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  • Writer's picturePJ Stevens

Teambuilding = Business Improvement

Teambuilding: the most important business investment you will make?

In the Forbes article titled ‘Why Team Building Is The Most Important Investment You’ll

Make’, it notes that teambuilding ‘builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages

communication, and increases collaboration’. It further states that ‘effective team building

means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture and boosting the

bottom line’.

The differentiator here is the effectiveness of the teambuilding.

The largest Reducible Cost in Business is in Working Relationship

The largest reducible cost in business is to be found in working relationships (McConnon,

Better Place to Work) such as poor communication, misunderstanding, personality clashes

and the like. Therefore attending to this, through effective team building and team

development, will directly develop and improve the greatest resource a business has which

is its people.

Consequently if you want to build or improve a business it is necessary to develop the team

and invest in team development.

Teambuilding versus Team Bonding

There are a spread of levels of team building from fun games and away days, to more

focused facilitated activities, team coaching sessions and a series of teambuilding to create

team development. The challenge is understanding what’s available, what are your needs

and commitment to team building, and therefore what’s the best value and fit for you.

There's a plethora of fun team bonding and teambuilding activities you can buy which will

have little or no business value, and sadly there’s plenty of very poor team building options

available that might lead to more conflict, damaged relationships and misunderstanding.

Low quality or badly delivered team events and activities can and do exclude people, negate

people’s values and cause unhelpful disruption which will likely lead to negative impact at

work and increased costs and losses.

What is Business Improvement

The essence of business improvement is described in the ‘What is business improvement’ (PJ Stevens) article as the ‘’process of a ‘thing moving from one state to a state that is

considered to be better’, usually through some action or intervention intended to bring

about that change and improvement.’’

Given this, it’s people who will come up the ideas and creativity, and will action the

intervention. Teams who work well together, who trust each other, listen and collaborate

are far more likely to share ideas and problem solve at a higher level. All of which can

translate into business improvements and useful benefits.

Teambuilding can Reduce Waste and increase the Flow of Ideas

Gallup suggests it is important to encourage teambuilding and teamwork because their

research found that poorly managed workgroups are 50% less productive and 44% less


Similarly whilst studying at MIT Sloan School of Management, it was suggested that team

work improves the ‘flow of ideas, productivity and dollars!’ If we break that journey down

into the three parts: we start by tapping into the creativity, knowledge and ideas that exists

in business in our people; from there we can work out what to do, make decisions, create a

plan and take focused action which is the productivity part. As a result of the first two, which

are almost entirely people centric, the third element ‘flow of dollars’ will come.

The Importance of Trust

One of the key resources that we need in order to collaborate, but don’t always have, is

trust. For a group of people or team to share ideas honestly and effectively, work well

together, get creative and problem solve, is trust.

Think of a couple of people, teams or situation where you have experienced low levels of

trust. What did it feel like and look like in the team? What did you notice about people’s

behaviours and relationships.

Shelley Smith wrote ‘a lack of trust in the workplace is the virus that can create a diseased

workplace culture. It often begins with leadership and spreads throughout the team, leading

to a cycle of unhealthy responses that affect engagement and productivity.’

In a work place with low trust, we typically hear people say that we: just do our job, have low

energy, experience higher level of errors, are told what to do, can feel isolated and looking

for other jobs. None of which is conducive to high performance, productivity or


Conversely, if you think of situations where you have experienced high levels of trust, what

did that look and feel like? How were people behaving and what was the atmosphere like?

More importantly, if I was a new member of the business or a client, what would I notice

coming into that situation?  

Trust is the cornerstone for creating a workplace where employees are engaged, productive,

and continually innovating. However, there are studies and surveys that report many

business are suffering low levels of trust. According to one Harvard Business Review ‘58

percent of respondents admitted to trusting strangers more than their own boss’.

There are of course many ways to test the level of trust in business through the use of

surveys and polls. Perhaps the best way is simply to ask people and have a useful

conversation together. The act of asking the other person about trust, what it means to

them, what they need to be in place in order to trust will almost always develop trust.

Assuming of course you do this in a trustworthy way.

How can a Facilitator help?

It is better to develop these skills and experiences, and have these conversations initially,

with a qualified facilitator at a teambuilding or team development event or workshop.

The facilitator can set the scene, provide a safe environment and offer various activities or

experiments, feedback and conversations which enable participants to build the trust

‘muscles’ through positive and practical experience together – not just theory or role play –

so that they can continue to use and develop these skills in the work place.

To support this development put a plan of ‘continuous improvement’, including coaching

and team development sessions at work. This will lead to an improvement in the overall

culture of trust, collaboration, understanding and leadership, and offer quantifiable ROI.

Indeed rather than just Business Improvement, the notion of team building might sit more

usefully in relation to Continuous Improvement. When does stopping improvement make

any (business) sense anyway, surely we should be continuously improving, learning and

developing selves, teams and businesses?

Teambuilding events versus Continuous Improvement

If you shift your thinking from team building being a one off team event, to the notion of

continuous improvement, then team building and team development, and the associated

reality of that, such as improving communication, people skills, collaboration, alignment and

problem solving becomes a lot more exciting and perhaps easier to see it as an investment.

People are our greatest asset, yet they don’t sit on the balance sheet, leastways not usually,

unless perhaps you own a Sports Team, such as professional football club where players are

bought and sold.

Winning Sports Teams play together

The Sporting world is a great place to get stories, analogies and lessons from which we can

translate into business benefits. For example in the Compliance & Ethics article ‘Why team building is important for your business’, they note that when ‘a sports team wins a

championship, the players and coaches often cite playing together as a cohesive team as

the key to their win’.

The same could or should be true in the business and businesses. Businesses with high

performing teams are, on the whole, better places to work, are more successful and most

usually see an increase in productivity and their bottom line.

Managers would sooner Service their Car than Invest in Teams

Sadly, there are managers and leaders in businesses who fail to understand the real value

of team building and the significant impact and improvement it can offer the business.

Therefore they don’t take the time to invest in teambuilding activities and facilitated team

development programmes.

Funnily enough, over the years, I see these same leaders make sure their cars are regularly

serviced. They see this as necessary investment as its ‘important to follow the dealer service

plan’ and ‘a car is a reflection of you’. Surely it is more important to have a service or

development plan for your people and how you are as a leader speaks way more about you

than a car?

It’s people who drive a business forwards or slow it down

If you are still wondering if you should invest in a programme of team building – virtually,

face to face, or both – remember these words from my mentor, Shay McConnon, ‘its people

who drive a business forwards, slow it down or put it in reverse’.

Teambuilding is most certainly an important investment in business and business

improvement, and if you are serious about business improvement, consider team

development and the relationship with continuous improvement.

Team development is about continuously improving people, relationships, trust and

teamwork, which will go hand in hand with the culture and behaviours necessary to support

continuous improvement in business.


In summary:

Part 1

People = your greatest asset

Teambuilding = investment (not cost)

Part 2

Team building as an event = business improvement

Team development as a programme = continuous improvement

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