team training exercise

Team building activities – yay or nay?

Team building activities are supposed to improve teamwork, boosting team performance and getting people to know each other better.
That sounds great, right?!

Yet, the phrase “team building activities” makes many of us cringe.

Problem is, many such events involve things like building towers made out of spagetti and marshmallows, blinded trust falls, humiliating dance performances and other activities where the connection to those team-strengthening goals isn’t quite clear.

Any activity that invades personal space is generally a very bad idea.
Like dancing in a ring while giving the person in front shoulder massage (yes, this has happened to real people).

A really popular game – and an equally horrible idea – is the “truth train”.
If a really awkward team dinner afterward is what you’re after, pick this one!
For this exercise, everyone sits in a circle and says what they don’t like about the other people.
The only one who should ever be really honest in telling you about You is the therapist you’re paying for doing so.

Like shown above, many team-building exercises are pointless and even insulting to the team members,
because they suggest that if only the team members spent more time doing ridiculous things, solving group problems and making up silly dances, they would work more effectively together the rest of the time.

When a team hasn’t gelled and isn’t communicating, it’s not because they need to paint portraits of each other.
It’s because there is an energetic blockage an no one is talking about it.
That is a leadership problem and it won’t be solved by playing games.
(we’ll talk about leadership issues in another post)

An other common concept of these events is to engage employees in “games” to come up with ideas on how to make a team more effective or solve company issues (or even better, how to make the company more profitable).
Most of the time, employees see through these poorly disguised attempts to make them do work that won’t be compensated accordingly.

By recognising that team activities may not be the solution to your problems, they can still provide some good opportunities for a team to get to know each-other better outside of the work place.
Just don’t expect your team to solve issues that aren’t theirs to solve.

So what’s some fun (not necessarily team building but definitely not cringe worthy) activities?

The key is to really know your team.
Don’t make a team of highly educated engineers build a tower of paper cups and then paint it with finger paint.
Dealing with a tech-savvy team? Well, let them solve something really tech-oriented. How about building a working drone or getting out of an escape room by solving intricate mathematical problems.

However, most of the time it’s probably really difficult to find an activity that won’t cause any eye rolls.

So what’s the ultimate team activity that will offer a few hours of relaxed fun for any average team? Our suggestion?
Drink beer and bowling.