Secret – Successful Business Teams Are Not Built Playing Golf

When I used to work in corporate America we used to have team building exercises during our meetings. These exercises were considered to be so important by upper management that they were mandated into every meeting. The goal was to bring the teams together so that they executed the plans with a sense of purpose; the team would rise or fall as a collective.

In my experience the team building exercises usually consisted of golf, bowling, or another event that was a “team event” in name only. The sports chosen were usually embraced by an enthusiastic few leaving the others bored and unengaged. The end result was a shared experience, but not one that built a strong team ready to seize opportunities and overcome obstacles. Instead a team in name only was built.

The Secret Trait To Successful Business Teams
Successful teams – in sports, business, the military, etc. – share one common trait or gene: they care about the other teammates’ success. Individuals who are part of successful teams know that their goals, desires, and dreams can only be achieved if they help the rest of team meet succeed. Everyone possess this gene/trait inside of himself or herself, it just has to be tapped.

How successful teams achieve this bond is through a shared collective experience. This collective experience is one that demonstrates to the other teammates the strengths and weaknesses of the individual members. Typically everyone starts at the same level of knowledge – there are no ringers – and the team faces unknown challenges that they must work together to overcome. In the military it is the initial training and common shared misery of the mud, lack of sleep, and obstacle course.

3 Ways You Can Tap The Common Experience Gene
In business your team most likely is not going to go running through mud or climbing over obstacles to get their shared experience. Then again… why not?

Golf does not build a successful team. In fact most individual skills – while learned and/or experienced in a group setting – do not build successful teams. Only events that make individuals work together, learn together, and overcome obstacles together will build stronger teams.

So the next time you are planning a team building exercise for your business meeting, why not give these a try:

  • Learn A New Skill. Whatever you choose as the new skill should have practical applications and if done improperly real consequences. A great one is learning how cook as a group, which involves communication, delegation, teamwork, chain of command, and listening skills. Sure you might have a budding gourmet chef in your team, but the reality is that most people only know the basics. The goal is to cook a meal for everyone. Get it right and you’ve got good food. Get it wrong and well…

  • Overcome A Problem With Many Possible Answers. These exercises usually have a stated goal and limited resources to achieve it. While there might be one best solution, there are many other solutions that could possibly work. A particular exercise I enjoyed was building a boat out of cardboard and duct tape. To be successful the boat had to pass a strength test on dry land first and then go around a buoy and back in the water: all under a time pressure. Teams that prioritized tasks, discussed possible designs, and staffed their boats correctly made it. Others that did not sank.

  • Scavenger Hunt. Break your team into smaller groups making sure to split apart any cliques you may have. What makes this a great exercise is the element of time pressure, getting everything correct on the list, and great stories everyone will have when they return about their successes and failures during their hunt. If built correctly a great scavenger hunt will have goals that will force everyone to stretch him or herself to achieve them.

Put Down The Clubs And Build Teams
What is great about the exercises above is they require your teams to work together to succeed. One person alone cannot do everything. Success means that everyone has to work together as a team.

While you may learn more about the three other chaps in your foursome on the golf course, in the end it is the individual who must swing the club or make the putt. It does not take a team to overcome the sand trap. Therefore the opportunity to build that common bond, to unlock the gene that brings teams together, is never to be had on the golf course.

What are some other events you have done that help build stronger teams?