by Positive Adventures Mon May 16 2016

What’s the Difference Between Team Bonding and Team Building?

Before you can fine tune your team’s performance, you need to form or reshape a team — after all, a building needs a foundation on which to stand. That’s the short explanation for the difference between these two crucial processes to creating a high functioning crew in the office.

Though team bonding can happen even long after a team has been brought together (it can be used at any time, really) it’s essential for laying the groundwork for optimum function among the folks who will need to rely on one another for inspiration, support and help. It helps allow people to get to know one another, get to know them in a different setting, see them in a different light, achieve a level of comfort together, and get the wheels moving toward the harder work of team building. For that to take place, colleagues need to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, be comfortable pushing each other, accepting and giving feedback, and generally open to each other.

With that foundation in place, you can move on to the heavy lifting, team building, whose purpose is to engage in activities that highlight how a team works and to improve upon that function. Generally speaking, it seeks to optimize how team members communicate with one another, solve problems, and resolve conflict. The differences are subtle, but important, and understanding them will help you find the right tools and activities for your goals.

What is Team Bonding?

Team bonding is generally achieved by bringing everyone together in fun and informal setting, often with an activity to spur the right kinds of interactions. You might think this sounds like just hanging out. But there are some major differences. Hanging out has no structure, it’s a social free-for-all where folks can just lay back, talk to whomever they please and just cruise. Obviously, that’s a healthy and beneficial thing we all need that in our lives; but that’s not what team bonding is.

The idea behind team bonding is for your colleagues and employees to coalesce over a simple game or task, something to inspire healthy competition and maybe a bit of problem solving. This activity will provide a stimulus, for discussion, for some light teamwork, however you want to transform your team. You may think you know everyone in the office—and you probably do… at least in the office setting. But people’s personalities can take a different shape over a game of trivia or corn hole or tug-of-war. This can allow you to see a different side of your employees and learn what they’re capable of. They might learn the same thing!

Part of the experience will entail communicating to all participants what the goals of the activity are. Do you want folks to get to know one another better? Do you want to bring out their competitive spirit? Nudge them toward supporting each other while taking healthy risks?

Plain and simple, this is a structured time for bonding. It would be ideal if we all could get to know everyone we work with –spending quality time learning their personalities, having fun together and shooting the breeze. Our busy lives make that proposition very unlikely, though, which is why setting aside time in the work schedule for this process with some of the most important people in your life and your business is a great thing. It’s a guarantee you can have this quality time.

And when everyone comes back to the office bragging about their trivia skills, how they never knew Phil was an expert on 80s pop music, or how Linda knows everything about Game of Thrones, you’ll feel your team is ready to work together to take on the challenges of your industry.

What Team Bonding Ideas Are Right for Your Company?

As with any team building exercise or corporate retreat, you want to make sure that whatever you choose is a tailored fit for your company’s needs. In tourist-friendly San Diego there’s always something to do. It may be as simple as attending a Padres game at Petco Park, or taking a sailboat cruise around San Diego, or hitting the beach for an afternoon of beach games. (Paddleball, anyone?)

But it’s not as simple as choosing from a list. First off, bonding games and icebreakers can have a bad reputation among people who’ve done the wrong one in the wrong setting. That’s why working out the best options with professionals who understand group dynamics and the needs of your business is essential. People are less likely to bond if activities are boring (one common complaint) or overly competitive or aggressive (in extreme cases, lawsuits can stem from badly misguided activities).

The options you consider are only limited by your time and creativity. Consider activities that everyone will enjoy doing. Do you have an active group who’d like to do some yoga, hiking or biking? An adventurous group who’d benefit from a cultural experience abroad? A hungry group of foodies who’ll enjoy a delicious meal? A brainy group who’d feed off a game at a museum?

What Team Building Ideas Are Right for Your Company?

You’ve heard of team building and maybe taken a trust fall or two yourself. But do you really know what it is? For starters, let’s take one professional’s definition: “A team building activity is any positive, shared experience that reinforces positive, team skills.”

That’s a pretty broad definition, and a good one because it leaves room to find your own meaning of the words “positive,” “shared,” “team,” and “experience.” Which is something that gets to the heart of what makes any of these exercises effective: Whatever you choose should fit what your team needs. What would be a positive experience for your team at this time? Is your business in a slump you want to get out of? Do you want to boost morale around the office? What type of experience would be best? Do you want your experience to take place in the office? Outside the office? In the wilderness? These are just some of the questions to consider when thinking about using team building to achieve your business goals.

As with team bonding, these exercises should be based on an outcome you’d like to see. The participants should know what that purpose is so they can approach it with the intention to understand their performance and be open to making changes if needed. And experienced professionals can help set the context. They can provide a fun and safe space where your employees can take risks and grow. And when it’s done, they can help all participants digest what happened – a key component to making the most of the whole experience.

Think of times in your life where you’ve learned the most and made the biggest strides. It’s likely they occurred when you were challenged and had to push yourself, even just a little. That’s why many team building activities seek to take people out of their comfort zone. Many exercises also focus on healthy competition because of how it can so quickly highlight group dynamics and challenge participants to get out of their comfort zone. One difficulty lies in finding an activity that’s challenging but one that participants will feel safe doing and will enjoy. Something too hard or too dangerous can have an opposite effect to what you’re seeking.

How long do they take? Again, that’s up to you, but they can last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days, depending on what you’re looking for. Some activities can be deceptively simple, like asking blindfolded participants to create a perfect square with a length of rope. Or fairly involved, like going on a geochache scavenger hunt.

When done effectively, the effects of team building will last well beyond the game itself or the afternoon or days it took place. Your team should come back to the office with new understanding, new skills and the right preparation to take their workplace performance to the next level.

Professionals at team building companies have an enormous roster of games and activities to choose from and years of experience to know how they will work. Asking one to help is a way to ensure you get the outcome you’re looking for.

Holiday Party: Fun Team Building Activities

The holidays are a fantastic time to regroup and refocus your team for even better performance next year. Lighter work loads can also provide time and energy to turn attention inward for a few beats. It’s great to capitalize on that when you can, because the year ahead may only offer so many opportunities.

The holidays are also a time to think about people in need and to lend a hand, which of course is a great starting point for many team bonding and building activities. Having a shared purpose, like helping needy kids get a bicycle or have food over the weekend when they don’t get school means, really brings people together. Also, as you may know, these types of activities are right in line with many companies’ corporate social responsibility goals, an increasingly crucial component of any business.

You might consider making a fun race out of assembling meals for low-income school kids. Or racing to assemble bicycles from donated parts. Or painting murals on public school campuses or to hang in a local library. Same as when you’re looking to create any team building or bonding exercise, think creatively. Look for opportunities that maximize the benefit to your employees, your business and the school children, homeless people, natural disaster victims, or whoever you want to give back to.

But hey, let’s not get too serious! The holidays can be about fun, and if your crew isn’t ready for team building, or needs something else, than team bonding can be the right choice. Maybe the weather isn’t perfect for a sail around the bay, or it isn’t baseball season. Fret not! The holidays present opportunities for your team to bond in a relaxed and fun setting. You can add purpose to parties and other events with team building activities.

Whatever you choose, consider asking the pros for help. They can make sure that a game is not just a game: it’s a strategic, albeit fun, way to boost morale, comfort or whatever is needed. The corporate team building niche has become specialized because there are many factors to consider and many logistics that need to be worked out. Talking to someone with years of experience and telling them what goals you’re looking to satisfy can go a long way. 

You’re an expert on your team and what it needs to thrive. But you may want to enlist professionals to assist you in finding the right balance of everything that makes a memorable, successful event. Questions? Give us a call!

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