‘Team Building’, seriously WTF!?
Firstly, why are we making people do things they don’t like?
Almost a 3rd of employees ‘don’t like it’, which is a euphuism really after reading some of the feedback online (its not hard to find).
“Every year we have some stupid team building event. Everyone hates them. Sad part is that management truly thinks they are doing us a favor by hosting them, and stand their beaming at us with such a look of satisfaction. We endure them, and fly home thinking what a waste of time.”
“This “catch me while I fall backwards” crap is utter nonsense.”
“..sometimes it can actually be interesting, but usually stupid and a waste of time. Add the stress of knowing that management is watching to see that everyone is doing it enthusiastically”
“Been through it all. Team building, high performance teams, self-directed teams, etc. Mostly a waste of time. It was more like forming a group and then be manipulated by management for their own means and goals. Not ours.”
It’s not the ‘I don’t like it’ part that’s questionable, but whether it could ever be effective (and worse, be counterproductive) if you’re making people do things they don’t want to do.
After researching to write Team Building 101, it’s pretty obvious why people don’t like it. It seems that 80% of ‘team building’ is made up of ‘fun’ games, ‘ice breakers’, problem & puzzle solving and awkward activities.
Why are we are being asked to step out of our comfort zones and be vulnerable with people we don’t know, people we don’t trust and potentially people we don’t like.
It’s feels forced, fake, awkward, uncomfortable and it’s sometimes embarrassing!
“Begin by asking each participant to close their eyes for one minute and consider the best moments of their lives.”
“The volunteer zombie will be tied to the rope in the corner of the room”
Why are we being asked to have physical, intimate contact with people we barely know?
“Pairs sit back-to-back, arms linked and have to stand up together.”
“the person in the centre of the circle (the willow) is gently passed around the circle in any direction by the spotters. “
Why are being asked to get ‘creative’ (often when it’s not their strength) with people we can’t be sure won’t judge us, won’t reject us?
“pretend they are the persona of their favourite animal or car”
“choose, rehearse, and perform a lip-synced version of whatever work-friendly song they like”
It’s also difficult to understand how these efforts can be effective in building stronger bonds between people.
Apart from having ‘AWKWARD’ written all over it, what do you ‘know’ about someone after letting them lead you blind around an obstacle course or a trust fall?
#One : You ‘know’ they’re a non-sadistic human being, for not letting you crack your head open on the floor or walk off a cliff.
#Two : You can trust they have the competence to physically hold you up.
These are basic levels of human civility. If you think that this level of trust is missing and needs to be improved, I would suggest you have a far greater problem on hand than an inefficient team.
What trust has been developed in team building activities that involve fun games, activities, learning experiences and problem-solving tasks?
Trust in your competence to puzzle solve, follow instructions, kick a ball, cook a meal..
Trust in your ability to cooperate in a no-risk, stress free, no-pressure, fun environment..
Trust that you have basic manners to be polite, supportive or kind..
How does that low level ‘trust’ translate to real change in the workplace?
Hit & Hope!
Recreational team building is popular, and it seems that most companies go into these activities with a ‘hit & hope’ strategy which typically goes like this; we want to build better team bonds, so we’ll get them to participate in an activity together and hopefully they’ll have positive exchanges that will foster a deeper relationship that will have carry on benefits after the event.
Fun activities that help people see each other in a different light allowing them to connect in a different setting.
Such a passive, un-focussed approach, when resources are limited and relationships potentially fragile, is costly. That’s not to say there could be benefits, but surely what we should be engaging in are activities that are focused, effective and provide maximum value for the limited time and money being invested.
Is Winners vs Losers A Good idea?
In any competitive activity that has winners, there will also be ‘losers’. Is it worth having winners, at the expense of also having losers? Half of your team is exhiliarant, while the other is defeated..
I need our team to work together. So, let’s go kick the crap out of each other in this intense, highly competitive team building event.
3 reasons why you should reconsider competitive ‘team building’;
· #1 Studies show that we learn less when we compete and more when we cooperate · #2 Competing can drown out the value and focus of cooperation · #3 Competing can bring the worst out in people, exaggerate people’s insecurities or bravado.
Where to from here?
‘Team Building’ needs a make over.
Stop putting people in awkward situations that they’re expected to like and ‘grow from’.
Improving capability needs professional, focused developmental actitivities.
Building relationships is an organic process, that requires exchange of information and value to build understanding, trust, empathy, crediblity and respect. It can take weeks, months or years to learn about each other and strengthen a relationship if you’re not exchanging the right information.
If you want to take you team from good to great with team building, a few things are really important:
Know your people if you want to pick effective team building exercises.
Know your problem and/or objective if you want to pick effective team building excercises.
Understand the relationships that exist so that you choose team building activities suited to the level of confidence and trust.
Recreational activities are great for boosting morale, firing up motivation or letting off some pressure so your team can relax, regroup and re-energize. But it’s a hit & hope approach when it comes to being effective at strengthening relationships and it’s highly inefficient for people that don’t already have a certain level of trust or connection.
Competing can be fun, and it can build camaraderie, but it must be well suited to the team and your objectives.
STOP making people do things they don’t want to do.