Team Building: Good or Evil

How many times have you been involved in team building exercises? When someone says we are going to do a team building activity, what are your first thoughts? For the most part, I bet everyone is thinking, here we go again… I have seen data that says about 65% or higher feel they are a waste of time and money. About 25% thought they are effective with the right exercise. For me, I lean towards team building activities can be effective if we put the right exercise with what the teams needs are…

You have to know what you want to accomplish, so that you can insure the right results. There are three major categories – see below.

  • Recreational Team Building: Change the way people feel (to entertain, re-energize, socialize, teach and learn new skills)
  • Educational Team Building: Change the way people feel and think (to gain awareness of needs, to add knowledge, to understand new ways to look at old or familiar concepts differently)
  • Developmental Team Building: Change the way people feel, think, and behave (by increasing positive functional behavior, by improving interpersonal relationships)

We all know that there are struggles with team building. So, why do a lot of team building programs not work?

  • Lack of reflection = this defeats awareness. Think back to your last team building exercise, do you all talk about what happened, what could have gone better, what you learned and how it can apply back at the office?
  • The presence of resistance = if you go into the exercise with not wanting to do it – you are defeating intent. Going through the motions is not going to help you learn and grow.
  • Roadblocks to moving forward = with any team building exercise, it all goes back to how everything applies back at the office. If there are roadblocks that exist to moving forward, you are not going to be successful.

Making team building effective is not easy. How can you make team building work for you.

  • Spend time really evaluating your team for its level of teamwork and needs. Doing team building to put a check in your teams objectives is not going to work. If you can’t self assess your team, ask the team or ask your key customers what their impressions are.
  • Pick the right activity for your assessment of what you want to work on.
  • Set up the team with the what, who and why of team building… Make sure that your team is prepared to participate.
  • Get someone to facilitate the activity. You should be in the activity with them, not looking over them.
  • Reflect at the end.. Ask those open-ended questions, what happened, what could have been better, how does this apply back at the office and so on. Make sure to circle back on the what and why’s that you attempted to accomplish in the first place.
  • Document and share the results. Always good to capture the reflections and share them with your team. Especially on those items that the team wants to take back to the office.

I have done a lot of team building over the years. Some where really good exercises with some really good results. Others were not so good. Team building should not be a “here we go again” first thought. Team building should be exciting and the team wants to do.