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Do Team Building Exercises Work?

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The concept of team building is often brushed off as a waste of time and one of many corporate activities that wastes time and creates discomfort over any actual team building. However, with all the money and effort spent on team building there must be something to it. Many of these activities can actually have benefits and improve performance, yet is often run so poorly that they usually fail.

Outlining Improvements
The natural first step to effective team building is knowing what you want improved; you can do all the activities you want, but they won’t be effective if they aren’t focused on the core problems. A study conducted by Small Group Research actually looked at others done between 1950 to 2007 concerning team building. It was discovered that while team building has positive and quantifiable effects on team performance, this is only true if the activities actually serve the purpose you’re trying to achieve.

The first step is always identifying your team’s challenges. Without having that nailed down, you’re going nowhere.

Competitiveness Doesn’t Work
While competitiveness isn’t a bad thing, it definitely is when it comes to team building. Team building is meant to create more cohesiveness and subsequently create a more effective team; pitting team members against each other completely removes that idea and destroys any benefits before the activity begins. Teammates should support each other, rather than compete. Everyone undermining one another reduces effectiveness and destroys team dynamics. If you want to work on those dynamics, make sure to use exercises that make your team work together; focus on problem-solving, identifying and using strengths, and copious communication.

Team Building Doesn’t Always Mean “Fun”
While activities like rock climbing or ziplining are fun, they don’t actually build team dynamics. While they help foster a shared positive experience, they don’t teach people vital skills like working together or playing to individual strengths. To be honest, many don’t really like activities like that; they like fun as a concept, but not everyone is comfortable with being singled out or other unorthodox activities. By forcing people into situations they’re uncomfortable with, you can actually damage the team dynamic rather than helping it. If you really want to conduct “fun” activities, make sure they’re not only sensible but apply to the actual job.

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