Team building while wearing running shoes

There’s nurturing co-worker camaraderie, and then there’s team building. It’s one thing to have a cohort of people who are happy at work, but it’s quite something else to create an environment where those individuals become a team.

Why’s this important? Well, when a team works together, they amplify individual strengths and are much, much more than the sum of their parts. There’s a reason why away days and corporate team-building events are so popular: a cohesive team is a productive one.

We’re proud of our team at Content Insights. And, in many ways, before we were a company we were a team: a group of people who were able to work together and play off each others’ strengths to get the most out of each other. Just like any other relationship, it doesn’t do well to become complacent and as we’re growing we knew there had to be opportunities to strengthen our ‘teaminess’, without resorting to sequestering ourselves away in a log cabin and participating in ‘trust’ exercises.

Recently we participated in the Novi Sad Business Run competition – an event when companies assemble teams of their best (or least resistant) athletes to take part in a 5km run. We fielded 14 runners, and it proved to be a great exercise in teaming-up, motivating and bonding.

Humble Beginnings

It all started six weeks before the run when one of our office running enthusiasts saw an ad for the NSBR and decided to see if there would be enough interest to organize a team. At first – and we’ll be honest here – it didn’t look particularly promising – but after a day or two, we found we had more than ten people actively willing to join in – from all departments. Don’t let that number fool you – that’s almost a third of our staff. Tech stereotypes need not apply here.

First, we had to register the team, but we needed a name. We could have just come with any old thing, but clearly, this event got everyone’s creative juices flowing (even among those who weren’t actually running the thing). Everyone started proposing names and our final choice was just the right blend of corporate identity and light sarcasm (much like ourselves): Insights Out.

Because we wanted the appearance of a well-oiled machine – if not the actual presence of one – our graphic designer took matters into her own hands and created a super visual identity for us. Nothing makes you feel like part of a team more than matching running jerseys. Thanks, Sasa!

Getting in Shape

Acknowledging that while being in possession of the proper gear might make you look the part, it was less likely to get you smashing PBs and get us an overnight offer into the national squad, we realized it was time to start preparing for the run itself. At the point of sign up, only a few of us were jogging on a regular basis. We set up training sessions, and before long we were [mostly] enthusiastically sweating it out almost every night – sometimes over several hours.

How’s that for dedication?

Ready, Set, Go!

When the race day finally came, many of us froze when we realized our informal little foray into team athletics suddenly looked a lot more serious: we were competing against 600 people. (My own reaction was probably caused by the fact I may have slightly shirked some of the group training sessions).

Photo: Race to the finish line Photo Credit: Serbia business run/Facebook

It might have seemed intimidating (it was), but the atmosphere in our team was great, even before the starter’s gun went off. And, off we went.

Although everyone ran at their own pace, we found that most of us were only meters apart from each other. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to finish the race and run all the time, or if I would have to walk part of the way to the finish line. But, my teammates in front of me empowered me to run the whole thing. As I came closer to the end, I saw our faster teammates waiting for us behind the finish line, cheering us on. It was such a good feeling to cross that line and celebrate our success together with high fives and hugs.

Photo: Part of our team after they’ve crossed the finish line

Afterparty

The race was finished, but our team building seemed to be just getting started. After the race, the party warmed up – the awards were presented, a dinner was served, and a live band was rocking some great music in the background. We enjoyed it so much: our team was in the front rows at the concert singing our hearts out and we were among the last people to leave – that says a lot about how successful it was. We’ve been talking about it for days on end.

Why It Was Such a Success

This was a team building exercise that lasted a month and a half. Sure, it’s possible to book a couple of nights away at a prestige mountain resort to let your team blow off some steam, but that’s only a couple of nights. This way people got to spend much more time together.

It was nice to get together outside of work hours and spend time together in a completely relaxed atmosphere. Our team has grown lately, and over the past few months, we’ve welcomed a lot of new people. This was a great way to get to know them a bit better.

We each had a goal. For some, it was simply to complete the race, for others it was to set a new personal best. Then, there were people like me, who only wanted to get together with colleagues and have fun, but whichever it was, having a goal is crucial for achieving success. And achieving those goals feels great and gives everyone such a boost of morale.

I could tell you more, but this Facebook post from our People Operations Manager sums it up very nicely:

“Only two months ago I would have laughed if someone had told me I’d have had so much fun running. This was by far best team activity and the best team building ever. I know that five kilometers is not a lot, but I’ve outdone myself”.

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