Team Building? 12 Questions to Help You Make the Right Decision by Merrick Rosenberg

There’s no such thing as “the perfect team.” But, wouldn’t it be great if you could help your team on their journey?There are many types of team building interventions and like a carpenter, you need to select the right tool for the job. However, before you begin building “the perfect team,” you may wish to ask yourself a series of questions. Following are the initial questions that I ask all of my clients before they embark on their adventure.

1) How would you rate your team building goals on a continuum of fun vs. developmental?

Team building can mean different things to different people. For some, team building means fun, interactive activities. For others, team building connotes a process in which people address the issues that are inhibiting a positive and productive work environment. Fun team building events build camaraderie and boost morale. Developmental team building processes allow the team to emerge with the synergy, focus, cohesiveness and bottom-line effectiveness. You must determine your expectations for the session so that the session can meet your goals. 

The below team building continuum is utilized by Team Builders Plus when talking with clients.

Level 1 - 3 - Fun, bonding team experience

Level 4 - 6 - Engaging program in which participants learn how to create a more positive, cohesive, and productive team environment

Level 7 - 10 - Groups discuss team dynamics and address specific challenges with personal and team action planning

2) Are you interested in a process or an event?

Events can be either designed for a bonding/get-to-know-you exercises or they can address relevant issues. Processes are aimed at long-term team development, which help to reinforce the knowledge learned by participants. Processes acknowledge that team building is a journey, not a destination. Events are generally a one-day session or shorter, whereas a process takes place over several months, with multiple sessions spread out throughout that time frame.

3) What do you expect from an in-depth team building program or process?

Prior to any team building intervention, you need to have a clear understanding of your expectations. You may wish to consider those behaviors that you believe the group needs to Stop, Start and Continue. The program design and activities that are selected can help to address these key behaviors, reinforcing strengths and highlighting key areas for development.

4) Are you looking for an “off-the-shelf” or customized program?

Off the shelf programs are less expensive because you will not be paying for the design of a new program. A program customized for your team’s needs is geared towards their specific goals and objectives not standard ones. However, an experienced team building provider will be able to customize a program for you without your incurring significant design expenses.

5) Do you believe the issues facing your team are skill-based or dynamic-based?

People need to have certain skills to be an effective team member. Communication skills, the ability to build trust, the interpersonal know-how to establish strong relationships with others, and conflict management abilities are key team skills. Each person’s abilities vary based on their experiences and behavioral style. Sometimes the team issues are caused by skill deficiencies. Other times, team members may have these skills, but, the team is still has morale issues, low trust among members, personality clashes or regular communication breakdowns. You need to determine if the team lacks skills or the team has created an environment in which they do not work together well. This will drive the type of team building needed for the team.

6) Do you believe that everyone on the team would identify the same core challenges of the team?

While everyone on the team might describe the team’s issues in a different way, the leader must acknowledge that his or her perspective of the team’s dynamic is not the definitive explanation of the team’s challenges. Don’t go directly with what you personally believe to be the issues. Conduct a team survey prior to team to ensure that any team building intervention targets overall team needs.

7) Is there any pre-work needed before team building?

It depends. If you are conducting a fun, team building event that is based around interactive exercises, you can create a “buzz” around the event by telling the group very little about their “team adventure.” If you plan on addressing real-world team issues, you need to make sure you address the right issues. A team survey may be needed to identify the issues and their root cause.

8) Is it beneficial to speak with the facilitator conducting your program prior to team building?

Speaking with the facilitator prior to the program is critical to team building effectiveness. The facilitator can discover background information about the team and learn about your goals and expectations for the program and the team after the event or process has concluded. This will ensure that the team building program is designed to meet the needs of the team.

9) How do you gain buy-in for team building?

Remember that people support what they help to create… so let them create the process. Let team members know that the team building process will be based on the overall results of the team survey.

10) Where should you conduct the program?

Conducting a session on-site saves money. However, there is a trade-off. Taking people offsite is far more effective because participants are more relaxed. Further, they stay with the team during lunch and breaks, instead of heading back to their desk to check messages and respond to e-mails. The investment in the team needs to include an investment in selecting the right location. A well-traveled team building provider will be able to suggest a location that meets your needs.

11) What type of budget is available to conduct team building?

Your budget will determine whether you can conduct an event or a process, an off the shelf program or customized session, and guide who facilitates the session (in-house staff or team building professionals). Your budget will also help to establish realistic expectations for team building. You may wish to provide a ballpark of budgetary constraints to your team building vendor so they can design a process within your means.

12) How can you measure team building success?

By conducting a pre– and post–team survey, the team can measure progress. The team will be able to see how they interacted and worked as a team before their first session and then six months later, after they returned from their session and applied their new knowledge. Post-program results allow the team to celebrate their successes and set next-level goals at a follow-up team building event.