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What Is Good Team Building?

Team Building done right can create a huge boost to your team’s morale, productivity and job satisfaction. Team building done wrong can be a monumental waste of time and money… So, how do you ensure that the team building you choose is going to be worth the investment?

This is a great and important question, because there are a lot of ineffective team building activities out there. So first it’s important to define what it is to be “effective” as a team building activity!

What Is The Goal of Team Building?

What are you goals when you put together a team building day for your group?

The most successful companies in the world do team building, and having worked with many of them, I’ve had the unique opportunity to ask this question hundreds of times. After doing a lot of “intention setting” there are clear patterns to what the best companies are looking for:

  • Getting to know each other better / on a more personal level
  • Building Trust
  • Better Communication
  • Getting a clean break from work
  • Learning something new that they can take back and apply
  • Learning to collaborate better / synergy
  • Become aware of each other’s hidden strengths
  • Provide opportunities to lead
  • Having fun together
  • Building memories together

These are probably the most common responses to this question.  So if you’re going to bother to do team building, you want to make sure you hit those notes and accomplish those goals.


So What Is Good Team Building?

Good team building activities will challenge your entire team, forcing them to work together collaboratively to overcome obstacles and solve problems. A good team building activity will provide each team member with the opportunity to both lead and follow, to reach collective decisions and plan together. There will be an intention set at the beginning of the day, so that everyone’s on the same page and understands the value of what they’re going to be doing.

Everyone should be challenged, and have fun… after all, having fun together is the best way to bond! But the fun shouldn’t just be frantic mindless busy work or just goofy pointless running around.

You want your teams to be forced to come up with a plan, a plan which they may have to adapt based on changing requirements and circumstances.

You want your members to be challenged on multiple levels, and to have to work together to solve problems together.

You want to create obstacles to communication or execution which they must overcome together, and you want to create activities that have more than just one solution.

What Kinds Of “Team Building” Activities Don’t Accomplish These Goals?

Poorly executed team building activities tend to be based on a simplistic activity that essentially is just a way to eat up time and keep people occupied, while providing no real benefits.  These may accomplish one or two things from our “team building” list, like they may make people do silly things that make everyone else laugh, but there is no lasting benefit, and mostly these types of activities are just wasting people’s time.

An example of this kind of activity is the typical “Minue To Win It” (and other TV show recreations) where participants just run around mindlessly completing tasks that don’t require communication, collaboration, trust, or working together…. It’s just a bunch of silly activities that might make people laugh (or stress them out) with no real lasting benefit or take-away.

Turning A Bad Team Building Activity Into A Good One…

For example, the typical “build a bike” challenge is honestly pretty boring the way most people run it. You get together, and you build a bike. No big deal. Then you decorate it with a bunch of decorations and tape and other junk that makes it no longer like new, and much less of a prize for the unfortunate children who the bikes are donated to later.

The bike building portion is really only done one way, and that’s something that only two or maybe three people can work on at the same time, and takes maybe 7 minutes to complete. Blah.

The way we run our philanthropic bike build (Cycles of Change) is quite different… First: we don’t have team members ruin the newness of the bike by putting a ton of junk on it. When the les-fortunate kids get their donated bikes, they’re in like-new condition!

Second, we don’t just give them the parts to the bikes.  Instead, we break them into teams, and they have to EARN the different parts of the bike as well as the tools to put it together, through a series of team challenges, puzzles and activities that require team work, collaboration, communication, and yes… HAVING FUN!

Once the bikes are put together, there are tire-pumping challenges and a cryptography cypher challenge that must be solved to unlock the bike.  Finally, we end with a hilarious relay-race and donate the bikes to the charity of choice.

This is a great example of taking a relatively boring team building that doesn’t keep more than a couple of people engaged per team, and requires a very low-level of effort or collaboration, into a very engaging team building day that is fun, memorable, and accomplishes our goals.

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