Ellie Jones, National Account Manager, Center Parcs

Do you dread the Company Away Day?

Most people dread the thought of taking part in away days or team building exercises.  The thought of carrying out an ice breaker session telling others something they don’t already know about you, the dread of being paired up with someone you have never met in Accounts or the fear of being out of your depth can strike fear into most employees.

I remember first starting my role at Center Parcs.  Within weeks I was being invited to sales away days where I knew there would be a heavy focus on team building.  It was Center Parcs, what did I expect?  What had I let myself in for knowing I could be exposing some of my weaknesses to new colleagues whom I was trying to impress?  We were tasked with activities such as Target Archery, Laser Combat and Pottery Painting.  I had never lifted a bow and arrow, let alone tried to hit a target 20 metres away.  The thought of smearing face paint all over my carefully applied make up in readiness for Laser Combat was not filling me with excitement. Then the thought of putting my artistic skills to the test reminded me of failed art attempts from my school days.  How would I compare to others?  Would I embarrass myself?  Would I feel uncomfortable?

My concerns and worries were however hugely unfounded.  To my surprise with the right instruction, motivation from others and a strong sense of comradery within the team I thoroughly enjoyed each and every team building activity that was thrown at me.  My archery skills weren’t the best but I learnt something new, I got into full on warfare mode with my team mates during laser combat and an hour of pottery painting was one of the most relaxing things I had done in a long time!

When it comes to team building many of us dread it because we will be put out of our comfort zone, we are doing something different with our colleagues other than our day to day jobs, and we are potentially exposing some of our weaknesses that we may not want others to see.  A fear of heights, a fear of water or a fear of speaking in front of others – these are often behind the reason why so many of us dread team building days.

However, team building does work.  If it remains upbeat, non-critical and is inclusive to everyone it can help people take a genuine interest in each other.  People have conversations that they wouldn’t normally have in the workplace and it can put people on a more level playing field to encourage better team work and communication.  Most importantly it should encourage colleagues to have fun together, something we can all admit to not having enough time for in the workplace.

I am still no Robin Hood when it comes to target archery, but it did teach me that letting people see your weaknesses is not a bad thing.  My attempts to hit the target board let alone the scoring rings were pretty dismal!  What is important is that encouragement, support and motivation is offered –elements crucial to building a good team both in and out of the workplace.

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