“Team building activities” is a catch-all phrase. It can refer to anything from a lavish in-person company retreat to a quick virtual ice breaker as a team warms up for the workday.
The way that these activities look can change from one place to the next. But the reason behind their existence doesn’t. At least, that’s true if leaders actually understand why they’re team building in the first place.
If you want your team building activities to create a stronger team (instead of a bunch of eye rolls and groans) you need to start with the right question. Why are team building activities important in the first place?
Team leaders and team members alike need to grasp this essential concept if they’re going to get the most out of their team building activities at work.
Why is team building important?
If you want to understand why team building activities are important, you need to look past the activities themselves. It’s easy to get caught up on the stupid questions and random experiences that team building often involves. When you look at team building that way, it’s easy to see it as little more than an empty workplace time-filler.
And the truth is, if you go about your team building without any real goal in mind, that’s what team building is. It’s pointless.
Team building has gotten a bad rap in the past
In fact, unsubstantial activities are precisely what has given team building a bad rap over the years. Too many leaders approach team building in what we like to call a “Michael Scott approach.” They read about how great team building is somewhere. Then they dive into it, whole hog, as a vague activity that will “bring everyone together and make us more productive.”
That goal is all well and good on the surface. But when managers and team leaders don’t take the question of what team building activities do seriously, they can miss the whole point.
Team building isn’t a formula
While team building can be challenging, it isn’t just about doing random, pre-defined things to be more productive as a group. If you want to harness the real power of team building, you need to understand that team building isn’t a formula.
This concept is so important, it can be the lynchpin that revolutionizes how you build your team. It’s so vital that we would like to put forward a fresh definition of team building, one that we, at Gomada, have taken to heart:
Successful team building comes when you do specific, unique things as a team to achieve clearly defined goals, especially when it comes to collaborating together.
In other words, if you’re trying to team build, you can’t just do what the last guy did. You can’t copy the script from a friend or another leader. We operate in a modern work environment dictated by a mish-mash of in-person, hybrid, and remote offices. These are filled with endless combinations of full-time, part-time, and contract workers. With so much in flux, targeted, thoughtful team building is essential.
A quarter into the 21st century, professional leaders need to approach all of their team building activities with a unique perspective. How do their own — often remote, asynchronous — teams need to come together?
If you want to do this well, you need to start by identifying the exact team building strategy and methods that will bring your team together.
How to create a supercharged team building agenda
Once you’re aware of (or you’ve jogged your memory about) the benefits of team building — you can start to create an effective team building agenda.
1. Start with the right questions
Start this process by asking yourself two questions:
- What are the areas of workplace communication and collaboration where my team needs to improve?
- What team building benefits line up with those needs?
These may sound simplistic, but they’re not. They are deep, nuanced questions. We suggest giving them some real thought. You may even want to talk to your team members to help identify areas where your group is struggling.
One thing that may help you answer these questions is understanding what stage your team is currently in. To learn more about the 5 stages, watch the video below.
2. Match needs with activities
Once you’ve identified the areas that you need to work on, you can look for specific team building activities to help. Remember, the purpose of team building events isn’t to go through the motions. You don’t want to waste time on activities that don’t benefit your team.
For example, if you have a veteran team that just started working remotely, you probably don’t need to utilize ice-breaker activities. Instead, you may find that you’re having trouble adapting to your new remote environment. In that case, some virtual communication-focused activities might be the best option. Other team building categories include:
- Problem-solving activities: Great for helping with trust, creativity, collaboration, and developing skills.
- Community service-based activities: Excellent for improving intra-team relationships and company culture.
- Diversity team building activities: A good option for bringing teams together and stoking collaboration and relationship-building.
- Fun activities: Great for improving team dynamics, sparking creativity, encouraging friendly competition, and boosting productivity.
As you choose team building activities for your group, make sure to match your needs with the activities (and their corresponding benefits) that will help your team improve. For example, if you are a start-up, you might want to look for activities that will assist you in getting to know your team better and figuring out how to get your team to work together as a cohesive unit.
It’s this synergistic combination of needs and benefits that takes the perfunctory activity of team building and turns it into a powerful tool for a team leader.
3. Team building things to avoid
As a final quick thought, there’s more to the importance of team building activities in the workplace than just benefits. You also want to avoid slipping into a few common pitfalls that can lead to wasted time, effort, and resources.
Here are a few things to watch out for as you assemble your team building strategy:
- Don’t splurge just because: Money is powerful, but it doesn’t fix everything. There are many free team building activities and cheap team building activities that are just as effective — especially if they meet your current needs.
- Don’t fall into team building ruts: If a team building activity works for you now, that doesn’t mean it will always work. (Hello, company picnic!) Don’t be afraid to think outside the box every time you sit down to pick out an activity for your team.
- Don’t go corporate on everyone: No matter what kind of activity you’re engaging in, make an effort to be relatable. Focus on things like togetherness, connection, and trust — i.e. don’t let that corporate messaging slip into the conversation.
As you go through each step of the team building process, check to make sure you aren’t slipping into some of these common habits along the way.
The benefits of team building activities
Creating a team building strategy is important. As you go along, though, there are still going to be points where it will be hard to stay committed to this nuanced yet critical activity.
When that happens, it’s a good idea to remind yourself of the benefits that will come from your efforts. Here are a handful of the biggest advantages that team building can offer your team. When it’s done right, team building can:
- Improve relationships and dynamics: This one is arguably the most obvious importance of team building activities. Any time your team comes together to interact, they’re going to develop connections, foster friendships, and improve their overall dynamic as a group. These activities can be fun and quick, too.
- Cultivate trust: Trust is another purpose of team building activities. As your team goes through different experiences together — many of which can require cooperation and openness — this can intentionally cultivate a sense of trust in one another.
- Enhance communication: Another major benefit of team building activities is the way it enhances communication within your team. This includes everything from greater engagement to networking, conflict resolution, and interdepartmental interactions.
- Encourage creativity and innovation: These two key benefits of team building activities are easy to overlook in favor of more practical outcomes. But the ability to think outside the box is powerful, and scheduled breaks can help to spark that creativity. Team building activities are the perfect tool to keep the inspiration flowing as a group.
- Stoke achievement: Another purpose of team building activities for work is their ability to bring more positive (dare we say aggressive?) engagement out of team members. This can improve performance and help your team members get comfortable problem solving with one another. Never underestimate the power of friendly competition to push your team toward greater heights.
- Develop skills: One of the benefits of team building workshops and class-based activities is the ability to help your team members grow as professionals. Professional development is a required activity for modern employees. One way employers can naturally encourage this is through team building. This also provides opportunities to discover those with future leadership potential within your team.
- Boost efficiency and productivity: This pair is some of the most tangible benefits of team bonding activities on this list. When you build your team, you sharpen its ability to collaborate as a single unit — which translates to better productivity. It’s as simple as that.
- Improve overall company culture: When you look from a 10,000-foot view, the biggest reason for team building activities is to create a healthy, functioning workplace. Team building brings your staff together. It establishes things like trust and creativity. It pushes them to consistently connect and collaborate. These are all critical parts of good company culture. They can play a central role in attracting quality talent and maintaining a positive, productive workplace.
There are many benefits to team building so make sure to encourage it in your workplace. Identifying this upfront is a foundational step in tapping into the power of genuine team building.
Tapping into the power of team building activities
The next time you ask yourself why do team building activities at all, you have your answer. Identify your needs. Select team building activities with benefits that match those needs. Avoid the negative stuff. If you can do that, you can use your team building efforts to positively impact your team for the better.
So start right now. Conduct an assessment of your team’s current collaborative and communicative needs. Once you have your finger on the pulse, you can look for team building activities that line up — or you can use a tool like Gomada to streamline the process. (More on that further down.)
Once you have the right activities selected and got some good team building tips, you can charge ahead with the confidence that you’re helping craft your team into the best possible version of itself. But don't forget, team building is a muscle and it works best if it is done regularly, on a weekly or monthly basis.
Learn more about team building with Gomada
At Gomada, our goal is to make team building easy and effective. Often the biggest obstacle to effective team building is leaders finding the time to invest in the activity — and we get it.
Modern leaders spend most of their time managing evolving workplace conditions and adapting to shifting market expectations. Most of their responsibilities revolve around putting out fires and tending to logistics. In that constant chaos, it’s easy for team building to remain out of sight and out of mind.
We’ve designed Gomada to address that problem through a comprehensive platform that helps you:
- Feel the pulse of your team and identify peoples’ needs and wants.
- Automatically generate recommended team building activities that fit those needs.
- Give you the tools to implement those suggestions effectively.
If you’re interested in taking your team building to the next level, we’d love to have you try out the Gomada experience for yourself. Reach out! We’d love to chat.