By James Carter

There are many reasons why a team building activity will fail.  Meaning it sucked.  Let’s be honest, there are many that are really terrible.  We have run a few of them ourselves that utterly failed.  It is embarrassing to admit and it is almost always because we committed one of the 5 below.

Avoid the Top 5 below and you are definitely on the right track to having a GREAT experience.

#5 – Wrong Activity, Wrong Time

There are MANY different activities to select from and each of them has their own place.  You use the right one at the right time a MAGIC – the best discussion you have ever had as a group.  Yet you use the wrong one at the wrong time and it’s like someone volunteered everyone to go to the dentist for a root canal.

#4 – No Application to Work / Life

Spending time away from making money or saving money – the only two end results of every employee – means that you need to make the time matter and make sure the participants can apply what they have learned.  You don’t have to directly apply it to work even.  But they need to be able to learn something AND have a way to make a meaningful change, even if that change is very small.  If every person makes one small meaningful or positive change, that adds up!

#3 – Make it a Quasi Therapy Session

Make it a focus on Personal Issues or a way to confront a small group of trouble makers.  This inevitably creates a ‘bitch’ session that is very hard to stop.  We have been hired more times than I can count because two or three people had a personal issue and the manager did not to deal with it directly.  Instead, they decide to have a ‘team building’ session!  Everyone knows why they are there and resent it.  Please, please, PLEASE do not put your people through a team building session unless you are there for the entire team to learn and do something different as a result.

#2 – Focus on ‘Getting out of our comfort zone’

It is inevitable that some individuals will be pushed out of their comfort zone and almost everyone at some point.  That is a given.  But pushing people beyond their comfort zone should not be the goal.  When is that the goal at work?  Typically we need to be out of our comfort zone to learn in an experiential way.  Or, at least learn the fastest.  That is why immersion learning for language works so well.  In order to be back in your comfort zone, you have to learn REAL fast.  So getting out of your comfort zone is good but only as a way to create a better learning environment and not as the goal.

#1 – Focus on ‘FUN’

Fun is great.  I LOVE fun.  But if that is all you are doing, you are NOT building a team.  You just had a great time.  And maybe have a couple of cool stories.  But that is all you have.  And there is a place for that.  There is also a place for taking everyone out to a ball game or bowling on a random afternoon.  But that is simply having a good time together and NOT team building.   Call it something, but do not call it ‘team building’.  That is easily the #1 way good team building gets a bad name.

I hope this helps you think about your activity before you run it and will help you run a kick-ass activity!

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