Selecting Team Building Activities: Maximizing the Benefits

Many managers are interested in realizing the benefits of team building, but aren’t sure where to start in selecting team building activities. Here are some questions to ask when selecting effective activities for your team:

  • Is there a clear learning point? Effective teambuilding activities are designed to highlight and develop specific elements of teamwork, such as communication, coordination, conflict management or leadership. Determine what element the teambuilding activity is trying to address – if you can’t, it’s just a game.
  • Will my team get that learning point? Some teams are better at applying teambuilding insights to the actual work than others. Honestly assess whether your team is ready to apply the lessons of teambuilding to its daily work, and think carefully about how you will describe the benefits of the teambuilding activity, so it’s not brushed off as a waste of time.
  • Can everyone participate? Does it simulate the workplace? Physical teambuilding is popular, because it takes teams out of their comfort zone. This works best when everyone is relatively physically even-matched and can contribute in ways that simulate work. Otherwise, less physically-adept team members may feel transported back to high-school gym, rather than feeling part of this team today. Teambuilding activities should echo the workplace, not highlight difference that don’t really matter to the work at hand.
  • How will the team meaningfully process the experience? Generally, the benefits of teambuilding aren’t realized through the activity itself – the benefits come in talking about and applying the experience afterwards. Do you have the skills to facilitate that debriefing? If not, can you access a trainer or facilitator who can? True teambuilding has a carefully constructed arc to align experience and learning – you need the right hand to guide that process.
  • Do you need teambuilding, or just a team break? Teambuilding is a structured and focused activity to develop team capability and skill. Sometimes, though, what you really need is a team social hour or after-work activity. This type of social break can help build team morale, without the learning point of formal teambuilding.