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Team Building Activities

If I was to publish a list of sentences I've heard most in the work place, one sentence that would be positioned right up there with 'OMG I love TopGolf - it's amazing!' would be 'I need to organise some sort of team building activity'.

To be honest, I don't think people fully understand what they mean when they ask that question.  In fact, for me the phrase 'team building' has somewhat lost its way in recent years.  One could be forgiven for thinking that the only way to properly build a cohesive 'team' would be spending thousands of pounds shipping staff off to the heart of the countryside to learn how to build rafts using only a limited amount of tools and materials (that mostly comprise of string), or to come up with ingenious idea of how not to break an eggs that are being dropped from a height (mostly using string), or my own personal favourite and team building classic: the old Tug 'o war! Oh wait.. another variant of string!

Whilst I'll admit that any of the above activities can indeed be great fun, I'd have to question the relevance of these traditional team building activities and organised days out if the end result is, as of course it should be, building a successful team!

So let's take a look at what a good team building day actually involves.  In reply to that question 'I need to organise sort of team building activity' the answer is usually what do you want to get out of it? And whist the answer to that varies, the reasons always stay the same:

  • To build better rapport between colleagues so that everyone ultimately likes each other better than before.
  • For colleagues to get an experience of working well TOGETHER, resulting in an increased desire to do so back at the work place
  • An increased desire to cooperate and help each other out
  • The injection of some fresh enthusiasm back to the office
  • To learn skills that can be applied to the work place
  • And overall, a feeling from all that the chosen activity was time well spent

It goes without saying that every team is different, there's no set model that works for one and all. But given the above, I have to say that it baffles me as to why event organisers spend increasing amount of time and money doing these traditional  team building activities and here's why½ competition! I've yet to experience a 'team building' activity that isn't based on competition.  Ok, it's true that attendee's will be competing in teams, but they'll still be competing. This competitive element contradicts nearly all of the points above as in a competition you have winners and you have losers. At the very least, half of your team are going to walk away having lost, having not been good enough (probably also having been heckled by the winners!).  How does that help to build rapport and togetherness?

It's also a fact that competing brings out the worst in people - We've all seen fully grown professional men and women lose their minds when faced with the pressures of an overly competitive environment. Competing can also bring out the inner idiot in many people, making them manic and abusive, sometimes even cheating in order to win - myself included! This is not exactly a great basis for future cooperation is it? I've also found that a lot of the time people actually perform worse when they're competing, especially so when taking part in tasks that require us to work and learn from other people (another contradiction!)

What to do? Choose a team building event or activity that focuses less on finding and rewarding winners (just because it's always been done that way) and more on making sure that people learn something that might actually be useful at work, whist having a fun time together and getting to know each other better. But wait, this is really not too difficult to achieve and you don't have to be relieved of thousands of pounds either! The principles that make team building events at TopGolf so great can easily be replicated if organising your own event:

  1. Making sure the activity has some common goals for all the participants; that are based around cooperation rather than competition
  2. A nice experience for everyone! Don't get me wrong some of us love a bit of competition - again, myself included here - but the activity should reward those who help others to get good scores as well as those who help to make it a good experience for everyone; not just the individuals who get the good results
  3. There's plenty of time put aside for the attendees to reflect on what they've learnt and how what they've learnt can be applied back in the workplace

If you take the food, the drink and the service out of TopGolf, the best thing left is the technology. Our technology means we can tailor the level of competition and cooperation on each and every event we organise, which is just one of the reasons we won the COOL Venues Award this year in our category of 'COOLest Venue for Corporate Fun'. So if you plan on asking the question 'I need to organise some sort of team building activity' to anyone in the near future... Make sure you ask us! Visit www.TopGolf.com/event


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