It seems like these days the phrase team building has become an umbrella term for any non-work time spent with coworkers outside of the office. As such, team building is used to describe anything from trivia night at the local pub, to eye-roll-inducing trust falls in a forest meadow, or even a few loops around the local go-kart track.
Here at Adventure Associates we don’t deny the joys of coiffing tasty ale while showcasing your obscure knowledge of 80s daytime television, nor do we scoff at the rousing experience of reliving Days of Thunder in a lilliputian sized race-car. (We do, however, roll our eyes at trust falls). Rather here we view those activities as team bonding, not building; a method for relaxing with coworkers, or a way to blow off some steam. You may even come away from an event like that having gotten to know some of your teammates a little better. Maybe you even thought to yourself, “Hmm, I could see myself hanging out with some of these people outside of work.”
Well, that’s awesome—and it’s something every company should do for its employees. Just the other month our office team had a super time playing bocce at a local hipster bar. It was a blast.
Despite this, we try not to conflate team bonding with team building. For us, team building delves deeper. Specially designed team building activities provide a proxy for the work environment, wherein the challenge at hand requires clear communication, strategizing, consensus building, compromise, and trust building to overcome. At the risk of sounding obvious, it’s clear that a round of Bocce or a Cambodian cooking class isn’t going to call upon all these nuanced skill-sets.
The other component of a professionally organized team building event is facilitation. It is the method by which key points from the exercise are extracted, analyzed, and absorbed for later use in the workplace. It’s the time for discussing what worked, what didn’t, and for what reasons— and you need a trained facilitator to do it right. Only a neutral third party is going to be able to pick out all the subtleties of team interactions, figure out the bright spots, and tease out the areas for improvement.
There’s no debate that company outings and team bonding activities are both fun ways to get to know your coworkers and unwind a little. Team building activities, on the other hand, are a great way to not only get to know your coworkers, but to learn how to work better with them as well. The return on investment is a deeper understanding of your fellow employees and the skills to enhance your work relationships for the better, both for yourself and your company.
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