Don't Waste Your Money On Team Building

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Thousands of companies wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue last year on “Team Building” programs that didn’t develop more of a team atmosphere within their organizations. The term “Team Building” has come to have so many definitions that it can mean just about anything to anybody.

The definition I like is the following:

Team Building – Any exercise or program that helps a group of INTERDEPENDANT people create LONG-TERM behavior change resulting in a more efficient or productive culture.

If a company or organization is considering investing in a team building program, the first question that needs to be asked is, “Is my group interdependent?” – meaning does the success of each member of the group depend primarily on the success of the other members of the group? For instance, the success of the operations department might depend heavily on the success of the sales department which might depend heavily on the success of the marketing department. Conducting a team building program among the managers or employees of these departments at the same time might be beneficial. However, the success of each individual sales person will probably not depend primarily on the success of the other sales people. So, a sales manager spending money on a team building program for his/her sales people would probably be wasting time and money.

If your group is interdependent, then the next question to ask is “What kind of things are happening within this group that lets me know they are not acting efficiently as a team?” or “What areas can we improve in?” You might ask more specific questions to determine individual areas for improvement such as the following: Are there areas of miscommunication that slow down processes or cause rework? Are there conflicts which bring down morale? Do departments focus on their own success at the expense of other departments? Is it tough for new employees to fit in with the experienced team members? Are changes in policy resisted by team members? Do team members feel as though they have no say in policy?

The answers to any of these questions can help a team leader determine what types of team building programs might be most effective for a group. If you find it difficult to determine the individual areas that would have the most dramatic impact on the performance of your group, realize that most professional trainers have low-cost or free assessments that can be conducted to determine these areas for a group.

The next step in determining the right program for your group is to determine which programs on the market will give your team improvement in the most areas that you have identified, and which will give your team long-term improvement so that you will not have to continually repeat the training process over time.

Once you have done the previous steps, this last step is pretty simple. You can do a standard internet search for training in the areas you’ve identified, and then check a number of references for each proposal you receive.

One quick thing you can do to save time is to look only at organizations and trainers who specialize in training or team building. People and companies who can make a living specializing in this type of work will probably do pretty well, but a company specializing in the fitness industry (outdoor adventures, ropes courses, ) selling beach chairs (Beach Olympics, ) or driving race cars or flying airplanes probably won’t create a long-term behavior change in your team.

Comradery may be built and lost in an afternoon, but a team atmosphere can last for generations.

Doug Staneart, is CEO of The Leader’s Institute,, specializing in leadership, public speaking, and team building training for individuals and groups. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-872-7830.


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