The season is on and the bells have rung. It is time for team building. Companies and organisations are on the roll, planning for this year’s team building parties. The budgets are set aside and they are huge. The consultants have been procured and the planning is in top gear. The deliverables are clear and the team builders are busy purchasing the paraphernalia for the great team building they are about to facilitate. It truly is all systems go.
But as the craze hits the season, we would want to consider whether this hype adds up to any positive results with regard to team building. Do team building activities actually build teams or do they serve to pacify organisations into imagining that teams are being built even when none of that is being accomplished?
Jethro’s example could be a classic indicator of how team building has evolved over the years. He works for one of the leading companies in the country and has just come from a team building activity. While he was on leave, he was reminded by his supervisor that he had not attended the company’s team building activities as part of his performance targets and that he needed to do so before the end of the current month.
Wise as he was, he visited the local branch of his company and coincidentally, the branch had scheduled for a teambuilding activity the following weekend. With this information, he forwarded his name to the branch manager indicating that he would be joining the team for their teambuilding activity. By the end of that day, he had participated in a team building activity and a report way forwarded to his boss and this was included in his file and worked well for him during his performance appraisal.
This experience raises significant issues with regard to team building activities. Do they actually build teams or are they just part of a company’s policies and targets that must be met every so often. How much of team building happens when staff go out of the offices to a retreat center to play and sweat the whole day, accompanied with lots of eating and drinking. Just how much of teams are developed when staff are encouraged to ‘feel’ part of a team with their bosses and supervisors with whom they never see eye to eye during normal office engagements and are expected to put on a happy ‘team’ face during the field activities?
Team building should be taken as a process and not a one-time activity. Employers should be keen on what strategies they put in place to enhance natural and organic team building instead of spending too many resources on ‘teambuilding’ sessions that add no value to the company. Team building does not necessarily happen in the field when staff are involved in a ‘trust fall’ or when staff have to get into ‘teams’ to pull each other during a ‘tug of war’ event. With the joys and ululations that accompany such sessions, little of team building is accomplished since the engagements are short-lived.
It is necessary for the companies to realize the need for concerted effort throughout the year and note that trust within a team is earned through various engagements over time and not through an event. Companies should analyse their team challenges and consult professionals on a long term strategy to achieve their required goals with regard to forming and building teams instead of spending resources on activities that don’t necessarily add up. But in the meantime, let the celebration retreats go on.