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Team Building: Success vs Fail

Team building is one of the most important investments you can make for your team and when executed correctly, can have long lasting positive effects on your employee’s productivity, performance and general happiness at work. So, how do you ensure that your next team building event is a success?

team building success and fail

Set Clear Goals

One of the first questions you should be asking is WHY are we holding this event. Do you want to get everyone energised and excited about the year ahead? Do you have specific focus areas such as wanting your group to work on communication & collaboration? Or you may simply be wanting to get your employees together for a bit of mingling, general ‘team building’ & fun. Whatever the reason, it’s important that the outcome you’re wanting to achieve becomes the focus of the activity. Once you’ve narrowed down what your desired outcomes are, talk to us about which team building programs would be best or how we can tailor an activity to suit.

Know Your Participants

Just as team building can fall short when the goals & outcomes are not in alignment, similar issues come up if your specific participants are not taken into account. Puzzle-solving might be fun for brainy participants but could bore those who prefer to be more active. On the other hand, athletic activities may delight some but send others into a panic. This requires looking at questions such as the level of physicality attendees would be comfortable with, and what their roles are within the organisation. Generally, unless otherwise instructed by you, our activities are designed to suit participants from a wide range of demographic i.e. ages, fitness levels & interests. This way, everyone in your team feels comfortable contributing and no one feels disengaged or excluded.

Don’t Embarrass Your Employees

Leading on from knowing your participants, the last thing a company should want to do is push participants so far outside of their comfort zone that they feel alienated or even embarrassed. There are many horror stories out there about team building that have given it a bad rap. A few of our favourite ‘team building fails’ include:

The Trust Fall

Arguably the most infamous team building exercise in the history of team building! An activity whereby a person closes their eyes, crosses their arms, and blindly falls backwards into the arms of a colleague. An exercise that on the surface generates warm & fuzzy feelings of building support & trust between co-workers but in reality, involves a lot of unwanted touching, invasion of personal space & possible injury when your colleagues fail to catch you.


It’s hard to perceive how shooting other members of your team with hard pellets covered in paint could be deemed as remotely related to ‘team building’. If you want to create a sense of team camaraderie, any activity that insights violence towards others is not the way to do so & will have the absolute opposite effect.

Face Your Fears – Ropes Course

For an active, outdoorsy person with no fear of heights, a ropes course may sound like a great idea for a team event. Once again, a successful team event is all about knowing your participants. Just because you might be into something doesn’t mean that everyone in your team will feel comfortable. We’ve heard many horror stories about employees paralysed by fear on a ropes course and either refusing to participate in the challenge at all OR giving it their best with the result being plenty of tears & embarrassment.

Our tips:

  • Don’t choose activities that might violate people’s dignity, privacy, or personal space.
  • Something you might enjoy with your buddies on the weekend isn’t always appropriate for the workplace.
  • The purpose of team building is for everyone to feel comfortable to contribute & included – not the opposite!

Incorporate a Debrief

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review showed that teams who host even an unstructured debrief have a 22% higher chance of succeeding than a team that didn’t do one. So, we can see that even a quick, informal debrief can have such a greatly positive impact on the way we do work. To learn more about how to incorporate a debrief into your next activity, check out our blog post, Team Building Activity Debrief.