Forcing Team Fun

Ever been on a team where you were required to attend what was intended to be an experience to bring your team together and build team spirit on a team that was a total dysfunctional disaster? I have.


Why do these forced experiences only make things worse?


The team is NOT READY – Teams can be in various stages of team development, yet many times the prescription is to throw team building at them to sort things out. A team that is at the peak of a major change, overwhelmed with workload, dealing with conflict, communicating poorly, working in a dysfunctional organizational cutlure or facing an absent or threatening leader will experience team building as a punishment, not a support.


The leader is INCOMPETENT – this is harsh…and true. Many leaders slap the team building bandaid on a team to check off their “well, I tried to make them better” box. It is difficult to acknowledge, but if a leader is simply managing tasks, avoiding and overwhelmed by team behavior issues, only giving direction not listening or coaching, pointing fingers, absent, or complaining about the organization and their peers, this leader is teaching their team to behave through their example. A team naturally takes on the direction and behaviors provided through their leader. This team will experience team building as a ‘just pretend we’re happy, grin and bear it so we can go back to our corners and collect a paycheck’.


The organizational culture is a DISASTER – and cannot support high-functioning teams. It’s tough to admit but this is a leadership issue at the highest level. This can be a result of being busy getting things done operationally to meet financial goals, sometimes it’s apathy or an attitude of ‘we’re doing fine, we’re meeting goals aren’t we?’, and in many situations it’s simply a matter of never having established an organizational vision that includes a culture or engagement measurement. This organization often has a high turnover rate and struggles for a reason ‘why’. Team building in this organization will fall flat and teams will find it pointless and a big time waster.


So what to do instead?


Take a good hard look at who you are as a leader and who is leading you. Here are some great questions to ask:

  • Does our organization support a culture of employee engagement?
  • What culture do I want to create on my team – am I leading by example?
  • Am I connecting with with my team?
  • Does my team respect me?
  • Am I listening to the concerns of team members and diagnosing to find solutions?
  • Does my team have the tools to do their job?
  • Do individuals on my team feel supported adequately?
  • How does my team want to learn and develop?
  • Is it time for team building? Leadership Coaching? Learning activities?


Ask yourself these questions and consult with your peers and leaders and even an HR or Learning and Development professional – get to the source of your needs before you force team fun!