Teambuilding: Save Your Money

Why is it that people roll their eyes when you mention the next teambuilding exercise or event? Why do they wearily glance at each other with that look of “here-we-go-again” skepticism? It’s because historically they’ve experienced this as a waste of time. Nothing changes–or if it does, it’s not sustainable.

Don’t waste another unproductive hour on teambuilding.

I propose that what we refer to as “team” and “teambuilding” are not as they appear.

A team is a network of one-on-one relationships. Not a group of people.

Effective teambuilding is essentially building those one-on-one relationships.

What often passes for teambuilding is an external solution imposed on a group of people referred to as a “team”.

Typically, that solution overlooks the individualized learning required within each one-on-one relationship.

How often have you participated in a teambuilding workshop and agreed with the topics or insights (e.g., dysfunctions) that are presented but did not learn anything new that, if applied, would improve your team’s performance?  I’ve often asked, “If a team determines that it needs to be more collaborative, where do you ‘apply the wrench’?”  In other words, if a team is going to learn to become more collaborative, where does this learning happen?

I suggest that all learning is individual and is applied, in this case, uniquely within each one-on-one relationship.

Measurable team performance is the culmination of all that transpires in the conversations within the relationships between team members. It is the sum of all of the parts of the network of relationships we refer to as “team”.

If a team is performing well, it is a reflection of the design (think prenuptial) of the one-on-one relationships that facilitate the conversations.

In effect, teambuilding requires we design and build each of our relationships within our team–one at a time. In this way, the building blocks of “team” are our one-on-one relationships.

The question then becomes according to what design do we build?

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Mark Cappellino helps leaders and leadership teams transform their relationships in order to leverage their impact where culture and strategy intersect.


re: Teambuilding: Save Your Money

Monday, October 27, 2014 10:13:06 AM

Great points Mark. We had written a post entitled "Team building is a total waste of money" raising similar issues. We looked at those 1:1 networked relationships from a developmental perspective. The goal being to develop the consciousness of those individuals to the level where thinking in terms of "we" is natural. People don't grow unless their current way of operating is no longer sufficient to address their current challenges. Hence we advocate strategically challenging "team members" in just such a way so they will develop into a team. One example is giving a group of 3 rock stars not normally inclined to collaborate or share knowledge a joint objective that they can't complete without collaborating, and by defining success as they all win or no one wins. Naturally each situation will require its own intervention. But as you imply, developing people is the way to create real teams, and a collaborative and innovative workforce.

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