Top 5 reasons why your team building isn’t working: And one tool to fix it

U.S. companies spent over 1.5 million dollars last year on Team Events hoping to build a sense of community and make systematic issues in their organization magically go away. When most leadership teams see a functional divide – a loss of clarity in mission or purpose, people hoarding resources – the first thing they think is: “A day doing an all team scavenger hunt will help solve this!”

Here are the top five reasons why most team building events tend to not work, and what to do to change that dynamic.

There’s no purpose behind them

Many people have told me how much fun they had at an Escape Room (Have you heard of these? The team needs to solve problems before a zombie gets released and attacks them. I am not kidding – it’s a real thing – look it up.) Lots of skills might be learned, however they are relying on the individual to take those skills and translate them into the everyday work environment.

The connection between the offsite event and their work in the office are sometimes not clear. How much has the team actually learned about working together from making a go-cart, or escaping a zombie attack? Will it help your team in the office tomorrow?

If the connection is not made clear, then the employee walks away having had fun but having learned nothing that they can take back to the office with them.

They are not about connection

Many events such as a ropes course, an obstacle course, or an Iron Chef-type competition will pit one group of people against another group. These outings are based on competition, and not about working together in a collaborative environment.

If employees are to learn anything from the time spent away from their desk, it needs to be something where everyone works together, everyone shares the same goal, and everyone achieves success.

Team building is about creating a team, not about creating a faction of the team that is better than another faction of the team.

They are embarrassing

 When you have been forced to make a balloon sword and then have a sword fight with someone in front of your peers, chances are would you no longer wish to engage in the next company-wide team building activity.

When you have been forced to create a short act and get on stage wearing a wig, you might no longer wish to participate. This is one of the biggest issues. Most team building events (and I acknowledge that a lot of the Improv companies I know to do this, which is why there is a lot of bad impressions about Improv for corporate training out there) try to use the old standards of “thinking out of the box” or “stretching people outside of their normal habits.”

While there is a lot of value in doing that, it needs to be done in a safe, supportive environment. If the facilitators and trainers have not created that safe environment, to begin with, then the entire event falls down flat.

They involve alcohol

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person who loves to go out for a drink. However, when it comes to creating a team culture, there have to be activities that do not involve getting drunk.

Activities can happen first, and then afterward there can be fun conversation and drinks. Most companies try to blend the two, creating an event that turns into a drunken mess regardless of the goals or intended outcomes. I facilitated a workshop where the Project Manager said to the team “Can you guys write some of this down because I am so drunk I won’t remember it…’

Put the alcohol away for the first couple of hours. Trust me, you’ll thank me on this one later.

They don’t allow for self-reflection and shared growth.

 Every person has a different learning style. Any single event is not going to reach each individual’s learning style at the same time, or in the same way. As a result, every training session needs to have a specific time set aside for people to process the experience through their own lens.

Only by processing through their own lens, and discussing it with their peers, can they figure out a way, and feel empowered to use this information as they move forward in their day-to-day work.

Each individual needs to draw their own conclusions and create new connections that the facilitator/trainer may never have seen before.

The bottom line is that team building is about creating a better style of COMMUNICATION with your co-workers. As an affiliate with Count on That, ImprovMindset focuses on the corporate training program for team building and communication skills through the application of the “Yes, and” workshop.

Teaching your team to ACCEPT (Yes) and BUILD (and) with co-workers will create an inclusive and supportive environment that will move beyond the training into the workplace.

It is about finding ways to work through issues that arise naturally between human beings and providing clarity on directions and needs for the entire organization. It is about creating a shared experience (and a fun one!) for everyone to bond and practice some well needed soft skills to improve the fabulous work your organization already does. This is what a “Yes, and” workshop can provide for your company.

The best tools are focusing on communication, and the shared values taught in “Yes, and.” With this one tool in your team’s arsenal, you can begin to tackle your organization’s challenges, and thoughtfully build an inclusive and cohesive working environment.

To find out more about having a ‘Yes, and’ workshop for your company, contact us at




Andrew McMasters

CEO – ImprovMindset LLC

[email protected]

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