Are team-building exercises fun, or something many employees feel “subjected to?” A recent NPR story chronicled some true—and truly disastrous—“weekend warrior” tales reminiscent of scenes from the classic NBC sitcom, The Office. Employees recounted everything from paintballing mishaps (don’t splatter your supervisor in a “sensitive area”) to being pelted with ricocheting Sacagawea gold dollar coins flying out of a demolished donkey piñata.
What interested us as much as the story were the 100-plus comments posted in response, the majority of which seemed to be by listeners who could certainly relate. Some cited corporate “narcissism” as underlying such debacles, and many lamented the large amount of money spent on the Rambo-esque functions.
We believe that real team-building should be a result of learning and using creative, cooperative ways to solve problems and make decisions. Then the team is able to build its “teamness” by doing great work—no safety goggles or helmets required.
Share your experience. Have you engaged in team-building exercises? How did it go? How do you think teams come to do great work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
8/19/2014 12:22:21 pm
We took a brand new team to an artisan chocolatier (after checking for allergies) where we took a class in making chocolates together. It was a day away at a busy time, but was highly successful in creating an environment where people were able to get comfortable with one another and relax into chatting and getting to know one another and their manager. Another advantage of this day was that it provided the team with a common reference point for future conversation and humorous anecdotes. A week later we did mbti with a facilitator and, again, that translated into information that the whole team referenced in the future. It opened up the conversation a little bit more. These days were well worth the investment.
8/20/2014 05:39:23 am
Thanks for this Kate. Can see how the artisan chocolate experience would be a relaxed way to bring a new team together -- and guessing the endorphins from the chocolate might have helped too:) The mbti would be more of an educational team experience that we referenced in our original post. Appreciate your insights.
Bobbi L Kamil
8/20/2014 02:41:25 pm
We have done a lot of out-of-the-office team building with CalStateTEACH and it always has an educational underpinning, but getting everyone away from the day to day grind and into a fun setting is a big part of what makes the educational objectives reachable. We keep it simple without testosterone contests!
8/21/2014 02:37:58 am
Agreed Bobbi: There is something about getting the group away from the day to day setting that lets great things happen. And to quote you it can be done with educational objectives and without testosterone contests!
8/21/2016 03:51:46 pm
Many people confuse "team building" with a different type of meeting/exercise, the collaborative problem solving and decision-making types of meetings you mention. Both have their place. I've found that in most cases, when someone calls me to ask if I can conduct a team building for their team, what they really want is the latter--to address real issues the team is struggling with. The first thing I will do when someone asks me to conduct a team building session is to find out what it is they really want. If it's truly team building, I will refer them elsewhere. One way I distinguish the two in my mind is whether the "problem" they will be trying to solve in the session is a real-life one related to their work, or something created as an activity to allow them to work on something together as a team.
8/22/2016 10:46:20 am
We have had the same experience. When people say they want "team building" they know they want the team to be stronger at the end of the session than before. Mostly, people are not clear about the path to that. Like you, we see team building as creating an experience where the team can feel successful together learning new skills that help them to solve real workplace issues. Thanks Melissa!
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