone was back to complaining and in-fighting.

It seemed like the method of team building and professional development solution was to throw money at the problem and hope for the best.  

As a supplement to my professional work, I began exploring an art form called improv. I quickly found that the tools that improvisers use to be successful on stage were life-changing tools that also impacted how I engaged in the world as a human being. I started to ask an important question about my corporate environment: Organizations are made up of humans, and if improv changed the way I was as a human, how could it change an organization through the positive impact it had on the humans IN the organization?  

After my own course of learning, I  taught an improv class to a company I knew was weighing options for a “team building” session. The focus of the class was fun, engagement, agreement, and team work. I saw change happen right before my eyes. Body language improved. Eye contact improved. Laughter started to bubble up from a group that at first sounded like they were in a library. Suddenly, they were completely engaged with one another. Their defenses disintegrated before my eyes and people who were lukewarm at best with each other in the beginning were now fully supporting one another.

After that class, we took a half hour to deconstruct what we did, and the conversation was electric. We discussed how important it was to work together and how impacted they were to discover that each person there had a significant gift that they were previously unaware of.  Months later, I received an email from the director of the team who told me that the impact of that simple class had created noticeable and significant changes in communication and teamwork  that they were still experiencing as a team.

It was at this point that I realized what I wanted: to use my knowledge and experience in corporate America and my gifts and expertise as an improv teacher to improve the workplace in organizations.