So what exactly is team building, anyway?

The term “team building” is thrown around quite often describing any type of activity that is likely to build some type of camaraderie or team environment, but the specific activities and games that make up a good event can be lumped into a few types of categories.

Team Games and Exercises

These games and exercises are the short activities thar often fun and competitive and are typically used as an ice breaker or warm up to a bigger meeting or event. These games are also sometimes used as entertainment or a distraction to break up a bigger event. For the most part, these exercises are easy to deliver and facilitate, and you can find a nice selection of these ideas on our website or by searching Google and YouTube. Anyone can facilitate these types of activities for free or a very low cost.

For example, an old standby as an ice breaker is Networking Bingo where everyone gets a sheet of paper that has a grid similar to Bingo. Each box in the grid has an attribute of one or more participants that the holder of the card must find in the room. The attributes can be just about anything such as a person with the same middle initial as the holder of the card or maybe find someone in the room who has both a pet dog and pet cat. When they find someone who matches the attribute, they fill n that box. The first person to complete an entire row or column wins.

Team Outings

Sometimes, you may want to reward your group or just get away from the office for some fun. Outings are a great way to build camaraderie and creat a shared experience for your group. Although outing increase the expense of you team building, they can create a nice team culture within your group. These can be as simple as reserving a pavilion at a park and catering BBQ for the group or possibly renting a bowling alley or taking the group to a ball game.

I have a friend who works for a company who rents out Six Flags every year for about four hours just for their employees. Other companies buy box seats or season passes at local sports teams and let small groups of employees alternate attendance as the season progresses.

Team Building Events

Events are entirely different from games and outings, because they often require a professional speaker or facilitator to get the best results. Events or workshops typically last two hours or longer and have a purpose to either fix a group challenge or keep a group active for the entire time. It is pretty easy to get a big group of people to do a single game or exercise for a few minutes, but the longer the event and the bigger the group, the more complex the facilitation of the event will become. As a result, an entire industry has come onto the scene comprised of facilitators who lead these types of events. Many of these facilitators started out conducting the simple games that we mentioned above, but the games and exercises don’t work as well with larger groups, so they had to get creative.

The first major breakthrough that came on the scene was charity team events where participants engage in a series of activities that ultimately conclude with a donation to charity. Our Build-A-Bike program is a great example. In Build-A-Bike, our facilitators have the entire group solve challenges to earn bicycle parts, and since every single part is important to the success, each solution to each challenge is critical. So once each small group accomplishes all of the tasks, they feel a sense of pride. They each get to present their newly completed bicycle to a young kid, so the entire event is uplifting and emotional. Now, it is very rare that an event planner or meeting organizer doesn’t add some type of charity team activity when he or she creates an agenda.

Confusion that Can Cause Problems

A big challenge that many event planners or organizers confuse the games or outings with formal events. For instance, one game is fun and interactive, but if a facilitator just strings together a series of games over and over to fill a time slot, each additional game will have a diminishing return on enthusiasm. It would be like playing a board game with your family. The first one is fun and rewarding, but if you immediately play a second game, and then a third, it won’t take long for participants to lose interest.

If you confuse an outing with an event, you can have similar challenges. We often get requests from potential clients where they will say something like, “we don’t really want a Team Building Event, we just want to build bikes for kids.” There are no real shortage of per-built bikes, so the actual building of the bikes isn’t what charities are looking for. In fact, if you buy a completed bike or a bike in pieces, the cost is pretty much the same. It is the shared challenges that are overcome that build teamwork, not the physical labor. That doesn’t mean that a shared work experience can’t be rewarding, though. I know of groups who volunteer to do Meals on Wheels or Habitat for Humanity and feel great satisfaction as a result, but those particular events aren’t extremely fun, though.

So if you want to reward your employees and you want them to have a lot of fun, an investment in a great team facilitator can be very rewarding.