Does teambuilding work?

Does teambuilding work?

A brilliant team can outperform a group of brilliant individuals – right? But how do you get to become the brilliant team? There are plenty of organisations claiming to build teams. Does it work?

In March 2016 two articles appeared in Forbes Magazine within three weeks of each other. One claiming that teambuilding activities are great, the other claiming how damaging they can be for your team. This is clearly an area of conflict, so how do you navigate it to know what is right to do for your team?

When I first started my career back in the 90’s, driving quad bikes, shooting and tanks was the latest craze in teambuilding and considered a great investment in the team. I could not believe that it had a demonstrable or lasting impact, so I left to seek more meaningful interventions.

Teambuilding activities today vary from the bizarre to the intense. We operate at the more intense end of the spectrum. But does it work?

Research shows that teambuilding can make an impact on your organisation’s performance, although the size of the team, the type of intervention, length of programme all impact on the outcomes (Klein 2009)

So what should you choose?

In more recent research, the focus changes. The talk is of team culture, the values and norms within a team, the impact of leadership styles etc. If you can work on these, develop the interactions and challenge the assumptions of a team, this really can have a great influence on team performance. Especially if the learning is embedded through real work situations and individual commitments to change.

Rob Briner, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Bath says:

‘My sense is that most team building is based on increasing social interaction and co-operation through setting very short-term ‘fun’ but challenging tasks. While some people may enjoy that sort of thing, others may hate it, and, overall, there’s no reason to think this will have any impact on performance in the workplace.

‘So, like any training or development, if you first identify a specific need for knowledge, skills and/or abilities and design an activity around developing these then you might be in with a good chance of doing something that’s effective.’

It made me very happy to read that, as it reinforced the reasons I left the ‘team building’ industry back in the day but also the reasons I have come back into it as a coach and facilitator. We now spend hours understanding your team, the individuals within it and the organisational culture before we start any team development. We end up often knowing more about what is going on in an organisation than the leaders. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t believe it worked.

In short therefore, I believe yes, developing a better team does improve results. It’s how you do it that counts.

For an informal chat, call Lucy on 07766 546 751.

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