The Real Value of Team Building: Dispelling Myths for Skeptical Managers

To some managers, “team building” may evoke images of trust falls, awkward icebreakers, or even corporate retreats with little to show for the time and money invested except for a few inside jokes and a well-rested staff. The truth is, though, that team building done well can actually provide immense value. If you’re one of the skeptics, it’s time to broaden your view and understand the true potential of team building. Here’s why it works. 

Evidence-Based Outcomes – Research consistently shows that cohesive teams perform better. Teams that communicate more effectively outperform their counterparts by up to 25%. This isn’t about feel-good moments; it’s about measurable performance improvement.

Improved Communication – Teams that understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles can avoid misunderstandings, reduce conflicts, and work more efficiently. Team building activities designed to enhance communication help bridge these gaps, fostering an environment of mutual understanding.

Boosted Morale – Gallup reported that 85% of employees worldwide feel disengaged. Engaging in activities that break the monotony and allow for personal connection can reignite passion, boost morale, and increase overall job satisfaction.

Encouraging Creativity – When teams step out of their regular routines, they think differently. New environments and challenges stimulate the brain uniquely, leading to bursts of creativity and fresh perspectives on old problems.

Breaking Down Silos – It’s easy for departments to operate in isolation, especially in larger companies. Team building fosters collaboration across different departments, leading to a more integrated and holistic approach to problem-solving.

Unearthing Hidden Skills – You’d be surprised by the talents that come to the surface during team building exercises. Maybe Sarah from accounting is a great leader, or perhaps John from marketing has a knack for conflict resolution. Recognizing and utilizing these talents can be a game-changer for projects and daily operations.

Reducing Turnover – Employees are more likely to stay with a company where they feel valued, heard, and connected. By investing in team building activities, you’re investing in employee retention.

The Measurable Impact Of Team Building

A large service-based organization in Arizona reported the following results after just two years of undergoing a series of team building activities and training designed to improve trust, communication, collaboration, and decision-making: 

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 10% higher customer loyalty
  • 21% higher productivity

So, How Do You Do It Right? 

First, define team building as a function of the business – not separate from it. To bridge the gap between business priorities and what are sometimes called “the fluffy team building activities,” we define culture this way: How things get done fueled by vision, values, process, and behaviors. 

With this definition, team building now has a firm place in the business because “how things get done” (e.g. the company’s work) is fueled by behaviors and values, which are all the outcomes of good team building. 

To help you further, here are some guidelines for designing the right team building event:

  • Tailor It To Your Team:  Work backward. What are the team’s goals, and where are they struggling? Is there a lack of clarity of the expectations? Is there a lack of trust in the team causing conflict or siloed communication? Does the team struggle with role clarity or decision-making? Create your team building event based on the skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed for the group to do their work well. 
  • Collect data: Measure markers that show how the team is doing. Involve leadership in assessing where there might be gaps or opportunities for growth. And most importantly, ask the team what it needs. Often, they know. Listen to them.
  • Consistency is Key: Team building isn’t a one-off event. Regularly scheduled activities, even simple ones, help maintain the momentum.
  • Combine Fun with Purpose: While fun is essential, each activity should also serve a purpose and produce tangible outcomes.

According to Kotter & Heskett in their book “Corporate Cultures and Performance,” cultures that were supported by regular team building events and emphasized leadership at all levels outperformed firms that did not have those cultural traits by a considerable margin. How much? Over 11 years, firms who invested in leadership development:

  • Increased revenue by an average of 682% versus 166%
  • Grew stock prices by 901% versus 74%
  • Improved Net Income by 756% versus 1%

Team building isn’t about the clichés or time away from work; it’s about investing in your team’s potential. As managers, we strive to create the best possible environment for our teams to thrive, and team building is an essential tool in that toolkit. Before dismissing it, consider the numerous benefits and the long-term value it can bring to your organization.