The great thing about the recession is that many companies are cutting back on their team building events.  If there is one thing I hate its artificial attempts at team building. When I die I would like to be remembered for my ability to bring together fragmented individuals and to form them into a team that   can deliver exceptional results. So you might wonder why I hate ‘team building’ events so much?

The thought of anyone trying to make me bond with people that to be honest I would hardly bother to cross the road for is enough to make me want to leave the company. And although I may have a reputation for organizing events and activities, this is because I like having fun; especially with people that I respect and enjoy being with. There is a difference.

If you think paintball is great fun, then by all means organize a paintball event for those that want to give it a try. But don’t ever think that rolling around in the mud and inflicting pain on one another will ever turn a group of disconnected individuals into a well coordinated and engaged team in the office.  If your colleagues think you are a prick and you behave like one, then no team building event will ever change that.

I believe that real teams (groups of people that work together to achieve results based upon distributed skills and trust) are built by delegating responsibility wisely.   If you want results then encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and deploy them for their natural ability and desire to learn new things and to become useful. For example; if you need someone to test the team’s results, choose the most anal person you know. Make sure they are proud to be detail oriented and that they enjoy finding fault in other people’s work. If anything gets past this person, then you can be sure you’ve got a great product or service. No customer will be anymore difficult than they are. And now the great thing is; that everyone will accept their behaviour because it is their function in the team.  Their so called ‘weak point’ will become the strongest link in the team’s chain.

One sign of a really strong team is that they tend to organize events for themselves without asking for a budget. In fact once there is a budget involved, I find that any notion of team building effectiveness drops proportionally by the amount of money donated by the company. As a manager I am fully aware that the best team events are the ones I am never invited to.  If a team is ever going to gel together, then you can be sure it will only happen when the bosses are away.

So talk about fun events, talk about doing things for charity but never talk about team building. Just the words ‘team building’ will most likely put off the very people you most want to bond with. Even natural disasters can only bring disconnected people together for a short while. Rest assured when things get back to normal, they will go back to behaving just like they did before the earthquake struck.

Have a good week,