5 Reasons Why Team Building is Crucial (With Team Building Activities!)

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bunch of fists /teamwork
In our last post about groups and teams we looked at the differences between the two notions and listed seven points that need to be fulfilled in order to form a team from a group.In this post we explore further the formation of teams with a focus on team building - a popular, though sometimes controversial, method that is usually a go-to for every organization when it comes to dealing with teams.

Team building.

What pictures come to mind seeing this word?

A 3-day long spa treatment with occasional games? Small rooms with no air and hours-long discussions on unimportant topics? Know-it-all trainers, bored participants, mandatory activities and that familiar feeling of relief at the end of such events?

Another frequent problem is that the content of team building is more often geared toward letting off some steam instead of focusing on the development of the team and preventing problems that commonly occur during a team’s life cycle.

Team building doesn’t have to be like this! When done right, it can boost team performance, help team members master skills, and foster an atmosphere of trust and encouragement.

Unfortunately, this is rarely what happens because most organizations look at team building as an event when it should be looked at as a continual process that doesn’t stop once a meeting or workshop is over.

Here, we have listed 5 essential topics with practical methods to use during your team building sessions.

  1. Goal-setting
  2. Role-clarification
  3. Open Communication
  4. Conflict Management
  5. Trust


Teams are formed to achieve specific goals which requires teamwork, collaboration and a complex set of several competencies. Importantly, teams can only form if goals are clear and measurable.

Without a mutually shared goal we can’t speak about teams.

Thus one of the key reasons for team building efforts is to help identify and set the purpose of the team.

When the focus of team building is to clarify goals and roles, you should be aware of some of the pitfalls that can occur: Ensure that team members are involved in the goal-setting process.

Studies have shown that when team members are encouraged to take part in setting and measuring goals, higher levels of commitment and motivation are seen, and team members have a mutual understanding that these goals are best achieved through collaboration.

Be careful to avoid setting too many goals, and don’t forget to prioritize them. Moreover, it is better if the goals only indicate a direction and that the team has the freedom to choose the means by which they reach their destination.

A practical tool for goal-setting: S.M.A.R.T goals

SMART is an acronym standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound. Defining goals by these criteria helps the team focus efforts, stay motivated, meet deadlines, have control and prioritize tasks.

Role clarification

To build an effective and high-performing team, members need to see how they can contribute their knowledge and competencies to the team’s goals.

Therefore, as a next step, make sure to dedicate some time to assigning people to goals, and discuss the different roles team members are going to take up to make the team successful. Having clear roles promotes individual accountability and fosters ownership of one’s work and the team’s goals.

Further, members should hold each other mutually accountable for their assignments and performance. Encouraging the team to perform regular check-ups on performance can drastically increase the standards of performance and deliverance of tasks.

A practical tool for role clarification and accountability: RACI matrix

RACI Matrix #gamestorming #project management #action 

Sometimes responsibilities aren’t clear. By creating a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix, a group will tackle the responsibility problem directly.

RACI is again an acronym that stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. It helps identify different roles within the team in accordance with the goals and tasks needing to be done. By creating a visual matrix members can easily check who is in charge of what and ask the right person for support.

Open communication

Open and honest communication plays a critical role in a team’s life. We can argue that if a team is able to communicate clearly and openly they have already done half of the job.

Team leaders or facilitators play a big role in educating the team on this matter. In the early phase of team development it is especially helpful if leaders or facilitators initiate exercises targeting communication so the team can practice expressing ideas and opinions, giving feedback and understanding each other.

Learning to communicate nonviolently could be a great activity for all in the team. The exercise and the concept behind it emphasises the act of using “I-statements” to make observations, requests or express feelings and needs.

A specific kind of communication is giving feedback. Mastering the art of constructive feedback is essential throughout a team’s life cycle. It is best if some rules of giving and receiving feedback are set during team building or early on in the team formation cycle.

For instance, giving feedback only when it is asked for or necessary instead of giving it when unsolicited. For example, use “My suggestion to you would be to check the facts again on Greg’s report” instead of “These facts are wrong, why can’t you just do your job properly?! Go and check them again!”

A practical tool for giving feedback: Start, Stop, Continue

Start, Stop, Continue #gamestorming #action #feedback #decision making 

The object of Start, Stop, Continue is to examine aspects of a situation or develop next steps. Additionally, it can be a great framework for feedback

Start, Stop, Continue is a framework for giving feedback in forms of starting, stopping or continuing doing a certain activity or behavior. It’s easy to learn and instantly gives members actionable steps.

Conflict management

There comes a time for every team (hopefully!) when conflicts arise and different perspectives clash with each other. Although conflicts are usually viewed negatively, they are a vital part of the team development process.

In his book “Teambuilding”, Dyer argues that most conflict originates from unmet or misunderstood expectations from members of the team.

Normally, every person has an idea about what should be done, who should do it, and how it should be done. However these set of assumptions are implicit, thus easily violated by processes, tasks and people.

When negative feelings start to arise, teams should be able to openly discuss and deal with them.

Conflicts represent a divergence of ideas, opinions, or judgements on a given topic. During team formation, they often appear in 2 aspects: the realisation of the difference between the current reality vs. the expected goal of the team and the roles each team member would play in the team.

Conflicts are normal, and what has to be properly managed are the destructive side effects that fester from unexpressed negative feelings surrounding a conflict.

When looking to raise team awareness of constructive conflict management, the Thomas-Kilmann model is a great starting point. The goal here is that nobody feels threatened by conflict and that conflict is viewed as a normal aspect of teamwork.

A practical tool for conflict management: Conflict Responses

Conflict Responses #hyperisland #team #issue resolution 

A workshop for a team to reflect on past conflicts, and use them to generate guidelines for effective conflict handling. The workshop uses the Thomas-Killman model of conflict responses to frame a reflective discussion. Use it to open up a discussion around conflict with a team.

Here you will find the exercise based on the aforementioned Thomas-Kilmann model. It helps members identify conflicts that they handled well in the past and build upon these experiences in order to set effective resolution techniques for future conflicts.


The bad news is, no matter how well you apply any or all of the methods mentioned above, if by the end of the team building process the members do not trust each other (and do not model trustworthiness) you will have already failed.

The primary aim of team building is to create an atmosphere of trust and encouragement where members are encouraged to improve their skills and competencies and feel safe enough to admit their mistakes.

If goal setting, communication and conflict management are parts of the vehicle, then trust is the fuel. Trust enhances collaboration, creativity, member well-being, and ultimately performance.

To assess the current level of trust in a team you can use some of these questions by Dyer:

  1. What is the current level of trust in the team?
  2. What specific steps should be taken to increase trustworthiness?
  3. What should be the process for regaining trust in the team and team members?

And remember: Team members don’t have to like each other or be friends to work together, but they need to trust each other under any circumstances.

A practical tool to enhance trust in the team: Who and Why?

Who and Why? #thiagi #action #trust 

You already know a lot about factors that increase and decrease people’s trustworthiness. This is because ever since you were a baby, you have learned through experience who to trust and who to distrust. This activity asks you to think about six people and decide why you trust or distrust them.

Who and Why identifies several behaviors, experiences, and characteristics that contribute to being trustworthy. By listing and discussing these factors the team can determine rules and actions to increase the level of trustworthiness between themselves.

Are you ready to have meaningful and effective team building sessions? Then the next time you design an agenda, make sure to have exercises and team building activities that help participants with goal-setting, role-clarification, open communication, conflict management and trust! By the end of the session, you will have a team that can take on any challenge.

What are your favorite topics to include in team building? What kind of activities do you usually use? Share with us!

Stay tuned for more on posts from facilitation to training inspiration, tips and tricks from the makers of Sessionlab! If you don’t want to miss a post, subscribe to our blog! Share your experiences or opinions on our subject matter in the comments section. We would love to hear from you!

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