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Why do we still insist on team building days?

Bonding a team is important, but the tired old approach of getting everyone in a forced, artificial environment is really not necessary - and it doesn’t actually fix the problems of a dysfunctional team.

by Catie McHugh
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Let’s face it: nobody likes being forced into an awkward team building session - you know, the one where everyone is made to dance like a trained monkey, or you’re handcuffed together, or some other thing designed to “bond” a group of coworkers, yet just ends up mildly embarrassing everyone involved and confirming why aliens don’t want to contact Earth.

Bonding a team is important, but the tired old approach of getting everyone in a stilted, artificial environment is really not necessary - it doesn’t actually fix the problems of a dysfunctional team, nor is it conducive of where we are headed in terms of talent management and the future of work. Technology is going to shake up the workforce faster than a mongoose with its butt on fire - so you better start preparing for it to work in your favour.

Here’s a few reasons why traditional team building sucks, and what you can look at doing instead:


It can be kind of weird and embarrassing.

An introvert’s worst nightmare is to be put on the spot, or have to get up and do something in front of a gawking audience of peers. It’s really not motivating for someone to be put through something so uncomfortable for them - and it could be avoided with clearer understanding of different attitudes within the team, so that a more tailored approach can be developed. People are not ‘one size fits all’, as evidenced by human analytics, and this is crucial in the future of work - where we can effectively design teams suited to their roles and each other based on intrinsic attitudes.

Some team building exercises are designed to get people out of their comfort zone - think survival exercises, or a ‘talent show’ of sorts. These can be fun for some, and getting individuals out of their comfort zone can be stimulating and rewarding on a personal and professional level. However, this can truly strike fear into the hearts of shy folk, or those with a genuine fear of public speaking (many fear it worse than death). The fallout from that is the intended development will only really benefit the extroverted, while others will be left feeling like outsiders.

A team event like going for coffee or lunch is different to a planned team building exercise - there’s nothing wrong with socializing, and it can really help the team dynamic to find common ground. The more casual, the better - and no-one will feel too exposed or pressured.

It can be used in place of getting to the real issues.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, a team just doesn’t get along. It could be a personality clash, it could be a series of misunderstandings that manifest into something much greater, it could be a workplace bully.

It can seem that there is an expectation that after a team building day, that all the problems are fixed and everyone is suddenly dynamic and energized. Sadly, it’s a bit like cold tablets - if anything, it just treats the symptoms for a short time, and the real virus remains.

A team with problems is a team where individuals perhaps haven’t felt heard, and throwing them together to ‘sort it out’ is unlikely to give them the ‘a-ha’ moment that team leaders might be expecting. If you’ve built a team that doesn’t gel, you will need a tool to work out the common working ground, and where individuals can complement and appreciate each other based on their set of skills, experience and attitudes. With the power of human analytics, you unlock the ability to foster a deeper understanding of how others approach their work (Or, match candidates to teams with something much deeper than a resume from the get-go).

Before chucking them in the deep end of worn-out escape room dysphoria, take the time to have a discussion with each person, and see where paths of mutual respect can be forged.

Our twenty years of research has allowed us to really get inside the mind of individuals, and our analysis and suite of tools is perfect for putting together profiles of each team member, where core work attitudes and motivations will be illuminated. We know that every person has elements that are unique and incredibly valuable in a complementary team, and we can help drive understanding between team members and the way they work together.

It’s so irregular that it can’t make a difference.

Team building events tend to happen when time, budget and calendars all magically align - so, maybe once a year if you’re lucky. They will never be the silver bullet that fixes underlying cultural issues within teams and the business - it’s simply not enough.

One of the biggest strengths of any company lies in their effective, high-performance teams, and it is vital that you work towards a cohesive, complementary team in the recruitment process. But, how will you know the right fit? Well, it comes back to that tool we mentioned earlier - Fingerprint for Success!

Our toolkit isn’t just for individual entrepreneurs - it is a critical engine for cultural change and building effective teams right from the start, or detecting issues in an existing team (and righting the future course for them).

Every single person out there has 48 motivations that can be measured by us, and you can get a clear picture of how to construct a team with complementary attitudes and modes of work. Are you ready?

 

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