Team Building is not an Afterthought

It’s happening with increasing frequency. The phone rings or an email pops into the inbox. The inquiry is from a company that wants to include team building in a meeting that they are planning.

The allotted time-frame is short. It’s 1 day tops. (Often it is half a day.) The meeting is coming up in less than a month. The hotel has already been booked and invariably it is in the middle of the busiest part of town.

During the next few exchanges, the allocated time frame shrinks until you are left with 2 – 3 hours sandwiched between a meeting and dinner. Due to the short time-frame and the location of the hotel, this eliminates and possibility of going off-site. (Given the way in which agendas often get behind scheduled, it is likely that, on the day of the meeting, the time will be even shorter. Expect a 3:30 or 4:00 start.)

Beware when you are the only thing that separates participants from their dinner.




There is absolutely no wiggle room. There is a hard stop at the end of the afternoon so that the group is not late for dinner. There is no option of continuing in the evening or incorporating the dinner into the team building session as everything has already been booked.

These are the symptoms of team building as an afterthought. It is as if weeks before a meeting, there was a gap in the agenda and someone said “I know. Let’s ‘do’ some team building.”

Under this scenario, the possibility of providing interactive, meaningful and enjoyable team building is remote. If it is an executive team with high expectations, it’s the kiss of death. There will be little time to work with the group and draw parallels between team building and business. Debriefing will be rushed and superficial. The analytical learners will not have nearly enough “thinking time” to process what they are learning. Content will not be covered in depth and many participants will dismiss the entire experience as fluff and a waste of time.

If 2 hours is all you have, don’t inflict poorly executed team building on them. Give participants some free time. Many meeting agendas are over-packed anyway so they’ll appreciate it.

Instead of approaching team building as an afterthought, why not build it into your meeting from the beginning. Set clear goals and objectives, determine which programmes will meet these objectives and dovetail with the rest of the meeting. Select a venue that is conducive to the selected team building. Bring participants in a little earlier to carve out enough time on the agenda to deliver team building that is targeted. meaningful, and effective.

Team building is a meaningful vehicle through which groups can further meeting objectives of the meeting. Integrate it into the meeting or skip it. Team building should never be an afterthought.

Photo Credit: Anton Porsche

What are some of the factors that lead to “team building as an afterthought”?

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4 thoughts on “Team Building is not an Afterthought

  1. Anne Thornley-Brown says:

    The content is great, putting the emphasis on the business instead of the activities. Still with a carefully designed theme to pull everything together, 4 days should be ample time to get it all done. Here is an example:

    Visexecutaries: Apprentice Inspired Team Building

    But, that’s the rub. We always advise our clients to avoid a packed agenda. It serves no one. I’ve written several blog posts about this yet it is still one of the most common team building pitfalls. In fact, one of the first posts I wrote on this blog was about this very topic:

    Team Building Tips: Set a Realistic Timeframe

    Here are the reasons that you should avoid a packed agenda at all costs:

    – Of What Value Is a Packed Agenda?

  2. Ibinabo Tom-west says:

    ….. Maketing-Away Days (conference) for our clients (are) 4 days strategy and team building sessions. One would say it was largely successful the only draw back was it was too jam backed leaving little room for rest to the extent that some activities were cancelled cause the participants were too tired and exhausted.

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