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Why “Teambuilding” has become a curse word


Oh the feeling of terror when the boss comes in with that forced smile and slightly manic look in the eye announcing that it’s time for the annual teambuilding session.

Immediately the team starts to panic. Corporate Teambuilding! Visions of uncomfortable “veldskool” type accommodation, forced fireside sing-alongs and the inevitable physical team challenge of white water rafting or similar springs to mind. Everyone has a horror story (or two) of being forced to do some unfortunate task under some unfortunate circumstances while the boss, now 100% perceived to be Dr Evil himself, usually stands by and watches or breezes in late after some or other critical Board Meeting.

In a corporate climate which is becoming increasingly tense due to economic challenges, it’s becoming more and more of a priority to look after staff members. Unfortunately, the pressured economy means pressured budgets and often the staff wellness element gets left behind, or ignored, hoping that they will just “get on with it” or that a “lovely team lunch” will do the trick.

The other end of the spectrum is when teambuilding becomes too fluffy. While we all love a good spa day or cocktail or two, the true value of activities like this is debatable.

What is the value of spending money on your team? And if you’re going to spend, how is your money best spent? Ah… so many unanswered questions.

I suppose the best answer would involve a basic marketing question. Who is your audience? What are the demographics of your team? What do they like doing? What have they done before? What has been perceived as the most successful teambuilding session to date? Are they up for a challenge? If not, do they need to be gently nudged in that direction anyway? Or pushed off the edge of a cliff with a parachute and instructions for pulling the safety chord?

So much of our day is spent at work, and often with a bunch of people we wouldn’t necessarily choose to spend time with. People from a vast spectrum of backgrounds get thrown together and have to share an often too small cubicle or the dreaded open plan desk space… and we expect them to get on, to be productive and happy. Particularly in administrative, financial or IT type areas, we often throw together a bunch of people skill-less employees who actually have no desire at all to talk to anyone, much less each other. Yet when we get the opportunity to build our teams, we end up with the same old options. Quad biking. Clay pigeon shooting. Obstacle courses. Blindfold trust exercises. All these and more which have the same result: eye rolling from the team and an attitude to just get the day over and done with so we can go back to business as usual tomorrow.

And that’s no disrespect to old fashioned team building techniques – while the good old outdoorsy teambuilding activities have their place, surely there must be a way to combine business outcomes with innovative teambuilding ideas? Does it have to be clay pigeon shooting on one extreme and a spa day on the other?

The good news is that new teambuilding products are out there. Companies are becoming more creative bringing together solutions that address hard business value as well as fun and exciting ways to build teams. Let’s push the envelope and take teams to the next level.

After all, isn’t that what working as a team is about? Uniting a group of people with a common goal, which they believe in personally and as a group. Creating buy in. Making sure the team knows why they are doing something. Bringing teambuilding closer to identifiable goals makes it easier for more concrete individuals to understand the logic behind process. And to leave the session feeling that the process has been valuable as well as enjoyable.

And for the love of all things! Let’s laugh a bit more. Have a bit more fun. Learn something new about our colleagues. We might discover that we have more in common than we thought… ☺


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