Team Building 101: Tricks of the Trade


Team building isn’t just about reward and appreciation. Team Building Asia’s David Simpson shares his top tips to building stronger team bonds with tangible business outcomes.

There is nothing more important than your team. Team members come before customers and suppliers and you need to continually invest in them. The best way to do that is through team building. However, mention the words ”team” and “building” and you can expect a variety of responses from “hooray” to groans of contempt. Hence it is vital to understand the unique needs of your team, as well as the business outcomes you wish to achieve, in order to create a memorable experience. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Question the ROI

Okay, so we’re diving straight into the deep end, but unless you want a resounding “So what?” upon the conclusion of your event, you have to question ROI upfront. Let’s clarify what exactly you are investing in. It can’t just be fun, reward, and appreciation; it’s about people and more importantly, your people. Ensure you have a good understanding of the ROI your team-building programme will provide and make that your first port of call.

  1. Total Engagement

Audiences need to be captured in the first 45 seconds or the activity is lost. Have a shocking and compelling activity as an introduction. Some examples include: “I am going to have you all playing as a complete woodwind orchestra,” “You will be building a rickshaw,” “You are going to teach circus skills to underprivileged youth.” Hit them with an activity that is going to make them sit up and listen from the word “go.”

  1. Activate Performance

Give everyone the chance to perform. Team building is about everyone in the room. If a leader could do everything him/herself then there would be no need for a team. Reinforce this with activities that allow everyone to contribute and not simply opt out and fade into the background. A good technique is to reverse the roles. For example, have the sales team take the technical roles, then challenge the quiet ones to take the lead.

  1. Promote Networking

There is no point having everyone from the office, or from all over the region, in one room if they sit in small teams all day. Choose activities that require lots of information-sourcing and resource-sharing. Not only will new friendships be formed, but this exchange will provide stronger “back to work” applications as vital company skills and knowledge are readily experienced and shared.

  1. ‘Back to Work’ Benefits

These benefits are the name of the game. Unless the experiential activity can be customised to relate to each company’s culture and uniqueness, then it’s nothing more than amusement. The objective of team building is not to entertain, it is to make us think, experience, review, and apply new insights to our daily workplace. If the “back to work” benefits of your programme are unclear, review the activity and set out strict (and achievable) goals.

  1. Constant Follow-up

Team building should not be a once-a-year event that you squeeze into the calendar before the end of financial year. Even if the actual activity is only held for one day, there need to be wide-ranging pre- and post-work sessions carried out. Hold a forum with the team beforehand to uncover the relevant challenges and hot topics they are facing. Then, upon conclusion of the training, hold extensive follow-up and debriefing sessions. Be consistent with your follow-up events (these can take place weekly or monthly) to examine and review your “back to work” benefits. By doing so, you can ensure that your team-building programme isn’t simply a day out of the office, but an investment in your team that brings tangible benefits to your organisation.

David Simpson is co-founder and director of learning & development at Team Building Asia, which designs and delivers innovative team-building solutions across a broad range of industries. Based in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Shanghai, the company is currently celebrating its 16th anniversary.

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