Richard Branson is known for leading the way when it comes to progressive team building. The billionaire tycoon allows his staff to have unlimited holidays, places an emphasis on having faith in his team members and is also a firm advocate of team building days. It’s this forward-thinking that has seen him build an empire and a $5 billion fortune to boot.
So what can you learn from Branson’s business acumen when it comes to ensuring your staff days out in London are a success? Branson likely models his staff days out in the UK on the successful team building events he runs across the pond for Virgin America, such as the ‘Refresh’ program. The program is a series of daylong training and team building exercises designed to instil team spirit and enhance Virgin America’s overall performance. From sexy salsa to smooching celebs, here are five ways Branson ensures his annual team building activities leave his employees feeling sky high.
1. Be Creative
It’s not all meetings and motivational speeches, Branson believes the more fun people have the better. Branson has hosted and engaged in numerous off-the-wall activities such as rock star karaoke, salsa dancing and IndyCar pit stop lunch relays (generating an exotic menagerie of tofu, popping candy, Nutella and Tabasco!). Don’t be afraid to try something different. If you want to host a Branson-inspired event, with a range of fun staff days out in London such as Drumming Workshops, Treasure Hunts and even Robot Wars, there’s guaranteed to be something to get your team in the spirit.
2. Be Inclusive and Don’t Criticise
Branson’s team building events are mandatory for all employees, regardless of rank or position. The concept is to enforce the idea that all employees are equal while promoting idea-sharing and creativity. Team building events also provide the opportunity for staff to bond and build confidence, working as a unit in a fun environment without the real-life pressure of work. For Branson, this means staff engagement without the fear of criticism. “I think that criticising people is counter-productive,” he says. “A good leader is someone who praises a person for his or her best efforts, not someone who criticises. People know when they make mistakes. Of course, sometimes I just can’t resist and end up saying something, but never more than once. The secret of success is finding good people.”
3. Get Stuck In
One thing we can take from Branson is he likes to let his (rather long) hair down during team building events. Having a boogie with staff is commonplace for Branson, while there has even been the odd peck on the lips with celebrities. If you’re the boss, get involved! Do not segregate yourself from the rest of your employees as though it’s simply a treat for the staff. It’s a team building exercise and you’re part of the team. It’s a vital opportunity to talk to your staff on a more personal level in an informal environment. If you’re stuck for inspiration, events such as Corporate Cooking are the perfect opportunity to work together, create something and get to know your employees in a relaxed setting.
4. Use Experts in Other Industries
You don’t have to have an expert in your specific sector come in and lecture staff. Branson knows how effective it can be to use experts in other industries to engage staff and encourage cohesion. Notable examples include bringing in a San Francisco Police Detective to provide a session on the subtleties of body language and inviting a local comedy improvisation group to help employees improve their on-the-job ‘improv’ skills when dealing with the volatility of airline operations on a daily basis.
Why not take note from the team building book of Branson by using experts to teach your staff a range of skills. From communicating your corporate message by getting your team to produce their own short animation with the animators of Wallace & Gromit, to enabling them to harness their marketing skills in our Build a Brand Challenge with our marketing master, using expertise in other industries is a fun way to both challenge staff, try something new and reinforce team values.
5. Keep it Tight
With growing companies, Branson identifies a challenge in keeping that family feel. “The challenge as you get bigger is not to become so big that you become just like another one of the big carriers,” he explains. “Trying to stay small while getting bigger is very important. Any company that has more than 250 people in a building is in danger of starting to become impersonal. In an ideal world, 150 people are the most that should be working in one building and in one organization, so that everyone knows each other and knows their names.” The same can be said for team building events. They have to be inclusive of everyone and encourage cooperation. Ensure your staff days out in London encourage team cooperation with events such as The Thriller Experience, where your team will need to be in-sync to learn the dance moves of the legendary Michael Jackson hit while dressed as zombies!