Teambuilding

by Gwyn Williams and Bruce Milroy

Common approaches to teambuilding

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

There are many approaches to teambuilding and your choice will depend on what your outcome is for the team and on what is available by way of time, budget and facilities.

  • Teambuilding events are extremely popular and can be enormously beneficial in the early stages of team development, creating a bond and a sense of trust between individual team members.

  • Events are normally designed to take people out of their ‘comfort zone’ by encouraging them to take part in activities which are more challenging than a regular office job.

  • Other events are run simply to provide fun, adrenaline-packed activities that enable the team to relax, enjoy themselves, get to know each other, and feel rewarded for their efforts.

Outdoor activities

This is the type of activity most people think about when you mention ‘teambuilding’. People conjure up mental images of leaping off mountains, abseiling down cliffs, and rafting white water canyons.

Events of this type are extremely popular and can be enormously beneficial in the early stages of team development, creating a bond and a sense of trust between individual team members.

These events are usually designed and run by qualified instructors, who can ensure that the team have a safe environment in which to challenge themselves. Events are normally designed to take people out of their ‘comfort zone’ by encouraging them to take part in activities which are more challenging than a regular office job. The given tasks normally involve the team working together to achieve something, and then reviewing how they did as a team and what they could do to improve their performance.

Alternatively, events can be run simply to provide fun, adrenaline-packed activities that enable to team to relax, enjoy themselves, get to know each other, and feel rewarded for their efforts.

Although these events continue to be very popular, there is a view that it is difficult to bring the learning from these events back into the workplace. From the point of view of building trust, there is little argument that these events help to create a team bond. However, when it comes to task completion or group unity, it can be more difficult to see a difference in the workplace, simply because the tasks completed in outdoor events are so radically different to the tasks completed back in the workplace.

Tasks and team activities can also be run in the grounds of a training establishment or inside a classroom. These may not have the same access to an adrenaline rush for the participants, but can be very valuable if designed well and followed by a well facilitated review.

Exercise

Rather than organise a complex ‘adrenaline event’, think about the benefits of creating a common experience for your team. When a team does something together, they can create a common language, something they will talk about for months to come and perhaps laugh about. These kinds of ‘bonding’ moment can be really useful in the early stages of developing a team.

Think about arranging something simple for the team to do together: go to the local pub; take part in a pub quiz as a team, or two competing teams; do something for a local charity or community; take part in a charity event, or go to the races together.

Any of these things, and many more, can be done for very little cost and without any great organisation – and they can bring huge benefits in creating a common experience for the team to share.

Team questionnaires

Questionnaires can be a useful way to stimulate a conversation in the team, encouraging the members to talk about how they feel and suggest ways that the team could improve the way it works.

Exercise

Select one of the questionnaires that follow, and either hand them out to your team members in advance of a meeting or ask them to complete them during a meeting.

Use the differences in the questionnaire responses to encourage a conversation:

  • Who has a strong view about each question?
  • How do these different views come about?
  • Why do we have different views?
  • What can we do to resolve any issues that are raised by the questionnaire?
  • What can we do to change the views we have?
  • How can we come together as a team with one common view of our performance?

1. Team effectiveness survey (PDF)  (Word)           Survey results form (PDF)  (Word)

2. Team diagnostic PDF) (Word)

Team models

As well as questionnaires, you can use models to inform and encourage discussion within a team about how the team is functioning.

Models can be a useful way to stimulate a conversation in the team and encourage the members of your team to talk about how they feel and suggest ways that the team could improve the way it works.

Exercise

Select one of the models that follow, and hand out some information on them to your team members in advance of a meeting.

Use the models to encourage a conversation:

  • Does this model make sense?
  • How do we fit or not fit the model?
  • What can we learn from the model?
  • Discuss differences in opinions about the model
  • How do these different views come about?
  • Why do we have different views?
  • What can we do to resolve any issues that are raised by the model?
  • What can we do to change the views we have?
  • How can we come together as a team with one common view of our performance?

The FIT model

John Adair model