Team Building

Published: 23rd September 2011
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What would happen in your office if the manager announced that the firm was going to initiate some team building exercises? Twenty years ago in the UK, just a couple of American firms and a couple of Japanese companies went in for it - the rest of us made fun of them. Ten years ago, a friend of mine was in a company that encouraged chanting and singing before starting work every morning.

He said that being British, it was hard at first, but enjoyable and helpful after a few days. The practice is still not widespread, but it is definitely catching on. Not so much the communal chanting of mantras and the communal singing of the firm's song as the staff turn their computers on together in the morning, but weekend team building activities. Most people would enjoy a free weekend's vacation, even if the reason is a business activity.

The fact is that many of the biggest and most successful businesses in the world spend money on team building activities. If they are doing it, there is a decent reason for it and that is that team building works. Google, Microsoft and Coca Cola believe in team building activities and you cannot get any bigger than that.

However there are a few risks to be wary of. You know that you are overdoing team building if:

a] individuals accuse you of treating them like a machine and not as a person

b] the process of 'doing' becomes bogged down in endless open debates

c] teams become frightened of taking tough decisions, because it might hurt a team member's feelings

d] the team's identity hinders the rise of instinctive leaders, especially during difficult times

This means that team building is vital enough to be taken seriously, but that it has to be monitored so that the team's identity does not obstruct the reason for the team's existence - making money. The firm must come first, then the team with the individual team members not a long way behind.

Team building events should be fitting for the team. They have to take into account the age groups in the team and the likely physical abilities of the members. It would be no good a team leader organizing a weekend rock climbing for a team whose average age is fifty and whose fitness level could at best be called sedentary.

Occasionally it is practical to construct teams across departments, so, for example, if someone in every sales team liaises with accounts, those people from all the sales teams could go on a team building activity with the accounts department so as to get better acquainted with one another.

Team building events do not have to be adventurous, costly or involve a weekend away either. How about using the company's kitchens (or hiring a kitchen) for, say, four teams to design, make and bake a company pizza?

Owen Jones, the writer of this piece, writes on a range of topics, but is now concerned with team building activities for teenagers. If you would like to know more, please go to our website at Small Team Building Activities

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