What to Do When Team Building Activities Go Wrong

Even if we create excellent team building programs and training plans, as facilitators we also recognize that a game or activity that worked with one team may not work with another. In order to be comfortable that you have selected the best activities, consider the following:

  • Avoid activities that would annoy you if you were a participant.
  • Adjust the length and type of activity to suit the length of the team building session. A one-day workshop may or may not benefit from a 45 minute icebreaker at the beginning; a five or ten minute icebreaker is probably just fine. However, if your team is taking part in a three to five day workshop and the outcomes improve when participants get to know one another really well, then an extensive game of up to an hour is appropriate.
  • Know your audience. Senior staff does not usually want to look silly or foolish in front of their subordinates. Junior staff may not be comfortable looking silly in front of their boss.
  • If participants arrive in business clothes, they may not be comfortable with really active games. If your session will be highly active or calls for casual clothes, make sure that participants know that ahead of time.
  • Participants who work together may know each other very well will find some exercises redundant. Be selective about the team building activities that you choose.
  • Learning dealing with personal development subjects such as communication or team building will benefit from games more so than training that relates to computer software, for example. The software group, however, might really need one or even several short energizers throughout the day to maintain motivation levels as well as retention.

If an activity flops: If a team building activity does not go over well with your team, don’t push it through to the end just because it’s a part of your lesson plan. Sometimes the dynamics of a group do not support an activity.

Here are some things that you can do if an activity flops.

  • Stop the activity and refocus the team. You can let them know that something went wrong, and that you are going to try again or you can abandon it altogether and move on.
  • Watch the energy levels. It is not unusual to expect that if an activity fizzles, the energy in the team will decrease sharply. People may feel that they have done something wrong. An energizer will get everyone reinvested in what is going on and restore those energy levels.
  • Organize an on-the-spot debriefing session and have the team identify what went wrong, and how to remedy the problem or move beyond it. Do not focus on why things went wrong, since that can lead to blaming or negativity that shouldn’t be introduced to the team building session. Focus the conversation on what and how.
  • If the team  building activity was applicable to the learning objectives and would work with some modifications, then make some changes and use it again. If it really isn’t applicable, then let it go and develop something that will enhance the training session the next time that it is offered.

 

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