Tuesday, January 6, 2009 by Dave Blum

It’s funny how the most salient scavenger hunt ideas tend to come from conversations with clients.  I was on the phone yesterday with Dean Borgh of Wells Real Estate Funds.  Dean is the leader of a sales group scheduled to do a treasure hunt in the New Orleans French Quarter this coming Thursday. During our chat, he asked two interesting questions that are relate-able, I think, not only to scavenger hunts, but to most corporate team building activities as well.  He asked:

1) Should I put a manager on each team or create a separate team of managers?

2) Should I recognize the “winner” of the event with prizes?

My answers were as follows:

1) Managers:  If your purpose is to level the playing field and break down the barriers between managers and their staff, then absolutely put a manager on each team.  Team building exercises are an excellent place for team members to see their managers as real people, struggling along just like them.  The danger is that people may reflexively defer to their manager during the event; in such a situation, I encourage managers to take a more secondary role, allowing others to assume the leadership mantle on their team.

On the other hand, if your purpose is to build camaraderie amongst the team members themselves, then I recommend not mixing in managers.  Have leadership form their own team, or stay apart from the activity and observe.

2) Prizes:  Prizes are terrific for generating instant energy and excitement, but they have a dark side:  participants tend to concentrate more on earning prizes than on contemplating the activity’s learnings.   Moreover, prizes open the door for over-the-top gloating. (“We are the winners–you are losers!”)  And from my experience, people tend to complain that the prizes aren’t nice enough!  My advice is always, Ask yourself what is the purpose of the event.  If you want people to leave the day closer to each other and more bonded, then prizes might be counter-productive to those goals.  If you just want to have fun with a group of people who are not necessarily an ongoing team, then prizes are probably okay.  But do make sure everyone gets something!