Planning a useful team building event can be a challenge, but these seven steps will help you to ensure that your people enjoy not only a great time, but also benefit from insights and lessons that they can apply to workplace interactions.So, here are your seven steps to planning a useful team building event:1. Decide what you want to accomplish. This is the most important part of the event – the preparation and deciding what your day of team building activities should provide as take-aways for your people. Sometimes, you can make a little progress with building rapport with a weekly bonding session or fun de-stressing opportunity to laugh or learn together. But if you do not have experience facilitating team-building activities, or if you want a more thorough and productive set of outcomes, consider hiring a team-building trainer.A good team-building coach can create cohesiveness and improve communications within your staff using a set of customized games and challenges. The person should be high-energy and focus mainly on experiential exercises (not lecturing) that will provide the take-aways your group needs!2.Choose a budget and a location. Once you know what you want your team building day to accomplish, you need to decide on a location and a budget to ensure those goals are achieved. If you are looking to reward your employees for successfully completing a big project, you may want an off-site location. Do you want them to get to know each other and work through personality differences or communication issues? Once you have the goal for the day and a general budget in mind, you can schedule an activity for the location that best fits those needs.3. Schedule it for an appropriate time. Employees will always be more receptive to a team building day of activities if it is held during work hours and does not interfere with their valuable personal time. When you schedule the event, keep your employees’ schedules and other obligations in mind. You may also want to consider the current calendar or any ongoing projects. The best time to “build” your team or identify and work through issues is before that project gets underway – or before a big change is undertaken. Many schools look for dates at the beginning of their semesters to allow their staff to work better together.4. Make it special. Fun and unique experiences are the best ways to bring your team closer together. Many people are only interested in giving their people a chance to interact outside the normal confines of their office relationships. There is certainly a value in providing “bonding” experiences.True “Team Building,” though, involves experiential learning activities that are both enjoyable and unique AND can be used as a catalyst for discussions and insights that can be applied to everyday interactions to improve organizational culture. Think about the interests and fitness levels of your employees when deciding on a “fun” activity… and if you want a more impactful event, consider a business team building day of more focused and meaningful challenges.5. Leave job titles at the door. One of the most important keys to creating a successful team building day is for all employees to feel like they are on equal footing, regardless of their positions back at the office. Emphasize to your people that office titles do not exist during the team building activities. Everyone should be encouraged to leave their ego in their back pocket! Coming in on equal footing and with no perceived subordinates or supervisors allows others who normally may not take the initiative to illustrate their leadership style and fosters better communication and more creativity.6. Identify who needs to “grow together.” Every team and organization has at least one or two people that struggle to communicate well or rub others the wrong way. If you have a “sandpaper person” in your group, it may pay dividends to plan ahead and arrange your people into the specific groups that most need to interact together and build better relationships.If there are any team personality types in the group that is clashing with another person or department, give them the opportunity to grow together by placing them in the same group. Being forced to overcome an obstacle or come up with creative solutions or learn more about each other’s background often work wonders and strengthen rapport between team members who have struggled to interact productively in the past!7. Get feedback. Two or three weeks after the event, ask your people to provide anonymous feedback about the team building day. This can provide valuable information for you to plan similar or more successful events in the future. Team building is like bridge maintenance – it is ongoing and never fully complete, as there are always relationships that can be strengthened and leadership skills that can be learned or improved.By finding out what your group liked and disliked about the event, or what they have been able to apply to improve your organizational culture, you can address their concerns and re-evaluate your goals to meet other needs with future events.The true value of a team building day is not the enjoyment and engagement your people experience in the midst of the activities. It is not even the laughter or light hearted lowering of stress levels that you should most want to hear about.A quality team building event should also provide your people with the tools and insights to make modifications to their daily interactions, priorities, and attitudes.The return on your investment will be determined by your thorough attention to each of these seven steps – and if you are intent on creating a useful team building event, you will enjoy the success that good preparation promises…Team building offers a fun, safe, non-threatening way to improve communication, teamwork, and leadership skills with the laughter and lessons that interactive group activities provide.