Keys to Team Building Success

How to Create Winning Team Building Activities

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Want to make your next team building activity live up to its true potential? Integrate the team building with real-time work goals. Establish a systematic workplace integration and follow-up process - before you go on the team building adventure.

You need to make the good feelings and the outcomes from the team building activity last beyond the final team building exercise.

Impact of Team Building Events

Without this attention to integration, corporate team building or planning events are, at best, a short-term boost to employee enthusiasm and positive morale. If they are planned and executed well, people feel good about themselves and about each other. Employees get to know each other better and have a common experience to talk about back at work.

A frequent expectation from team building activities is that they build trust. Team building events have little to do with building trust, however, unless company planning, that is carefully followed up on and yields real results, is part of the team building event or retreat.

Team Building Downsides and Risks

At worst, team building sessions help employees become cynical about their organizations. It occurs when the team building events are held outside of the context of the company’s normal way of doing business. If you send people offsite to an event, for example, but all rewards in your company are based on individual goals and efforts, the team building event will have no lasting impact.

People will lose productive hours complaining about the time and energy invested in the team building or planning activities. Unhappiness, management criticism and employees complaining to each other sap energy, productivity, and joy from the workday.

An event that is not followed up with meaningful activities in the workplace should not be held. They harm trust, motivation, employee morale, and productivity. They don’t solve the problems for which they were scheduled and held.

You will eventually lose the people you most want to keep – especially if they don’t see your organization getting better as a result of off-site team building and planning sessions.

If the team building has zero follow up, people become jaded about such events as a waste of time and energy. In fact, I don’t lead these events that are just for team building without a business purpose, in addition to, or to build the event around.

With recent organizational downsizing and cost cutting, people feel as if they are already doing more than one job. In this context, team building for team building’s sake has lost popularity.

Team Building Success Factors

The success of a team building or a strategic planning activity begins well before the start of the sessions. Use a team to plan the event since you want to model the behavior you seek from the team building sessions you schedule.

The likely long-term effectiveness of a team building event or corporate retreat is enhanced when you incorporate annual team building events into an overall company structure. This cultural framework of philosophies, values, and practices is designed to build the concept of “team” on a regular basis. In this environment, team building sessions can yield supportive results.

If team building and other offsite events are to offer value, their inclusion in an overall corporate structure of philosophies, values, and practices is critical. People must already operate in a team-oriented environment that is characterized by such philosophies as a shared purpose, visionmission, and a performance development system that enables people to grow both personally and professionally. Or, your organization must be proactively pursuing teamwork as a business and employee strategy.

In such a system, team behaviors are rewarded and recognized. Teams solve problems and improve processes. There is a genuine concern for employees that the policies and work are employee and employee-family friendly. When a problem or failure occurs, the search is not for the guilty, but instead, managers ask, “What about the work system caused that person or team to fail?”

When such a structure exists on an ongoing basis within an organization, team building events can enhance and help the system grow stronger. Again, build the team building events around a business purpose to which all attendees can contribute, and you have the opportunity for an energizing, exciting growth opportunity.

Successful companies regularly demonstrate their commitment to building team unity, trust and positive morale among their employees in their daily workplace. Without this commitment and the presence of team building success factors, negative effects can result from formal team building or planning sessions.

I facilitated a team building and planning event recently in which a management team gathered to put together their annual priorities. The group did a salutary job; they were set up to spend the quarter both productive and focused. They were excited and felt a strong sense of direction.

The next day, much to my sorrow and their lost morale, their manager pulled out a list of everything that had not made their priority list at the team building event. He called this the “B” list and said that, even though these were not the priorities, they all had to be completed, too. Can you imagine the impact of telling them that all their work, thinking and prioritizing didn’t matter? They had to accomplish it all anyway.


Team building and planning events and activities have the potential to bring the people you employ a strong sense of direction, workable plans, and solutions, a powerful feeling of belonging with and on the team and clear, strategic customer-focused values.

Poorly planned and executed, created outside of the context of the total organization, the team building, and planning sessions bring disillusionment, low morale and negative motivation. They fail to deliver the results expected. Organizations flounder with little strategic direction. Everyone works hard, but, usually on the wrong tasks and goals. Employees take baby steps toward accomplishing key action items and nothing important is finished.

And, when the next team building or off-site planning event is announced, the cycle generally repeats itself. Which approach to team building would you prefer to institute in your organization?