I do believe that team building activities will support cohesion of a group and improve effectiveness. Personally, I have not worked for a company that has sent my team and myself on team building excursions.
From my experience in conversing with colleagues who have been to team building exercises, the team building activities are usually not work-related and aimed toward the general character of the group members on a whole; for example, a male-only team of programmers were sent go-kart racing. Situations like this would set-aside the ‘roles’ of the members in the group and put everyone on a level playing field. All members get to compete with one another in a good natured sporting activity. This allows all members to come out of their shell and shine in a fun situation. One issue I find a bit unusual about this team building approach is that the team members are put against each other instead of together; this seems like an approach that would encourage individualism more than team work.
Another team building exercise that my colleagues have been involved in was a paint-ball game where the team was working together to defeat their opponent team which were just another group of people at the paint-ball game. I think this approach is far more effective towards building a team spirit. Each team member has their role in the “battle” and must look out for one another. In an activity like paint-ball I believe this will also potentially bring out the individual characters, the risk takers, the safe-players etc.
Richardson (n.d.) outlines some benefits of team-building exercises;
- Common Goal – Team-building exercises are aimed at working together, they allow the team to work together towards a common goal.
- Trust – Team members must trust their fellow colleagues in these exercises. Everyone has the spirit of agreement.
- Ideas & Participation – These exercises allow all team members to be involved and give their ideas and work together.
- Motivation – Team building exercises “creates an environment that motivates people to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation while subordinating individual goals” (Richardson, n.d.).
- Rapport – Team members learn personal details about their colleagues which enables them to gain rapport for each other as well as increased tolerance towards each other.
- Organisational Benefits – Members of the team are driven towards achieving results more than individual recognition which will help the organisation as their employees will be more focused on the organisational goals than their personal goals.
Personally I would welcome more team building opportunities, not only from the view of an employer but also from the view of a team member. A team building event with the teams I work with for different clients as well as my small team of contractors would definitely improve morale. One of my largest clients is suffering from a low morale amongst employees and, from my observations, the employees are feeling disjointed and uninvolved – more team building would benefit them greatly.
Something I am in two-minds about is the possibility of physical team building exercises, depending on the individual team members, may also encourage “bullying” to some degree. If a “leader” is physically passive and a subordinate is physically dominant things may tend to go off track, especially if there are underlying resentments. As much as bullying should be left on the playground (if anywhere at all), adults are quite capable of childishness and bullying.
In conclusion, I think that team building is a good method of getting employees more enthusiastic about an organisation. I do believe it should be encouraged and even if it is not a high-budget exercise, it is better than none at all. As far as the exercise the team should be involved in, I think, it would definitely need to be something that involves the team working together (eg: the paint-ball scenario) rather than against one another (go-karting).
Richardson, M (n.d.) What Are the Benefits of Team-Building? [Online] eHow. Available from: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5191806_benefits-team_building_.html (Accessed: 27 February 2011).