He has very ambitious growth plans and already has a group of talented and committed people who work in his small business, but he is acutely aware that they are not working collaboratively, and the business is suffering as a result.
After the initial pleasantries, his opening line to me was “I’m not sure that team building is what we need – we’ve done the hanging from trees stuff and it made no difference”.
But, I understood the misconception. I remember back in my corporate days, the various attempts at team building.
They usually involved going off site to an outdoors facility, being put into groups with people you didn’t know well and attempting to work together to solve problems, get around assault courses, make something and yes, it some cases, it involved hanging from trees!
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s huge value in these sorts of team activities. I have some very happy memories of fun company days out like this and I’ve been involved with organising and facilitating them too in previous HR roles.
On a personal level, I credit some of those experiences with increased self-awareness and communication skills and I know that I overcame fears and built my confidence as a result. From a business perspective, they also helped me to build valuable cross-departmental connections and relationships which helped my career.
However, what I never observed from those activities was any long-term impact on the beliefs and behaviours of the people I worked with, or any improvement in team work when we all returned to the office.
Because team building activities don’t work in isolation.
Team building is not an activity. It’s not something that you do once, or even at intervals throughout the year and expect a genuine team to emerge.
Team building is a strategy and as such, it’s something that you do every single day.