The Difference between Team Building Events and Camaraderie Building Activities

The Difference between Team Building Events and Camaraderie Building Activities

Hokey-Team-Building-vs-Professional-FacilitatorsIn the business world, the terms team building and team building events are used very often in a generic way to describe any type of event, activity, or game that helps coworkers see each other outside of the workplace. However, real team building events have a totally different focus and are often more difficult to get stellar results for the group. In this article, we’re going to cover why the term “team building event” is used so often in a generic way, why a team building professional can work better if some situations, and a few suggestions about how to make sure that when you conduct an event, your team receives great results.

Avoid Using “Team Building” as a Generic Description

The words team building can be used in a generic way to describe any activity that is fun (or what a single person thinks is a fun activity). As a result, team building activities can sometimes get a bad rap. The analogy I like to use to describe this is that the term “team building” is like the the term athlete in that it means different things to different people. Some people think of athletes as being only people who participate in contact sports, but if you’ve ever seen an Olympic marathon runner at the finish line and think, “How does he/she do that?” you can see how the “only contact sports” definition of an athlete can be misleading. Dallas/Ft Worth, where my company is based, is also the headquarters of the Professional Bowlers Association. Each of their members are professional athletes as well. So, the perception of what is athletic is in the eye of the beholder, and the same is true with team building. Because the term team building is often used generically to describe any activity that groups of people participate in to build camaraderie, and because, just like athletics, some people will like some of these activities and dislike some of these activities, word can quickly spread through your team that certain team building activities are hokey or just don’t work.

When You Should Hire Professional Team Builders

The smaller your group and the more that your focus is on building camaraderie and less on fixing team challenges, the easier team building activities are to organize. For instance, if you have a group of fewer than 10 people, and you mainly just want everyone to get to know each other outside of the work environment, then taking everyone out to a fine dinner or to a ballgame will likely work perfectly. However, if your group size is 50 people or 100 people, or 1000 people, the simple shared-experience activities just don’t work as well. Over a decade ago, a client came to me asking if there was a way to do a team building activity that would be fun and interactive, that would get the entire team to participate, and if there was a charitable aspect to the event, that would be great too. We had to brainstorm quite a bit, because keeping a larger group entertained and participating for 20 minutes is easy. 40 minutes is more difficult but still doable. However, to keep the entire group active and having fun a few hours is much more challenging. During this brainstorming session, we created the Build-A-Bike® activity where the participants assemble bicycles for children’s charities in their area. The key to the activity working flawlessly, though, is having a facilitator who can keep the entire group active and having fun throughout the event. The energy in the room has to build and build to a crescendo when the kids from the charity come rushing in at the end of the event to receive their new bikes. Going with a professional company who specializes in these types of activities typically works much better than trying to do one alone, because no matter how experienced a presenter is, team activities are a specific type of activity that takes experience to really master, and all it takes is one bad experience for your group to begin to spread the word that, “Those team building things just don’t work!”

How to Ensure Your Events are Perfect!

Our account managers receive dozens of calls every day from meeting planners who want to add a team activity into their meetings, and you’d be amazed how often when our consultants ask, “What is the purpose of the activity?” or “What results are you looking for?” the response tends to be, “We just want to have some fun.” If having fun is your only goal, then just about anything will do. That would be like planning a vacation by just getting in the car and driving in a random direction. If you don’t have a specific destination, any road will get you there. At the bear minimum, a few goals might be to create an atmosphere within your company that the company is a fun place to work. Another goal might be to use the activity as a way to foster the mission or vision of the company. At times, the goal might be to give your group a break from the long (and sometimes boring) meeting that get inserted into a convention agenda. Whatever the goal of your meeting is, it is important to have one. That way, at the conclusion, it will be much easier to tell if the activity was a success.

Another important thing to determine before organizing a team event is whether the result your looking for is to build camaraderie (have a fun shared experience) or are you looking to create a behavior change within your group. These two types of activities are ENTIRELY different genres of team building activities, and if you confuse the two, you might have a big challenge getting your group to grow as a team. We’ll be covering this important difference in team activities in a future article!