Why do we call upon the services of a team building company? Typically, it is either as a reward for achievement or as a solution to a problem. For this article I want to focus on the latter and discuss why we keep on getting it wrong.

Is your team suffering from low morale, poor productivity or worse still, a lack of trust between individuals? If so, it would seem perfectly logical to arrange a team building activity that promotes positive working relationships. So why do most people groan when told they are going on a team building day?

Team BuildingOver my years hosting team building events I’ve witnessed many groups whose ‘get up and go’ has got up and gone. Nevertheless their transformation during the course of an activity is usually striking. By the end of the day those glum faces have more often than not been replaced with smiles, laughter and infectious enthusiasm. The problem arises in that this rarely translates into sustainable positive changes back in the workplace. You could liken the typical team building activity to a sugar-loaded energy drink, delivering a quick fix of dynamism; its effects are short term and there usually follows a slump. People easily fall back into their old behaviours when the next pressurised situation arises.

So what goes wrong with these types of team building events? Overwhelmingly it is usually a case of misdiagnosis. People turn to negative behaviours when they become frustrated, disillusioned or lack clarity in their role. Bickering, childishness and mistrust are indeed a problem that inhibits a team from performing effectively but they are not usually the root cause of the problem. They are surface layer symptoms to more deeply rooted issues which is harder to identify. Often these root causes are disconnections between employees to the values, beliefs and culture of the organisation. This points to a leadership team not working as effectively together as it could.

If your company is not clear on its vision, values and beliefs or if your leadership team do not create a culture where employees feel valued then a vacuum can be created into which negativity and dysfunction will thrive. Creating a positive culture where people feel valued in the workplace is no mean feat for any company and is virtually impossible if the leadership team do not lead by example.

It is therefore vital that every company maintains a relentless focus on nurturing, stimulating and motivating its leadership team as they are the ambassadors of the wider company culture. This is where carefully planned team building activities can deliver intense stimulation and motivation as part of a wider programme of leadership team development.

In business the key to a successful outcome is in the research and planning. Simply jumping into go-karts or hosting a cookery challenge for a team building event will likely be fun but won’t deliver the measurable ROI you are looking for. As every company and every team is different; at my own company we develop in-depth knowledge of our clients in advance so that we can customise all aspects of the immersive experiences we deliver to fit the individual requirements of the client. Although more time consuming and expensive the results of a well-planned and researched event are worth it.

With a leadership team at the top of their game the effects on the rest of the organisation are transformational. As if by magic those visible symptoms of disunity will evaporate meaning the only reason you ever need to take your team out of the office is as a reward for achievement.

But whatever you do, don’t tell them it’s a team building activity…

About the Author

Robin Freebairn is Director of Emersive, an experiential production company specialising in extraordinary team building experiences for senior leadership teams based on its ReDirected Reality format.