What is ‘Team Building’?

What is ‘Team Building’?

The definition of team building.

First, we need to define ‘team’.  A team is ‘a group of interdependent people attempting to achieve a common goal’.

Key words here are ‘interdependent’ and ‘common’.

So – if you have a group of people who do not fit the definition of ‘team’, then no matter what you do you are NOT team building.  Use a different word or phrase for what you are doing:

  • team bonding
  • having fun
  • blowing off steam
  • morale building
  • morale boosting
  • collaboration
  • meetup

If your people are NOT a team and you use the phrase ‘team building’, you will have immediate resistance to the activity.

Okay!  If you do have a team, what is the REAL WORKING definition of team building, not some BS dictionary.  Here we go!

Team Building is setting time aside to intentionally work on (practice) the fundamentals that create a great team such as communication, vulnerability, accountability, collaboration and much more.

Here is the key word – ‘intentionally’.

Everyone on the team knows they are making the time to become better at what they do.  When it is a real team and the goal is clear – to become better – 90% of people are VERY willing to fully participate.  Everyone wants to be better.  If I depend upon you to be good at my job and achieve our goals, I WANT to practice!

By the way, the very best team building activity is not something you can buy on this site, as good as they are.  The very best team building activity are the obstacles, challenges and successes you have AS A TEAM!  But rarely are they used to build the team.

The US Navy Blue Angels are an ‘extreme team’.  When flying a maneuver, the pilots are flying based upon hand-eye coordination. Meaning no instruments.  They are 3-4 feet apart at a speed of 300-400 miles per hour.  There is VERY little margin for error and a mistake may mean your life or the lives of many people since they fly over cities, stadiums airshows and other crowded venues.

The Blue Angels fly six days a week for 11.5 months.  Which means they fly a LOT.  There have been 261 pilots in the Blue Angels and 27 have died (through 2017).  That is more than a 10% fatality rate.  How dangerous is your job?

The team has a debrief after EVERY SINGLE flight.  There are no holding back, there are no ranks and everyone is an equal part of the team.  Every mistake, every emotional moment, every minor incident is brought out into the open, shared and discussed to be sure it never happens again.  The agreement is that everything is shared is designed for the betterment of the team.  After every debrief, they should be better.  This is not possible if they are not willing to be vulnerable with one another, to trust each other implicitly

So – where is team building occurring the Blue Angels example?  The Egoless Debrief.  During shows or practice, the concentration demand is so high there really can be no team building.  Much like during the whirlwind of work, during a crisis, when deadline is coming are all not good times for team building.  But after each one is the BEST time for team building.

Every two years there are new Blue Angel pilots.  Do you think it is a good idea for some team building activities based upon vulnerability, trust, communication BEFORE they fly 3-4 feet apart at 300-400 miles per hour?  Uhm…. yep.

In fact, the Blue Angels are one of our customers!  🙂


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