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Things to think about when designing a teambuilding event


Heather Townsend gives her top tips on planning a successful team building event.

For any team to be performing at its peak there needs to be common goals, ways of working, understanding, trust and respect. To do a team build well, the diagnostic and pre-work completed by you is fundamental to the success of the team build. In this article we will explore and consider what you need to research before you complete your design for the team build.

Dig into what is going on

Poor team work is generally a symptom of wider and deeper problems within the team – for example, the team leader’s personal management and leadership style, poor morale, under-performing team members. If you don’t look further (or deeper) than how well the team works together in your diagnostic, you will be doing the trainer’s equivalent of wallpapering over cracks. The ‘team’ may feel re-energised and re-motivated for about a week after the team build, but with the root causes unaddressed, the team goes back to how it was before the team build.

What to explore in a diagnostic?

A team is a multi-dimensional ever-changing system with complex interdependent relationships. Your role in the diagnostic is to get a clear picture of the team members understanding and commitment to the team vision and goals, ways of working, quality (and perception) of the relationships with the team’s stakeholders, internal and external customers, organisational champions and detractors as well as inter-team relationships.
By the end of the diagnostic you should have a clear picture of how the team are perceived inside and outside the organisation, how the team sees themselves, levels of trust and respect within the team, and what are the main drivers propelling and holding the team back from achieving its goals.

Team development

A team’s development generally goes through recognised patterns, e.g. Tuckman’s ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’, ‘performing’. Your diagnostic should identify which stage the team you are working with is operating.  If you are being called in to do some team building work, it is likely that you have a newly formed team (‘forming’), a team which is struggling with conflict (‘storming’) or a suspicion from your client that, ‘we could get more out from the team’ – ‘norming’.


Use of psychometrics in team building

A strong team will have a mix of differing personalities and working preferences. In the non-ideal world that we live in, very often a team leader will recruit a team in their own image. In this case the team will gel exceptionally well, and get stuck at the ‘norming’ stage. Or, if you have a mixture of different working styles within the team, which is not managed well, conflict can result and the team never moves out of ‘storming’.
If you suspect inter-team personalities or working styles may be hindering the team’s development, then it may be worth investigating completing psychometric profiling with the teams, for example, Belbin, TMS, Insights or MBTI (to name but a few).  Please be aware that all of these suggested profiling tools with teams are licensed and copyrighted products, and you will need accreditation before you can use them with a team.

Working styles

If I asked you to name some occupational stereotypes, I am sure you would trot out, ‘accountants are boring’, or ‘librarians are quiet’... to name but a few. When you put your design for the event together you need to consider the team’s personal preferences and styles, and tailor your design accordingly. For example, if my team was mainly composed of introverts I would minimise the amount of big group discussions and brainstorming. 


All too often teams go away on team building events and nothing actually happens when they get back to the day job. We’ve all probably been in that situation at one time in our lives. There is a long list of actions arising from the day, these get eventually typed up, and the day job slowly strangles any enthusiasm for the new initiatives and actions. As a result the momentum slows down and nothing changes after the event. As a consequence, you need to spend almost as much time planning how to engage the team with the ‘what happens next’, as you do with the actual design itself.

Heather Townsend is the driving force behind The Efficiency CoachTM. She is a highly experienced corporate, career and executive coach with over 10 years experience in many diverse businesses including Tesco, Procter & Gamble, BDO Stoy Hayward LLP. Heather blogs at and can be contacted by email at

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