Mention team building and you’ll see a lot of eye rolls. Mention that you’ve planned a team building event and the room will fill with groans. To a lot of people, team building feels like a corporate buzzword synonymous with forced participation, uncomfortable interaction and just a means to an end. Some think of it as purely a waste of time, taking them away from work they could be doing.
But if companies are spending billions on team building activities then there has to be something more to it, right?
The truth is that while many team building exercises can have value and improve a team’s performance, they more often than not fail because they are run poorly. That’s why it’s not only important to choose the right activity for your team, but also keep in mind the goals you want to achieve with it.
The first step for making your team building efforts effective is to clearly identify what you want to improve. Team building can include any number of activities and each serves different purposes, so choosing the right type of event or activity is very important. To do that, you have to know why you’re team building in the first place.
Think about what your goal for the team building is – What qualities do you want to focus on making stronger? Maybe you want to change some habits?
The reason team building doesn’t work as it’s intended to most of the time is because the person planning the event can’t answer those questions. Chances are they think “trust falls improve teamwork” and believe it, but they don’t know how it does it and or if it’s right for their team.
I think when people first hear the term “team building” they immediately go with the eye roll, yawn, and zombie walk to wherever their employee has scheduled it. I have seen and heard this too many times to count.
However when any program is delivered with passion, energy, purpose, FUN, and a little comedy it turns into an experience.
Those pieces when correctly delivered are what turn everyone in the room, including the zombies into active participants. Those participants than have a shared experience to look back on and feel connected with their coworkers.
– Paul Giroux, Director of Facilitator Training.
Think about whether there are problems between certain members, are they not fully utilizing their strengths and skills, is the communication between/within teams weak, are you working as a team or not?
Carefully thinking through these considerations lets you know the kind of activities that you should look into to address those problems you’ve identified.
Keeping these considerations and goals in mind, narrow down the top team building activities you think would benefit your team the most, but would also engage them. After all, if you choose the best team building program, but it can’t capture anyone’s attention then it still won’t work.
All for one and one for all?
Now, team building is usually broken down into two categories: competitive and non-competitive. It seems rather contradictory to have a competitive team building event when you’re trying to create a more cohesive team. But if that’s true, then why are there competitive team building activities being offered to companies at all?
Some argue that competition can bring a team together. When you’re on a team, you’re driven to win and by association, you work better with your team in the hopes of bringing the whole team to victory. Others say that competition does nothing besides teach people to compete and that defeats the purpose of the exercise.
I think most people will agree that the results of a competitive team building exercise largely depends on the specific group doing it and how well it’s facilitated. The key to having a competitive event is the facilitation for it and whether the activity can be tailored correctly for your team, as well as whether your team is ready for it or not. After all, you wouldn’t want to pit teams that are already having issues with communication and working together, against each other.
“But team building is so boring!”
There are plenty of unique team building experiences that you can look into for your next team meeting. Sure they’re probably fun but don’t count on them always improving your team dynamics. Or building them at all. When an event is too focused on fun, they don’t incorporate lessons on how to work together, achieve goals, or focusing on an individual’s strengths. They just promote a shared positive experience between your team, which to be fair could improve relationships within your team, but not necessarily building teams. The issue is that programs that only focus on providing fun, don’t provide the needed tools to do your work better or more efficiently which is a big goal of team building.
In fact, a lot of people don’t even like these fun activities. While they like fun, they might not be entirely comfortable with improv or spotlight driven games. This could actually damage the work environment when you force people to participate in situations where they didn’t sign up for it or aren’t comfortable with it at all. This makes already existing gaps between people larger – the opposite of what team building intends to do.
Be diligent in making sure that the team building exercises you choose include an element of teaching and providing skills that can apply to the job, not just something fun.
It always seems that our programs defy and exceed initial expectations. People brace themselves for some “mandatory fun” with something like trust falls and are relieved to discover that our programs are actually fun and give them a chance to interact with colleagues in new and energetic ways and even compete in fun ways.
– Christian Galpin, lead facilitator.
Remember that proper team building depends on the honest cooperation of the participants. If employees or management start to feel like the whole thing is a joke or not worth their time, then they won’t accept the experience. It won’t have the same positive effect it would’ve otherwise, it’ll just be a bit of fun with no real effect overall.
The TeamBonding Difference
Team building doesn’t have to be elaborate, or anything completely out of the norm. You don’t need to take your whole office on a week-long fancy retreat to center yourselves. Effective team building can be done right in your office or a local venue of your choice.
Most importantly, implement team building exercises that contribute toward your goals. Depending on what you’re looking to achieve or improve, do the best activity for it. If you want your team to communicate better then play communication games. If you want them to be more creative than play a game rooted in creativity.
The best team building is about turning play into an experience and that’s the TeamBonding difference. When you make those experiences is when people stop on the way out and comment –
“I hate team building, but this was awesome..”
“I normally hate these things, but you made it fun..”
“I’ve done hundreds of these, but nothing like this..”
It’s about turning play into an experience and that’s the TeamBonding difference.
– Paul Giroux.
In this series of articles, we take a few minutes to chat with a member of the TeamBonding team so you can get an idea of the sort of people we are. In this installment, we talked to Nancy, our Controller about her favorite food group, time travel, and her favorite historical leaders.
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