team building means making everyone win

Team Building: New Games, Activities, Strategies, Ideas & Tips

What most people know about team building is playing outdoor games. Or in the time of the pandemic, playing virtual games to be happy and forget life’s miseries. Team building is like an opium.

Team building is a business strategy. It can turn both ordinary and high performing members into multipliers. It is important that you keep this in mind.

Here’s a starter guide to team building. Make the most of it.

Team Building Defined

Team building is often a wasted opportunity. Worst, some managers purchase team building packages as if team building is an over-the-counter drug. Many team-building games destroy teamwork, build mistrust, and are unsafe. When not handled correctly, team-building efforts may create more significant problems than what it purports to solve.

Filipinos have different experiences when it comes to team building. The purposes depend on who wants to do team building.

For most employees, team building refers to the activities, usually games, outside of the office to help team members build rapport. Event organizers and venue owners sell these game packages.

For the team leader, team building is an opportunity to educate the team about the organization’s goal, a chance to motivate team members, and an avenue to fix common team problems.

For the human resource department, team building is an intervention. When teams are not achieving their objectives, some HR professionals recommend team building as a solution.

For many organizations, team building is an expense. It has no measurable return on investment. And if they have a way to make people understand this, they won’t do any team building.

For champion organizations, team building is an essential strategy that may give them a competitive advantage. Team building may help them improve team performance.

Team Building - and competencies and interventions in building teams

What is team building?

Team building is a process of inspiring, equipping, and enabling team members to work well together and deliver results. Members of a team have unique but complementary skills and talents, but they come with different values, working styles, and beliefs. Team-based organizations expect a team to produce more and perform better when working together than individually.

Team building starts at the forming stage; it ends when a team gets disbanded. Team building, therefore, is not a once-a-year event of upmanship.

In this context, team building is a means to accelerate team success. It turns members into multipliers.

When done right, team-building experiences contribute to employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

The best learning experiences involve games. It is not games but the learning that builds the team.

Employee teams have been credited for everything from preventing labor unrest, innovating products and services, attracting new customers, and saving companies billions.

Why is team building not easy?

While teams can be an effective strategy to help any organization, it is not easy. Putting high-performing individuals together doesn’t guarantee that productive work will happen.

Individual performers bring a unique set of values, beliefs, skills, and ambitions. These differences frequently clash.

Some employees are resistant to teams. Many individual performers lack the competence to work with others. So, you ought to be very careful.

Let me tell you about Ana’s experiences in team building.

Ana is a manager of a manufacturing company in Santa Rosa, Laguna. She’s been in the company for ten years. She has participated in as many team-building events sponsored by the company to “make people happy”. During the pandemic, the company opted not to conduct another team-building event.

The team building programs she had attended were all fun-filled. Most of the team building providers offered “silly” games. Some employees look forward to team building as they have the opportunity to see places and enjoy time away from work.

However, there are those who feel that the team building does not really do anything good for the organization.

People do not trust each other, that even while playing games they accused other teams of cheating. They don’t share information even with their teammates. Though people are very much involved in playing games, there is very low engagement at work.

Covid-19 was a great challenge to the organization. Some team members felt left out. They are anxious about their future in the organization.

Ana thinks team building is very important. But she does not want the same-old-same-old crazy games. Playing games without a compelling and clear purpose does not work.

The story of Ana is true for many managers. And even the pandemic, they found team building to be a puzzle.

Purposes of Team Building

Team building is a combination of interventions to inspire, equip, and enable a team to succeed. It is not just an event, a collection of games, or an intellectual concept. Team building initiatives fail when organizers focus on rituals but ignore reasons, are obsessed with activities but ignore applications, and think of games but forget goals.

You do not build the team the same way. Those who use a cookie-cutter approach to team building do not understand the purposes of team building.

You have read above some of the advantages of team building. Every team has a purpose for its existence. One can say that there are more than three purposes. I agree. 

You can put most of the purposes of team building in any of the purposes below. When conducting team building, it is best to imagine these three purposes in a Venn diagram. Look for the sweet spot.

Purpose #1: Growth

 When professionals apply for jobs, they look forward to the opportunities to shine, be on top, and be above others.

They have their dreams and aspirations long before they join teams. They hold values that are likely to differ from each other.

Team building initiatives must speed up personal and professional growth. Many team-building programs emphasize that there is no “I” in teamwork.

That is very wrong.

Individuals should not disappear in a team. In five star teams, team members become stars.

Give attention to their career growth too. Provide capable coaches and mentors. Help them achieve their dreams.

Allow uber-achievers to start their teams rather than keeping them to a team where there is no space for them to grow.

Purpose #2: Relationship

Experiences have shown that grouping together high performing individuals do not make high performing teams. Often, the product is less than the sum of its parts.

High performing individuals do not perform well when they work with people they do not trust and respect. They do not share knowledge and information with others who are threats to their success. They do not give their best shot when they know that others, not they, would be rewarded for their achievements.

Team building must build a trusting and collaborative relationship. It must convince members that each one plays an important role and they must complement each other. 

Give attention to team competencies that build relationships. These are interpersonal communication, diversity, and participative leadership.

Consider team attitudes like accountability, responsibility, respect, and trust.

Purpose #3: Achievement

The third purpose is to acclerate organizational success. Companies created teams to achieve specific organizational goals, and team building increases your team’s chances to succeed.

Team building programs run for the sake of fun are laughable. Team building exercises that emphasize competition but do not contribute to team goals are wasting time, money, energy, and opportunities.

Make your team building simple and powerful by making it purposeful.

traditional team building fails

Why does traditional team building fail?

Many managers view team building as an event to make employees happy.

Organizations all over the world invest billions in activities, games, and exercises. Many employees think team building is about exercises, games, and activities.

Team building isn’t just playing games. But many embrace this wrong belief. With no clear purpose, playing team-building games is often a wasted effort to build the team. But this is not the worst. What makes most teams fail is ineffective team building while working together.

Wise managers embrace team building as a process.

These managers don’t just make people play games for the sake of playing games. They use games, exercises, and tools to achieve specific results. They do team building to build trust, strengthen communication, and improve work processes. They use team building to resolve conflict. They use team building to enhance creativity, innovation, and teamwork skills.

Team building is an intervention. It helps ensure that a team achieves its purposes and goals.

team building creates synergy

How does team building work?

Typical team building events are one-day or multi-day offsites. Managers who prefer game-based events hire organizers to run their events. The goal is to build camaraderie, celebrate employees, and have fun.

Managers who want a result-oriented team building hire process facilitators. They solve problems together, find new opportunities, and exercise collaborative decision-making. Team facilitators use games, exercises, and tools.

Larger organizations have trainers who are comfortable leading team building session. Some HR practitioners can also run team-building sessions. Internal facilitators often have a better grasp of the needs of the team. They often interact with them and are familiar with the work objectives.

An external facilitator, on the other hand, can help them see things with fresh new eyes. But it is the team leader who has the most significant impact on building the team.

Members expect team leaders to lead in team building. Team leaders must ensure that team members get into the right team mindset and get new team skills. Team leaders can embed in every meeting team building activities. There are team activities that can be done in 15 minutes or less.

Many managers waste time and money when they buy “packages.”

Team building works when it achieves personal, social, and organizational objectives. It is vital that team building bring about behavioral change.

three colorful bulbs

How to design team building?

You can follow the 6-D Approach to designing team building programs.

Define. Be clear about your goals for your team-building efforts. Align your team-building efforts with your strategic direction.

Discover. Find out where your team is now. Your inquiry must focus on the strengths of your teams. Listen to you what your team members say. Focus on their strengths and give more attention to what you can do now.

Design. Having identified opportunities, look for a combination of solutions. There are many solutions to specific challenges.

Develop. Create team-building exercises that fit behavioral change. Tailor-fit handouts, certificates, props, and training materials to achieve the best results.

Deliver. Run your team building activities.

Destiny. Follow-through sessions help you achieve your goals.

How to pick the right team games?

Almost all group sports promote teamwork. But you must be very careful in choosing your sports metaphor for team games.

Because how you win the game is a metaphor for how you want people to achieve corporate goals.

You do not want a divided workplace. But every time you choose games that make one team wins and other teams lose, most of your team members will feel like losers. When you process the games’ result, you cannot merely say that one group did not win because their members have less or no teamwork.

(In obstacle courses or tag o’ war, those who are physically strong almost always wins).

Not all competitive games are healthy.

You don’t want your employees to compete against each other. You want them to collaborate so they can serve your customers together.

To be number 1 in your industry, you do not have to kill your competitors.

To be number 1, you have to delight your customers so they will choose you every time. You do not set your eyes on your competitors all the time. Set your sights on your customers. Communicate well with your team members to deliver excellent service as a team.

Choose games that will show the team how they can be quick and reliable in serving customers.

In real life, you will not die when you make mistakes. You can use your mistakes to enhance your skills and serve your customers better.

If you have teams like customer support, marketing, production, and operations, don’t choose a game that makes other team members losers.

There are better alternatives to killing each other in a game.

team building facilitators make team building easier

Team Building Facilitators

Team leaders have two main jobs: facilitate and lead. Team leaders need to learn how to run practical team building sessions.

However, there are times when a team leader needs to get another person to design and lead team-building activities for his or her team.

You can hire professional team building facilitators. They invest time in understanding team dynamics and designing experiences for teams. They use tools that enhance team engagement. A facilitator may help you ensure that you follow a process that will bring you your desired results.

Team Building Venues

The best team building venues are those which, when used, support the purposes of your team building initiatives and create remarkable experiences for your team.

In the Philippines, most venues sell team building packages. Actually, team building packages are like student field-trip packages offered to those who want to play games outside of the typical accommodations. The purposes of your team do not matter to them. Because even though some of these venues have resident team building facilitators, they’ll work as game masters.

You will have fun. You will get tired. You will go home with a memory of playing “team building games” with co-workers. You are hoping that team building happened.

Well, sometimes, you’ll see an improvement in the relationship. But the mere fact that you are just hoping for positive results tells us that we are not using team building to solve team challenges.

In truth, the venues’ real uses are not the “team-building packages”. Professional team building facilitators can design the learning environment you need. Of course, it is best if the venue has facilities for team games. Better if they also consult experts.

But you are old enough to know this. You can make your team building an opportunity for team learning.


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