High-performing teams are critical to making it through times of crisis and thriving after. The way organizational teams work together has evolved in recent years, moving from top-down and expertise-driven, to an approach built around co-creating and purpose. While the challenges and uncertainty that are coming to define 2020 are putting this approach to the test (it’s not easy to maintain team culture when everyone is working from home), they are also underlining the fact that team building is more important than ever right now.

Effective team building activities allow for different perspectives, improve communication, build trust, and reinforce a spirit of collaboration and unity. Yet many organizations relegate team building activities to a ‘one and done’ obligation instead of seeing them as a vital investment in company culture. In short, these folks are committed to a great day out, and less inclined to achieve sustainable results. Ever heard of a great team that was created in a day? Look at your spending on “team building” compared to sales, communication and such skills-based training costs. Without an ongoing plan for team development moving forward, very few of these “activity focused” team building measures create a sustainable platform for development. It’s likely that poor team behaviors will continue to hobble them in the short and medium term.

Another pitfall is mistaking team-bonding for team building. While a Zoom team “happy-hour” can add some necessary fun to the daily grind of virtual meetings and working from home, it is not the same as an intentional team building experience where employees are working towards a common goal. The former produces very little real ROI except to provide some pleasant distraction for your staff for a day, and a temporary heightened sense of well-being. Actual team building programs are geared towards producing a certain outcome, like enhanced intrateam communication. These programs use experiential activities as a platform from which group learning and “ah-ha’s“ of the day can be transferred back to the workplace via experienced facilitators who are trained in experiential learning methodology.

Regardless if it’s in-person, or virtual, effective team building will present employees with a challenge they’ve never seen before and should be customized to reinforce organizational values and culture. Ask yourself, what leadership competency are you trying to strengthen? Then stay focused on that one thing. If you want to boost innovative thinking and creativity, choose an experience designed around that where the team can really practice those things. Don’t try take the kitchen sink approach. Like so much of leadership development, effective team building should be an ongoing process where different competencies are focused on and practiced one or two at a time. Team building is a marathon, not a sprint.

It takes great leadership to build great teams. How are you breaking down the barriers that might be limiting your team’s performance? When’s the last time your team was challenged to truly show what they’re capable of achieving? Organizations are only as successful as their teams, and the most successful leaders know the importance of investing in effective team building.

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