Team building tips for General Counsels and Team Leaders

by Annie Tang in Blog

DatePosted on December 10, 2016 at 10:15 PM
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As the CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer!) in my office, I have had the fun job of organising the annual team building events for our Christmas celebration event over the past few years. Our directors support this off-site event to thank team members for all their valuable contributions to the Company for the year.

I am writing this blog because I’ve been asked by eminent General Counsels to share some essential tips to consider when organising a team event:

1.    Save the Date

Choose a date which is unlikely to coincide with the public holidays or long weekends so that everyone is highly likely to be able to make it.  If you’re able to sign off a half work day event off-site, this should maximise the chances of a 'full house'. Marking everyone's diary at least one month in advance is also helpful to ensuring both you and your team members all attend. If some team members have unpredictable schedules owing to urgent transactions or last minute work or travel assignments, then, there may be people who won't be able to make it at the last minute.

Remember to mark everyone’s diary and send timely reminders nearer the date.  If you use a team collaboration tool (whatsapp/slack, etc), it’s easy to arrange the logistics and other things relating to the event. You can also set the dress code and add reminders of what people need to bring with them to the event as well as ask in advance if anyone has any dietary requirements.

2.    Timing of the Event

Since most events can typically take between 2-3 hours, you may wish to couple it with either lunch or early dinner.  Unless it's a drinks/dinner event, I wouldn’t recommend encroaching into personal time though by going beyond early dinner or drinks because some team members may have other interests/commitments outside of typical work hours.

Star Anise has its annual event at Christmas time, however, you could arrange an event that coincides with some other landmark time to celebrate.  For eg, after the end of a financial year or during Chinese New Year or mid year or any other special time of the year.  

Our Christmas event in Kam Tin combined teamwork and delicious food!

3.    Selecting the Event

There is a host of team building events and here is a small selection of some fun group activities that you can consider:

  • baking/cooking 
  • charitable events — taking part in a food kitchen, beach clean up or school redecoration exercise 
  • art-jamming or leather or other arts related workshop
  • bubble football
  • trampolining
  • dining in the dark 
  • real life escape games
  • hiking and picnic 
  • beach BBQ 
  • windsurfing or kayaking
  • party on a tram
  • party spa
  • volleyball on the beach
  • karaoke
  • dry ski-slope
  • ice skating
  • yoga/pilates

What you need to be mindful of when selecting an event is to put aside your own personal preferences. Of paramount importance as well is to consider team members’ safety at all times and being mindful of their “fears” or dislikes. For example, it’s not ideal to book a real life escape game or dining in the dark when some people get claustrophobic or have a fear of the dark.  Arranging a wine tasting for people who don’t drink wine will also not be a popular choice whereas if the whole team consists of wine lovers then this will be a sure hit!  You may also consider giving a different cultural experience to your team. For example, arranging a Japanese tea making ceremony for a team of non-Japanese team members or having an Italian long lunch may be something different.

4.    Selecting the Venue

Of course, the event selected will likely determine the venue, however, there are options and variations!  I’ve discovered that a cooking event (more on this in a moment) doesn’t have to take place in a kitchen/cooking studio. Indeed, it can take place in the countryside which gives it a more rustic feel or even by the sea so that you all get to cook with a view!

Having a back up venue is also ideal (if the venue provider has it). The weather can be unpredictable at times so if you decide to do cooking outside, it’s best to have an indoor venue handy in case it rains or gets too cold.

5.    Consider your Budget

If you’re on a tight budget, then going for a team hike and coupling it with a nice hearty lunch or early dinner could be cost effective solution.   Don’t forget to allocate some money for nibbles/drinks to be consumed during your activity (and get some assistance to help buy it and/or bring it to the venue).

6.    Make a Photo Album

During the event, people will take photos which will reflect the fun. If you have a team intranet, remember to save an album which will serve as a souvenir.

Cooking combines elements of fun, team work, learning and bonding.

7.    Delegate

You may want to delegate the whole event planning or some parts of the arrangements to team members, for example, to make the Secret Santa arrangements or to get the snacks/drinks.  

One of our teams making crab cakes!

8.    Star Anise’s Team Building Events

Here are some examples of the events that we’ve participated in (and photos recording the fun!):

  • In 2014, I could think of no better thing than for our team to be surrounded by the smell of cinnamon at Christmas time! So, we had a Christmas lunch at Wagyu followed by lots of fun making gingerbread men and cinnamon rolls at the Mixing Bowl!
  • In 2015, after a hearty Christmas lunch at Argentinian steak house, Tango, our creative juices flowed during a fun 'artjamming' session and we discovered that our secretaries, Irene and Kelly, had hidden art skills and created lovely masterpieces!
  • In 2016, we cooked a four course meal in the rustic surroundings of a farm in Kam Tin, New Territories.  The setting was perfect with a real Christmas tree and Secret Santa gifts and crackers to add to the festive feel.  Our team was split into 4 groups to prepare each course to perfection under the instruction of an expert Italian Chef and former founding head chef of Armani/Aqua, Marco Maggio.    This event was lots of fun with excellent company and food!   It may be hard to top this one but let’s see what ideas we can come up with for 2017!

Cheers and a happy team event preparation to you all!!

About the Author

Annie Tang

Annie is a co-Managing Director of Star Anise, focusing on in-house legal roles. She is a former practising Hong Kong lawyer and a mother of two.

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