Bowling Is Not Team Building
Early in my career, I worked with a woman I didn’t get along with. We were on the same team and had the same job, but didn’t see eye to eye on how to approach work or solve problems. And when we didn’t agree, things got ugly. I have to admit to being afraid of her.
The odd thing is that socially, we did fine. When our team socialized outside of work, we had fun and got along well. That’s when I realized that there was no correlation between camaraderie and working well together.
Lots of teams go bowling, to baseball games, and out for happy hour as team building activities. And while team members may enjoy being together at these events and get to know each other personally, they don’t learn how to work well together and how to resolve conflict.
Go bowling or out for happy hour, just don’t expect people to work better together as a result of those activities. If you want to do impactful team building activities, give team members a chance to learn about each other and themselves, and make agreements of how team members will work together in the future. Create occasions for candid conversations.
When I lead corporate team building activities, I put people in small groups, give the group a box of Candor Questions for Team Building and time to answer the questions. People talk about things they should have talked about when they started working together. Team members learn about each other’s working style preferences and what each person needs from both the job and each other. But most importantly, team members have permission to talk about things they normally don’t, and begin to create a climate of candor, which is essential for any group of people working together. For a team to work well together, it must be safe to tell the truth. Teams need to talk about the things that impact them most – each other.
So go bowling and out for happy hour. But also create opportunities for team members to talk about the things that matter most — how they impact each other at work.