As I thought about interesting blog post topics over the last couple of days, a few rather surprising things happened.
- I watched football. As I am generally known as ‘The One Who Does Not Care About Football And Stopped Pretending Even for Small Talk’, this is a huge surprise. The World Cup made it happen.
- I listened to the expert interviews and reviews after the Quarter-Final Germany/France, and found them really interesting.
- The expert in these post game reviews on German TV, former footballer Mehmet Scholl mentioned team building in his analysis of the game.
Now, unlike my colleague Tim O-Shea earlier in this blog, I am not expert enough to go into details of the art of the game to draw parallels to talent management. Luckily, Mehmet Scholl did that for me when he mentioned that he came across a lot of recommendations to focus on team building activities while training to become a coach, and his stance on team building.
Which is, in a nutshell: Team Building is nonsense.
What surprised me about that wasn’t so much his negative stance on team building – I’d say this is rather typical outside of HR. It was that an HR or management topic got five minutes of fame in a football analysis! Normally, it is the other way round – we HR people use sport analogies to make a point. So even if it was a negative mention, I was weirdly excited about one of my favorite topics being discussed (to be honest, much of the excitement was probably also due to my team winning).
So why was team building said to be nonsense? The theory was simply and (surprisingly) convincing: Shared successes build a team. It is way more powerful to experience these successes in real life, rather than going rafting, canoeing, climbing, or training to build teams in other “artificially created” situations.
And on first glance, this seems convincing. And I’d agree team building events can be anything on a scale from awkward to painful. Even one of my favorite blogs’ authors shares the negative view as evidenced by this “hall of shame” post. More than 300 comments show there is a common dislike of team building.
Why is that so? I believe team building can lead to better functioning, higher performing teams – but only if done right. You can read many examples of “team building gone wrong” above, but there are just a few relevant points to consider in order “to do it right”:
- Making it relevant – no silly games, but rather something that has to do with real life challenges.
- Do not plan team building events during employees’ time off. A team dinner is fine, but whole weekend events forced on employees who might already struggle with work-life balance? Not such a fine idea.
- Don’t even begin to think bad management can be saved by a once in a year event. As with everything talent management – ongoing effort makes the change.
Following some rules of thumb might lead to your employees being surprised by great team building events! Just try it out!