Listen and Learn: Lessons from a Team-Building Activities Expert

Top Tips from a Watson Adventures Insider

Julie Jacobs, Chief Development Officer of Watson Adventures, has learned a lot about effective team building in her 18 years working with corporate clients.

When I first joined forces with Bret Watson back in 2001, there were only the two of us, so communication and connectivity were much simpler. Two decades later, there are now over a hundred of us across the country running hunts for thousands of companies and groups each year.

We have had to come up with new strategies on how to keep everyone engaged, energized, and connected. And you can’t be a leader in team building without being an expert at how to effectively build your own team.

Here are some things that we do for our staff to keep us engaged, communicating, and productive.

Stay in Communication

• Weekly calls: Our sales staff all work remotely, which means the sales staff do not interact with each other often. To combat this, we have a bi-monthly conference call. I can then update the group on any new products. Each salesperson also has the opportunity to share tidbits about what is happening in their territory or with their clients.

• Share tips and news: Watson Adventures is now in 30 cities with more than 100 Hunt Hosts running our team-building activities. To make sure everyone is in on the same page, our General Manager sends out a monthly Hunt Host newsletter. In it, she gives updates and shares strategies of what hosts say is working well on hunts.

• Encourage ideas and execute the best quickly: Bret and I encourage anyone and everyone to make suggestions on how we can improve our products and our productivity. The idea gets suggested, we discuss how to make it work, and then we try to implement it as quickly as possible. The key is to make sure lines of communication are open at all times, but also to implement the idea quickly. Everyone feels rewarded when that happens.

Recognize Excellence

• Share client raves: We internally send out monthly emails with rave reviews from our clients, especially if it singles out sales, office, and hunt staffers. When you see the long list of positive feedback each month, it reminds everyone that we are creating a lot of joy for a lot of people.

• Give out awards, especially goofy ones: At the end of the year, I like to not only recognize our big sales wins but also highlight small things that have helped us all be more productive. These somewhat goofier awards can be things like “the person who remembered to enter in all the expenses on time” or “the person who had the least amount of clients have to call back through the general hotline.” Seemingly small, such recognition can highlight achievements that might go overlooked and help others on the team be more productive.

Encourage Connectivity

• Bring everyone together for some team-building fun: Here at Watson Adventures, we are big believers that a more connected staff will lead to more productivity. For this reason, all of our get-togethers have an interactive component to them.

• First, re-discover your colleagues: At our annual brainstorming meeting, we start off with an ice breaker. This year, we had everyone put an unusual personal fact in a bowl, and each person had to pull one out and guess who the person was. The facts we found out were amazing. Who knew that Tara liked to pick up things with her feet? Or that Christine doesn’t know how to ride a bike? Or that Kate has gone sky diving? This small game will loosen up the group and hopefully lead to a more productive session.

• Try different roles on a team-building activity: At least once a year, we get the group together to test a new product, which also inevitably helps with our own team building. One time, we were testing out our new Mixed Alliance hunt, where you match threesomes up with other threesomes. My paired threesome had a Hunt Host with a very strong personality, and the rest of the group followed him around. Who knew that diminutive Calvin* (*name changed to protect the innocent) was so bossy? Then, as part of the game, we had to split up and remix. Our remaining threesome was a little unanchored at first without such a dominant personality. We had to regroup and rely on our own strengths to keep going. It was very helpful to see both the Sales team and the Hunt Hosts in a different light.

The part of my job that keeps me motivated are the new voices and their ideas that come to join our team. If you learn to listen and work with each other, it is amazing what you can accomplish. And, saying that you have brought joy to over half a million hunters is a good place to start.