What Is Team Building?

Definition and Examples of Team Building

Teammates push each other in office chairs during a team building exercise.

Vadym Pastukh / Getty Images 

Team building is the process of turning a group of individual contributing employees into a cohesive team—a group of people organized to work together to meet the needs of their customers by accomplishing their purpose and goals.

Learn more about effective methods for team building and activities you can use.

What Is Team Building?

Team building creates stronger bonds among the members of a group. The individual members respect each other and their differences and share common goals and expectations.

Team building can include the daily interaction that employees engage in when working together to carry out the requirements of their jobs. This form of team building is natural and can be assisted if the group takes the time to come up with a set of team norms. These norms help group members know how to appropriately interact on the team and with the rest of the organization.

Team building can also involve structured activities and exercises led by team members. Or, with the proper budget and goals, managers can contract out for facilitation with an external resource. External facilitation by an experienced person can give your team building a boost.

The bonds formed from team-building will enable employees to accomplish the work and goals of your organization more effectively than a non-bonded group. Keep your focus on team-building opportunities that lend themselves to the accomplishment of the actual work of the team.

How Does Team Building Work?

Often the team leader or manager will facilitate a series of meetings at which employees get to know each other and develop cohesive working relationships.

In a larger organization, organization development staff can lead the team-building sessions. Many human resources practitioners are also comfortable leading team-building sessions. And with a little practice, teams can use another employee to facilitate their group's session.

But team building doesn't always have to have a facilitated meeting to accomplish the goal of a cohesive team. You can build your teams by structuring activities and fun events that team members can do together.

Ideas for Team-building Activities

For example, you could start with a department picnic, using a couple of hours during the workday to visit a nearby park. Grill some food and suggest that employees bring a dish to pass.

The goal is that you gather together to share some quality talking time over the meal. If employees take their lunches to their individual offices to eat alone, it defeats the goal of team building.

You can also sponsor activities where employees get together for fun. Bowling, painting pictures at a painting shop, river cruises on a passenger boat, comedy club outings, and baseball games all fit the bill. Really, any event that your team can do or attend as a group will help bond them.

Events that are physically challenging, such as rock climbing and ropes courses, can cause dread and fear for physically inactive or challenged employees. So, for team building, stay away from the type of event that some employees would be unable to participate in comfortably and without trepidation. 

The best team-building activities are inexpensive, fun, and effective—not to mention local and easy to do.

Using External Facilitation

When using an external facilitator for team building, groups can participate in structured activities that are designed to help the employees coalesce into an effective team. Generally, the facilitator works with a group of employees to design team-building activities or sessions.

You will find these team-building activities most effective when they are customized to the needs of your group. Generic team building can have a positive impact, but it is nowhere near as impactful as a customized event.

These sessions can include icebreakers, discussion topics, games, cooperative assignments, and group brainstorming. The role of the external facilitator in these events is to help you reach your goals. Make sure the event is integrated into your everyday work so the results continue following the event.

Key Takeaways

  • Team building is the process of strengthening bonds between members of a group for the purpose of more efficiently achieving the group's goals.
  • Activities that promote team building can be as informal and casual as a shared meal, or as formally structured as a session led by a facilitator.
  • Successful teams can be more productive than individual contributors.