Team Bonding or Team Building – Which Approach Works Better?

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Work teams are made up of real people – not robots. Real people flourish in teams when they are happy, their efforts are appreciated and their environments are rewarding and fulfilling.  This doesn’t occur in a vacuum as successful teams are essentially effective individuals with common goals, supportive culture and mutual respect.  So, one way to increase the performance of your team is to intentionally work to establish a happy, harmonious culture where people feel supported and can bring their “best selves” to work.

Great teams do need to be nurtured so the bonds grow over time.   So, how to give the individuals in your team the best springboard for success?  Many companies find there is enormous value in developing personal bonds in a team, to some extent emulating how a group of friends grow and change together over time via their shared experiences.  In a group of friends the process of building bonds is accelerated because the shared activities are often fun and recreational, so it was hypothesised that many teams could be helped to perform better by creating stronger bonds of friendship.

We have found that over time a key goal of most team building activities has simply become “team bonding”, which is perhaps a little “softer” in approach to traditional team building.  We define team bonding as seeking to entrench strong bonds of rapport, respect and trust via a highly socialized team.  We have had substantial success for our clients in developing these bonds is through indirect (ie non-work) social recreation, fun and laughter.

Whilst both team building and team bonding activities are primarily designed for improving team performance, creating opportunities to work closely as a team to achieve certain outcomes, they do diverge slightly.  With team building, there is often a primary goal to address leadership, learning, communication or some other team attribute, whilst the object of team bonding is generally to nurture the team spirit, enhance belonging and develop respect that follows from people seeing a social (non-work) persona of their colleagues.

Team bonding events create shared team experiences that are memorable, fun, adventurous, creative or outside of daily routine.  They generally act as a shared reward and spark stories and memories.  At Team Bonding we believe that laughter is the best connector of all – an event where you hear lots of laughter is invariably deemed a great success.

Is Team Bonding Effective?

Though we imagine there are teams of rugged individuals that succeed, our observation across thousands of teams is that high performing teams have strong personal bonds of friendship and rapport.  People don’t have to live in each other’s pockets, and certainly not everyone would choose each other as friends, but a pervasive atmosphere of upbeat friendliness does wonders for an organisation’s cultures.   Humans perform best when they feel safe and secure, and we feel safest when we are known, respected and cared for.  It is no mistake that some of the world’s most successful organizations have realised the value in supporting team bonding activities – it is an investment in their most important asset.