Top tips to avoid the team-building event from hell

When the BBC published an article titled 'Why corporate team-building events can be awful', we did two things: 1) Agreed 2) Came up with a handy set of tips to help you avoid such a scenario - without pretending your Gran died...

When you see an article titled ‘Why corporate team-building events can be terrible’, it’s pretty clear the next five minutes of reading will involve an emotional rollercoaster of fervent agreement, sympathetic/horrified nodding, and silently plotting how to avoid ever having to go on one again.

Before continuing, I have a confession to make:

I might wear shirts with bold floral prints, and wore a suit that looked like festive wrapping paper last Christmas, but I’m actually an introvert. I’m therefore genetically pre-programmed to dread a team-building event because it includes social interaction.

Thanks for listening. I feel better already. Bye.

Oh right, yes – the BBC article about terrible team-building events. Sorry.

I may have learnt to be “type mature” – in that I can do social interaction even if I’m scrambling around on the periphery of my comfort zone – but it does take a certain type of person to actually look forward to doing some of these things. I’ve watched an HR manager sing a song they made up, and have personally crafted a glove puppet out of a used walking sock to articulate a point (I miss “Mr Herdy”, but you can’t get too attached when your foot is cold). No-one should have to go through that without there being a clear benefit.

Awesomely creative, but is there a point? (Sorry, Mr Herdy...)

So rather than risking another get-out excuse like “I’m really sorry, I was looking forward to it so much, but my Gran just died”, only to get the response “You had three?!”, perhaps it’s better to find out if you next opportunity to bond with colleagues is a sensible part of an overall plan, rather than a one-off session with questionable benefit.

As the great business guru George Michael once said, “If you’re gonna do it, do it right!” With that in mind, here are some things you should discuss with your team-building lead to make sure it’s a beneficial experience:

  • Think it through: Carefully design exactly what you’re going to do to achieve the required result
  • Make it relevant: Align it with business need, otherwise it is purely abstract
  • By choice: Any activity should be by choice and look to include people in one way or another, not marginalise
  • Safety first: This is paramount - people should feel they can try things in a safe and secure environment
  • Build capability: Experiences are good but they need to be linked to specific skills and techniques to help build capability
  • Get help: These types of events need the right level of facilitation to ensure their impact

Do it right, and your team will talk about the shared benefit for years to come. Get it wrong and you’ll have a group of people even less connected than before you started.