team building: The Good, the Bad and the Really Ugly

teamA few days ago, I came upon a really good article about team building activities

Indeed, sometimes it is hard to find out what a team building activity could or should be. We all know where the black and white are. But all the “50 shades of grey” do exist, even in the team building philosophy!

It would be risky to consider that everything implying a group and a common, “positive” goal is enough to facilitate or promote a useful workshop. These constitutive elements are certainly necessary, but not sufficient.

You also have to think about the health and integrity of the attendees, about the probable outcome and mostly what they will remember, back at the office, when the event is finished: what was the purpose of all this stuff? What did we learn? Are we at ease with all that happened there?

The definition proposed by David Jacobson is OK, but sometimes you have to define you own ethical principles, the “morality” of your activity as a facilitator, but also the “morality” of the whole event and several workshops or modules you prepare.

We had the same difficulty in Romania when lots of people asked to have a “paintball team building” as it was – and still is – “en vogue” among the human resources world. The employees ask for it, because it is new, it is attractive.

We reflected a lot about the implications when asked to include this “soft violence” into our modules: indeed as a paintball team you have to get the members organized, coordinated in order to successfully reach your goal. You have to be ready for sacrifice, abnegation, courage. That would be OK, say.

But you have to shoot in other people, in colleagues. You mimic war and destruction.

It is not ethical. It is not “team building” for me.

But then the difference can be more subtle: it is the same for “competition”. Is it OK to promote competition during team building activities at all costs? Even if our capitalistic system is mostly based on competition?

OK, but until you reach a limit: if competition overcomes the final purpose of the event you are creating for the attendees, which is – work better together – you have done something wrong, you must stop.

So prefer emulation to competition. Prefer cooperation to conquest.

Anyway, our professional activity as facilitators is slowly, but surely, shifting towards a new concept which some people call “capitalism as a force for good”, where we do not compete at all costs, but collaborate, where we do not retain information which is not vital, but share it in order to make other people grow.

My point is: team building is changing, as the world around us is.

The attendees must feel and believe they become better human beings after an event.

Maybe it is exaggerated, but I think it is a noble goal that will help us choose between several activities that seem to “taste” like team building, but are not.

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