Team building is a process of inspiring, equipping, and enabling team members so they can work well together and deliver results. Team building is a means to improve team performance so your company will achieve its objectives.
Those who fail to build teams ended up with dozens of problems, including mistrust, blaming, indifference, low productivity, and sabotage.
Great 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.
What Is Team Building?
Team building is a collective term for developmental interventions that include training, games, activities, and other experiences sponsored by organizations to form, build, and strengthen teams. Most team-building activities intend to build camaraderie, build trust, develop harmonious relationships, and upgrade team skills.
Competency-based team building programs enable team members to acquire team skills vital to success.
Team building is not about playing games. All activities must be about helping the team to succeed for the minimum time and least effort.
Filipinos have different experiences when it comes to team building. The purposes depend on who wants to do team building.
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.
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. 1 Because team building is a training program, you can measure your ROI. 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 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.
Team Building Is Simple, 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 team building does not really do anything good for the organization.
People do not trust each other, and 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.
3 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.
1. It Promotes Individual 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.
2. It Improves 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.
3. It Drives Achievement
The third purpose is to accelerate 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.
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 sessions. 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.
Traditional Team Building Often 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.
How to design team building?
You can follow the 6-D Approach to designing team-building programs. 2 The 6-D Approach focus on what already works. It prefers the positive.
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.
24 Practical Team Building Ideas
How to Start
Your first ten ideas are proven ways of building a compact team. Many team leaders do not know how to get started. Follow these ten ideas, and you will be able to start at once.
1. Show that you care.
Teams are composed of people who come from different backgrounds. Each has beliefs, values, pains, and aspirations. Teams are like families. Members want to know that you care for them.
So, you’ve got to be patient and persevering. Do your best to listen to each other. One way to do this is to find out more about each other outside of work. When you do, you will learn to appreciate each other.
2. Assume the best about people.
Because you come from different backgrounds, there are times that you will misunderstand each other. You will have conflicting interests. That happens even with family members. You can expect that it will also occur in your team.
To ensure that problems get quickly resolved, assume the best in people. Committed team members tend to be very passionate. Your difference in how you communicate and resolve issues can be fixed when you believe that people have good intentions.
3. Stop blaming; fix the problem.
When problems happen, it is common for many groups to zero in on the problem’s cause. When you start asking, “Who is at fault?” or “Who is accountable?” you are not trying to play safe. You are saying that you are not part of the problem, and therefore you have no business solving it.
But when you start asking, “How can we fix this problem today?” you are focusing on solving problems instead of passing the blame to someone. You stop the blame game and start fixing problems.
Building a team isn’t always easy. It would be best if you break old habits that force you to play safe, point your fingers at others, and blame them.
4. Focus on behaviors, not personality differences.
Most team problems happen because of personality differences. I have met many managers who have problems with people’s attitudes. What they actually mean is that they don’t understand the perspective of other team members. To say that a member has a “bad attitude” about work does not say much. It is a lazy label.
Focus on behaviors. You can correct how people behave, but you can only speculate about their attitude. Pointing out specific behaviors will help resolve a misunderstanding.
For example, if a team member is always silent during team meetings, you should tell that person your observation. Ask why. Seek to understand. It won’t help to label silence in meetings as “uncooperative.”
5. Make meetings productive.
Meetings are notorious time wasters. I work with an organization where supervisors are members of multiple teams. Some of those meetings run beyond an hour, often with unresolved and unfinished agendas. Now imagine if you have six teams.
Make shorter meetings. You can have stand-up meetings of 10 minutes. Ensure that you only talk about important matters. Avoid unnecessary details and lengthy debates. You don’t need to master parliamentary procedures. It is enough that your meeting runs smoothly.
You don’t have to invite everyone. Involve only those people who have to be in the meeting.
You don’t have to meet if a one-on-one conversation or an email can do.
6. Focus on the end goal.
You will encounter many obstacles when you are in a team. Challenges come from all directions. Hurdles and obstacles dishearten most of us.
We lose our energy and enthusiasm and get stressed about future failures.
You don’t have to ignore obstacles. You don’t have to forget past mistakes. But just like driving a car, pay more attention to your destination. Focus on the end goal.
7. Involve members in problem-solving.
A manager said that leading her team is burdensome. Her team members send every problem for her to solve, even though they can solve those problems themselves. They don’t want to get the blame.
You don’t have to solve every problem. You won’t be able to do productive work if you spend more time solving your team members’ issues.
Involve members in problem-solving. Make it clear that you want to empower them. You are not avoiding problems, and you only want to focus on issues that only you can solve.
And if they come to inform you of work issues, encourage them to bring their solutions.
8. Develop collaborative problem solving skills.
Some members cannot solve problems because they don’t have problem-solving skills.
One purpose of a team is to solve one company problem. You will ensure success if all of your members develop problem-solving skills.
I daresay that everyone has patterns of solving problems. Some are passive, and others are aggressive. Most people like to solve problems on their own.
You can sponsor a team-building session on collaborative problem-solving. You can choose activities that can serve as metaphors for problem-solving skills you need at work. You can teach them better if you can come up with simulation games.
9. Know your roles and purpose.
I did a role clarification session for a government agency. During the session, members discovered that they were actually not working based on their mandate. They spent most of their time accomplishing tasks assigned to them by bosses who are not their immediate supervisors. Because they were trying to please bosses in the office, they failed to do their jobs.
I am not sure if the session changed the way they worked.
I am sure that teams fail to achieve their objectives when roles and responsibilities are not clear. It was like everyone wants to appear busy to justify their salaries.
If you are a team leader, ensure that everyone is sure about roles and responsibilities. When you create your team charter, clarify how each role contributes to the achievement of your goals.
10. Focus on results.
Most people focus on “busy work,” not on results. Members complain about being tired at the end of the day but have no outcome to show. If you have a team charter, you have something to remind the team about your end goal.
Every work is a step towards the destination, to the achievement of the goal.
Cancel your meeting if it won’t contribute to the improvement of results. You don’t have to do your Friday team building session if it does not improve the team’s performance. Activities only matter when it brings positive results.3 Effective team building improves business performance.
Team building is both art and science. You will lead your team your way. You can also learn from the experiences of other teams. You can study the best practice. Yes, you can go to school with the winners.
11. Visit successful team-based organizations.
There are successful teams that can show you how winning gets done. This method is called best practice research.
Before you visit team-based organizations, make a list of your challenges. You will interview teams to determine how they handled those problems or problems similar to what you now have.
Consider also other problems they faced and how they handled each. One of these days, you might face the same issues – and you want to be ready when you get there.
12. Go to conferences of team-based organizations.
There are industry-wide conferences where you will get information about employee engagement, handling employees of a particular generation and profession, and team-based management.
Not only are conferences great for making new friends, but they also provide you with an education that you won’t get while busy working with your teammates.
No one person is the “expert” in team building. But learning from the collective wisdom of those who are handling teams will provide you with expert-level solutions.
13. Form study groups.
One best way to get your people involved in team building is to form study groups. You make everyone responsible for creating a high-performing team.
You can explore the steps in action learning. By teaching your team members how to answer their questions about team-building, they will work to improve teamwork while working.
Or you can assign your study groups a particular topic. For example, they can read the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Leoncini. Each week they can discuss one dysfunction — and share their thoughts on how to apply what they learned.
14. Learn about different types of teams.
Different types of teams require specific competencies. Some teams are composed of people coming from sections or departments. Some are members of different team types.
When you understand each team type’s dynamics, you will be able to adapt from one team to another.
15. Get team building education.
You can get a team-building trainer to introduce you to team competencies. Not everyone is adept at working with other people. By helping your people get the skills they need, you will be helping them become better team players.
You can find videos on Youtube where practitioners talk about team skills like interpersonal communication, collaborative decision-making, role clarification, and goal identification. These are free education you can forward to your team members.
16. Champion the “team concept.”
We are one. That’s a good slogan. A good team concept too. You are working in one direction and you desire that each person will recognize that.
The action of one will affect everyone.
Promoting a team concept goes beyond your slogan. Consider practices that will reinforce a team concept.
17. Learn Systems Thinking.
The action of one will affect everyone. Systems thinkers know this to be true. We are all parts of a system. We influence each other, though some have more influence than most.
As a learning strategist, I discovered a title or a place in the organizational hierarchy does not determine one’s influence in the workplace. A company drive may have more effect in forming the attitude of team members than the company CEO. Words matter. Action matter.
Every single part of a system does matter. You can learn more about Systems Thinking here.
Team Building 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.
18. You do not want a divided workplace.
But every time you choose games that make one team win 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 tug o’ war, those who are physically strong almost always wins).
19. 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.
20. Choose games that unleash the potential of your members.
You can unleash the potential of your team by picking the right team games.
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 Venue
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.
21. Team building packages don’t build teams.
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 those who created the packages. 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.
22. Use venues to create the right learning experiences.
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. So, before you pick a venue, talk to your team-building facilitator.
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.
23. Ask experts to design and facilitate your team building.
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.
24. Facilitators focus on results.
You can get team-building facilitators to help you build customer-driven teams, make champion sales teams, encourage open and honest communication, and many more.
Professional facilitators pay more attention to vital behaviors that drive results. They design games and team-building activities as behavior-changing experiences.
Here are the eight benefits you will enjoy when you get team-building facilitators.
Team Building Articles
Your team charter can help build team commitments. It is like you are creating your Team Rules, only visual. In your team charter, you will showcase your team’s roles, responsibilities, goals, values, and purposes.
Most people think of accountability when they look for someone to blame for bad results. That’s not accountability. It shows a lack of accountability. Find out what team accountability means.
Begin by asking tough questions. The kind of questions you ask will lead you to the answers you need. Here are seven questions every team leader can ask to clarify team purpose.
Individual members cannot commit to team goals they do not know. They cannot perform a role they are clueless about. Therefore, people need to understand their role in the scheme of things.
Many professionals fail to work as one because they lack team awareness. Find out how you can promote team awareness in your organization.
You pay attention to your intention to build a harmonious team relationship. Communicate concisely and convincingly. Every team member must fully understand your purposes when you communicate with them.
Team building is not just about the bottom line. It is also an opportunity for members to find meaning in what they do. You can inspire your people and encourage them to commit to each other, to your customers, ad the future they care about.
It is a common mistake that work is impersonal. Given that more than one-half of your waking life is dedicated to working, it is not sensible to say that there is nothing personal about work. Team building is personal. You have to build a trusting environment if you want to succeed.
Team building is like a renewal of vows. It is not just a day to chill out and relax. Instead, it is an excellent opportunity to remind your team members of the reasons for your existence.
Most team-building programs fail because there is no plan. You don’t know the lag measure, and there is no lead measure. And you have team-building facilitators who are clueless about your team. You ought to plan for success if you want to build champion teams.
It is common to believe that members sacrifice their individual goals once they become part of the team. This thinking is dangerous. It has destroyed many groups. You have to honor personal goals if you want the team to succeed.
A team guideline your agreement. You make every role and responsibility clear. Most team leaders fail to do this because they assume everyone knows. They have their job descriptions anyway. Job descriptions will suffice if they have to work individually. But when you put people together, you need to define how everyone must work to achieve common goals.
Team building isn’t just about competition. Team building is more of enabling teams to communicate and collaborate effectively.
Playing outdoors is an excellent opportunity for team members to learn together. But for them to develop skills and competencies, they don’t have to prove their physical ability to get things done. You intend to clarify mindsets and build skills, not to find one winner.
Your team cannot go beyond the team leader’s reach. Often, it is the team leader that models the way. Ineffective team leaders need your support. Train them because you want them to become competent and confident.
Team games help in creating experiences that promote effective communication, collaboration, conflict management. But not all games build teams. So it is essential that you know which ones can help your team.
- 1Because team building is a training program, you can measure your ROI.
- 2The 6-D Approach focus on what already works. It prefers the positive.
- 3Effective team building improves business performance.