TEAM BUILDING, Huh, Yeah! What is it good for? (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING) Say it again!

A few months ago I put out a video about the top things to consider when organizing your next employee event. In researching and preparing for that vlog (which you can see here). I reached out to some executives who have been involved in team building events for their organizations. Many of these executives shared with me how they’ve had to endure team building where they built towers with marshmallows and spaghetti (which gave me the idea for the opening of that vlog where I was actually playing with both spaghetti and marshmallows) yet some other executives mentioned how they have had to participate in various outdoor activities, axe throwing, mountain climbing simulations and frankly other completely pointless activities all in the name of ‘team building’.

The fact is, team building in itself isn’t a goal - and most people who ask for team building often can’t enunciate the business impact they want from bringing their people together. The thinking behind it usually goes something like this: “well, if we do something fun, people will get along, and if we get along, we’ll work better, and if we work better - than life is great and our problems are solved” Believe me when I tell you that no executive I have worked with has ever said to me ‘Rob, my teams don’t communicate well, and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, so if we can please throw axes, and jump in canoes, i think we’ll improve our quarterly earnings’.


I was recently working with the CEO of a company who is the leader in their industry, and one of the challenges he is facing is that his teams are not working well together. In fact, there are massive issues of trust and cohesion. He was asking me about team building. Truth be told, he was a bit perplexed at my reaction to hearing him think aloud of considering team building as a possible intervention. I wasn’t convinced he had a team building issue - more often than not teams don’t work well because of other issues. To ‘fix the team’ you have to fix the root issues.

Every organization focuses on team building at some point or another, and here are some things to consider if you really want to develop the team to help increase your growth, profitability and productivity.

  1. Don’t think of team building - think of resultsWhat is it you want to accomplish? What is the existing challenge that is preventing better business results/impact? What’s the difference between the ideal team and the current team? Be clear on these, and be able to enunciate these points!

  2. Make sure any team development work is owned by leadership. If an executive wouldn’t delegate their strategy and planning to lower-level staff member, they also shouldn’t assign organizational development to one either. My most successful clients are those who take a hands-on approach in developing their people.

  3. You MUST be able to create AHA moments. Powerful change and moments that matter happen as a result of insight which lets one reflect to understand what’s happening. Ensure there’s always reflection and insight generation built into everything you do.

  4. Make sure whatever you do in the effort to ‘build the team’ is being done to support the organization in its growth. It doesn’t have to be all flowers and vanilla. Get down into the dirt and focus on the issues that matter. Team building can still be fun, but fun has to be secondary.

I recently worked with a client who is implementing a major ERP system in the upcoming year, and their organization had organized a company day to build their teams. He wanted to be able to do something different and enjoyable for the team but in a way that delivered real business value and impact. The challenge was how to truly bring the team together and incorporate the four points I mentioned above. By understanding their goals and what success looked like, I was able to develop something that allowed their people to really get involved, have fun, but also get those AHA moments which led to more meaningful and insightful conversations. The leaders of the group and I worked together from the planning to the execution of the event and the outcomes of the session will help them be more prepared and ready for their major milestone in 2019. That is what successful team development can look like. Address the issues, and build for success.

So build on my teams!!! and go forth into 2019 with axes hidden, spaghetti confined to the kitchen, and marshmallows only to be found in rice krispy squares. Your teams will thank you and the improved results from a high-functioning organization will be a much more meaningful reward than finding the hidden prize from a scavenger hunt all in the name of ‘team building!’

rob oddi