Team building: What's the point?

Published By Mike Jackson, 1 Jan 2018



Team building: What's the point?

Anyone managing a group of people will know how important team cohesion is to success. Whether it's part of a massive corporate or a small business, effective team working can only add value. Top business psychologist Robert Myatt, director of Kaisen Consulting, explains some of the dos and don'ts involved in taking part in a successful team building event.


Looking at these events from the perspective of a Business Psychologist, team-building can be very powerful way of creating or improving teams, but on the other hand events can be a very expensive, time consuming and potentially embarrassing office jolly.  Making a success of team-building comes down to the reasons for running the event, and then, most importantly, making sure that all the activities are directly related to achieving these objectives; even if the event involves falconry or learning the recorder.


Team-builds are useful in three contexts; firstly, to accelerate the formation of new teams.  Organisations are forever changing structures, merging, removing and replacing leaders, and as a result, teams are constantly being formed and reformed.  A well-designed team build can speed up the ‘getting to know you’ process and lead to individuals becoming a cohesive unit more quickly.  Then you have dysfunctional teams; sometimes the tensions are running so high that the simplest team-working exercises don’t get done.  A team-build can help relieve the pressures and determine more useful ways of working together.  Finally, as things change within organisations, so do things in the outside world.  New competitors, changes in customer-orientations and economic pressures mean that teams occasionally need to re-focus their efforts.  A team-building event can be a concentrated session to achieve this re-alignment.


The team works



Research shows that three things make a high performing team tick:



  • Quality of relationships; do team members know each other well, can they learn to appreciate others’ strengths and accommodate their preferred working styles?

  • Team potency; is there a collective belief that the team can be successful?

  • Alignment; does the team have a shared identity and does everyone share the same idea about what the team is there to achieve?


There are a million ways to achieve these outcomes, whether it’s climbing, rafting, go-karting or talking in a room.  Psychometrics are a powerful way of getting under the skin of how each team member likes to work and developing an understanding of each others’ personal preferences.  Getting team members to complete personality profiles and sharing this information can provide a structured way of gaining insight into people’s likes and dislikes.  The important thing is not to lose sight of the overall aims.  Do you really need to spend half a day building a rope swing just to make the point that people work in different ways and play different roles in the team?



And remember, there’s nothing wrong with a jolly.  Having fun together will help the team bond and get to know each other better, but you don’t need expensive consultants or whole weekends to achieve what a night out, barbeque or trip to the bowling lanes could accomplish.  However, avoid things like the cinema, library or museum visits as these are hardly conducive to social interaction!


To make your team-build a success:



  • Do use the insights the facilitator provides to find new ways of overcoming difficulties and discovering new ways of working

  • Don’t expect the facilitator to ‘fix’ your team – you have to do that for yourself

  • Do confront tensions and conflicts directly.  Get to the root of the problem – they are often caused by misunderstandings or clash of working styles   

  • Don’t avoid ‘thorny’ issues and hope that they will somehow miraculously disappear

  • Do involve a range of activities that people will enjoy.  If people have a positive experience, they put more effort in and get more out of it   

  • Don’t alienate people by selecting activities which few people enjoy.  Surprisingly, not everyone loves golf, football or betting on horses

  • Do formally capture and document the outputs of each activity in the team event.  Make sure the lessons learned are transferred back to the workplace   

  • Don’t include any activity where the output is not clear or not directly related to the overall aims of the team-build


The bottom line?


Love them or hate them, team-building events do have a role, and that’s the point.  Being clear about why the business needs a team-build from the outset, and then sticking to these aims when deciding what to do, will enable the team to take advantage of the opportunity to work together, develop their understanding of each other and focus their energies.  In this way, these events can make a real difference to the performance of your team rather being a series of activities which, although fun at the time, leave you wondering, “what was the point of all that?”