What Is Team Building?

Doug Staneart  |  June 23, 2022
last updated

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. However, the specific activities and games that make up a good event can be lumped into a few types of categories. The success of your company depends on its foundation: customers, profit, and company culture. Team building exercises are a great way to connect staff and build a positive culture.

The effectiveness of the exercises or events depends on the inclusion of the whole team, in smaller teams, aiming for a shared goal. Some involve a random object, such as tennis balls, while other fun activities could use puzzle pieces with trivia questions.

1. Team Games and Exercises

Team Games and Exercises These games and exercises are short activities that are fun and competitive. They are also typically used as an ice breaker or warm-up to a bigger meeting or event. Team games often begin in small groups and can build into large groups collaborating. People sometimes also use these games as entertainment or a distraction to break up a bigger event. For the most part, these exercises are easy to deliver and facilitate. You can find a nice selection of these ideas on our website or on Google and YouTube. Anyone can facilitate these types of activities for free or very low cost. But they go beyond board games and jigsaw puzzles.

Common Game Examples

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 a pet cat. When they find someone who matches the attribute, they fill in that box. The first person to complete an entire row or column wins.

Another low-cost exercise is the Human Knot where small teams take the hands of various neighbors while standing in a circle. Without letting go of their neighbors’ hands, the teams must untangle themselves. I personally enjoy this game because it incorporates multiple skills while still having fun. The Human Knot requires clear communication, an agreed-upon common goal, and allows a person to step up as the leader. Being someone on the clumsier side of things, laughter ensues because people start falling over as they move their bodies to untangle the knot. A bit of creative thinking on a solution helps.

2. Team Outings

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 create a shared experience for your group. Although outings increase the expense of your 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 you could possibly rent a bowling alley or take the group to a ball game.

I have a friend who works for a company that rents out Six Flags every year for about four hours. The park is only available to their employees. Other companies buy box seats or season passes at local sports teams. Some of my favorite memories involved a scavenger hunt. One specifically, celebrated different local businesses by requiring a picture at their location. Each picture had to have the entire team within it and a fun way it concluded was with a picnic.

3. Team Building Events

Team Building Events Events are entirely different from games and outings. These events are more complicated and challenging to deliver. As a result, we suggest that you hire a professional speaker or facilitator to get the best results. Events or workshops typically last one to two hours. They also often have a purpose to either fix a group challenge or keep a group or employee engagement 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. However, the longer the event and the bigger the group, the more complex the facilitation of the event will become. A series of icebreaker games will only keep group members engaged for so long before people are bored. An effective start line is to tunnel into a group’s strengths. That could be time management, leadership skills, or problem-solving. A simple game can be great, but won’t hold the attention of large teams for very long.

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. They figured out that by intertwining team-building activities with a good cause, giving a time limit, and naming a “winning team” people had a great time and were engaged.

Professional Team Building Activities.

The first major breakthrough that came on the scene was charity team events. In these activities participants engage in challenges 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. 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.

Each team gets to present their newly completed bicycle to a young kid. So, the entire event is uplifting and emotional. Today, it is very rare that a meeting organizer doesn’t add some type of charity team activity to the agenda.

Confusion that Can Cause Problems

Confusion Can Cause Problems A big challenge is that many event planners or organizers confuse the games or outings with formal events. For instance, one team game can be fun and interactive. However, 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. However if you immediately play a second game, and then a third, it won’t take long for participants to lose interest.

Event Planning & Team-Building

Much like any other event, consider the venue, too. Manual labor in three-digit temperatures is no longer a fun activity or within someone’s comfort zone.

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.” They forget, though, that manual labor isn’t very fun. Just having a team complete manual tasks, even for charity, is still manual labor. The fun occurs by teams problem solving together and accomplishing something. The best part is the need teams have to use their communication skills to collaborate.

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. Such volunteer opportunities provide ample team bonding but for many won’t have a lasting memory.

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. There are many benefits of team building and they are a great opportunity to gather your staff.

author Doug Staneart
posted on
last updated
Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
← Daily Leadership Tip [Bonus Principle] Always Give Something Extra How to Remember Names-Astonishing Way to Place Names with Faces →