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3 Things to Remember for Better Team Building Activities

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Better team building activities

Why do team building activities fail? Answer: Most lack planning. A leader, for example,  decides that his or her team needs to be more cohesive. It is agreed upon that the team will do some team building. So they hire a “team building expert” to come in and do some activities. The problem isn’t necessarily the activities, but the lack of planning and understanding what the teams needs are.

Here are three important things to consider when doing team building activities.

1. What is the reason you feel your team needs team building activities? Is it a lack of trust on your team? Conflict that focuses away from the issues? Communication breakdowns? Apathy? Team problem solving skills? Are you clear on the reasons your team isn’t doing as well as you would like and why you want to do a team building activity? You might find that you have bigger issues than you realized and that doing team building activities is the least of your concerns. Conducting a solid assessment to find out where your team’s gaps are is worth your time.

2. What are the goals? Once you understand the purpose for team building, then setting specific goals that can be measured is the next step. Having goals like “We want our team to be more unified” will not be as effective as “Our team will increase healthy productive conflict in the next year that is centered on issues and that is respectful of people’s opinions and ideas. Having a goal like this now allows you to create a team building activity that is more focused and measurable.

3. Are you measuring? Once you have identified the reason for team building and have goals in place the next step is to ensure you are measuring your success. In the previous goal “Our team will increase healthy productive conflict in the next year that is centered on issues and that is respectful of people’s opinions and ideas,” can be measured by simply sending out a survey assessing team member’s perceptions on the quality of meeting discussions. Do they feel the discussions are focused on the issues? Does everyone feel comfortable enough to say what they feel? If not, why? There are a number of questions that can be asked prior to team building activities and then asked again several months later to measure any improvement.

In conclusion, remember, doing team building for the sake of team building is a waste. And contrary to popular belief, one team building activity doesn’t mean that you will suddenly reach the Team Hall of Fame. Team building takes time. Knowing the reason you are doing team building activities, having goals in place and a way to measure your success is key.

What else would tell someone wanting to do team building? Do you even agree that team building activities are a good idea?

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Other Team Building Posts you might enjoy:

Team Building Exercise – Call me by name and throw the ball…

Is bringing in a new team member an opportunity for new ideas or new conflict?

Are team relationships really that important to teamwork?

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Leave a Comment

  • Stephen Pradeep E. January 20, 2011, 8:34 am

    Very true! Most team building activities are a tick-off on the Manager’s check-list. Useful tips for me to measure myself prior to my team’s next outing!

  • V G PATHAK January 20, 2011, 6:42 pm

    I completely agree with your views. In 26 years of my work experience, I conducted “team building sessions” thrice, but each one had it’s objective and was done to bring new members in a cohesive group. It succeeded and team performed with excellent results. Instead of fixing real issues, organising tea building sessions doesn’t ake sense.

  • Mike Rogers January 20, 2011, 7:55 pm

    Thanks Stephen and V G. It really makes a difference when you go into team building activities with a purpose.

  • Dan Grigore January 20, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Thanks for the information, Mike!
    Good tip with the measuring (despite sometimes could be a big challange…)!
    What else…?
    First, I do believe in team building activitites organized with an external specialist. We have to be aware that works only if there is already a “team” to work on.
    Second, I would add a following up (or feed back) step. As you said, team building needs time. Might be that following up and proper actions speed up the process.

  • Gloria Hausser, MBA January 20, 2011, 8:35 pm

    Right on. Often times the company hasn’t or doesn’t want to do the work to identify the issue. They just want a fix outside of themselves.

  • Mike Rogers January 20, 2011, 8:36 pm

    Great points Gloria. That is the problem. It takes effort, and I suppose a bit of courage to look at why you are doing what you are going. It is so much easier to ask someone else to help and try to fix the problem. Problem is it doesn’t work most of the time.

  • Mike Rogers January 20, 2011, 8:52 pm

    I like your additional step on following up Dan. All team building should include this step and more. There are additional team building activities that ought to be incorporated in most cases to continue to reinforce what you are trying to develop.

  • Carmen Ferme January 22, 2011, 10:57 am

    I do feel that Team Building activites can be and are effective and that the three items mentioned are critical to structuring an effective Team building session/day/activity. Especially when you have internal personalities that are causing alot of the friction at the workplace. Being “bossy” “dictatorial” “close minded” and most especially if this is tied to title. What the activities do is put people in an environment through the activity that is outside of the work structure and if the challenge is difficult enough, you see the personalities emerge and some of the possible sources of the conflict.
    In my experience as a Team building facilitator, people will behave the way they really do when put in an activity that challenges them either physically/mentally/emotionally.
    At this point, the value of the excercise lies in the hand of the facilitator. So I would add that as the 4th point. A skilled facilitator will observe the dynamics, make notes and observations, and then in the debrief ask the questions of the group that will help them to realize what either made them successful or made them fail. And I found that the teams that failed the excercise often walked away with the most insights and learnings. But only because of the debrief. It’s all in the debrief.

    • Katie Martin July 30, 2015, 7:29 pm

      Agreed on the significance of the debrief! Often times value of small group activities are lost without gathering participants as a whole for a report-out. Key learnings happen in small groups and activities, but they lose their momentum if not shared. The “lesson” comes forth in large group report-outs and discussion, participants’ way of “processing” the information.

  • Gloria Hausser, MBA January 22, 2011, 11:01 am

    Its human nature. We all want someone else to be the problem and for us to be the wonderful one. I had a client (thank goodness short term) who would say he vauled his team and want to create a great environment. In the next breath he would be yelling and disrespectful. The whole office was a disfunctional place. Needless to say the team building workshop did not end well and distrust was high.

  • Mike Rogers January 22, 2011, 11:00 am

    Agree Carmen. Good facilitation and debrief is critical. Many time activities are done without a debrief and the opportunity to learn from the experience is lost.

  • Mike Rogers January 22, 2011, 11:02 am

    Great points Gloria. I have seen this myself as I have facilitated workshops. Everyone wants the magic pill of team development, but without the support, buy-in and follow up of the leader it won’t work.

  • Eddie Marquez December 10, 2011, 1:24 am

    Eddie Marquez

    Major thankies for the blog post.Thanks Again. Will read on…

  • Anand Sagar June 19, 2013, 1:04 am

    Thanks Rogers for such wonderful & creative Team Building activities.

    I would request you to please suggest some activities for Interpersonal Skills.

    Anand Sagar

    • Michael Rogers June 19, 2013, 7:30 pm

      Your welcome Anand. I will keep that in mind.


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