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teambuilding activities

3 Reasons Your Team Building Activities are Tanking Morale

by | Jun 24, 2024 | By Karin Hurt and David Dye |

Stop Cringeworthy Team Building Activities By Avoiding These 3 Mistakes

Done well, team building activities deepen connection and trust. They can get your team thinking (and talking about) what matters most. The best team building experiences make it easy to show up a bit more human. And give your team important insights into the humans they work with.

Ideally, you want your team to say, “Hey, now THAT team building activity was a great use of our time.”

And yet, we consistently hear from employees who dread attending their company’s team building events:

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Not AGAIN! I have work to do. No one has time for this stuff. I’ll tell you what you can do with your marshmallow stack.”

“My boss has these mandatory dinners so we can “bond.” But the truth is they make me feel more isolated and lonely. I don’t fit in. I hardly said three words all night, and I don’t think anyone noticed or cared.”

“Tomorrow we’re going to a mandatory team building golf tournament. I’ve been warned that the execs pay close attention to how we show up on the golf course. Apparently, golf is a metaphor for leadership presence. I’m NOT a golfer. I’m stressed enough about spending the day out of the office. And on top of that, I have to worry about my standing in the 9-box succession grid?”

“I just had my performance review and my boss told me I need to be more of a team player. When I asked for examples, he shared how I didn’t sing karaoke with the team the other night at the company offsite. BTW they were singing Beastie Boys, You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to PartAAAAY. The room was swarming with executives and I didn’t see how that could enhance my brand. When I pointed that out to my boss, he just said, “Try harder next time.”

“I have an idea on how to be a better team, let’s get some clarity on what we’re doing around here.”

Of course, what makes a great team building activity for one team, might be a nightmare for another. Karaoke, golf, or birdwatching at the local park are all great, if your team finds them fun. These team builders break down when people feel excluded or disconnected.Or, when people see your well-intentioned team building activity as an irrelevant burden to be tolerated when they have “real” work at stake.

3 Questions to Ask For Lasting Team Development

Before you invest in team building, stop and ask yourself these three questions.

1. Is this team building activity inclusive?

Inclusivity comes in many forms. Start with the obvious concerns. Is everyone physically and emotionally able to participate? Does this team building activity sound fun, or can they see the benefit of participating, even if this isn’t their jam?

Is there an inner circle or clique in your team that will naturally bond no matter what you do? How can you encourage those on the periphery to participate? Can you build in ways to spark conversation and connection? For example, can you prime your team dinners with a few conversation starters and a structured way to ensure everyone gets a chance to participate?

If the plan includes a good bit of beer, how’s that going to land for your non-drinkers as the night rolls on?

If there is a lot of physical activity involved, who gets excluded?

2. Have you focused on the fundamentals?

Great teams focus on the fundamentals. They have aligned expectations, communicate consistently, check for understanding, and hold one another accountable to commitments. They are comfortable giving and receiving feedback and sharing ideas. If expectations aren’t clear, no amount of pizza or bowling will fix that.

Your fundamentals are the cake, team builders are the icing.

For example, when we work with teams on accountability, we start with these foundational questions based on the Let’s Grow Leaders Accountability Loop to identify what’s working and opportunities for better collaboration.

3. Is this there transferable learning?

Sure, people like to have fun. They also want their work to be less stressful and more productive. Help your team debrief with a “so what” and “now what” of the time they spend together.

Take a beat to align and commit to a few habits that will help your team be more connected and productive.

If you’re looking for easy-to-implement team building activities that make work, work better, check out our new Synergy Stack Team Collaboration System. This card deck (and easy-to-facilitate activities) will help your team align on habits to accelerate performance, reduce stress, and work better together.

We’d love to give you a demo or talk with you about our upcoming SynergyStack Trainer Certification. Just drop us a line at [email protected].Learn More About the SynergyStack Team Development System

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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