Team Building. What Is It?

By Susan M. Heathfield

Team building is the process of turning a group of individual employees into a cohesive team, a group of people organized to work together interdependently and cooperatively to meet the needs of their customers by accomplishing their purpose and goals.
Team building can include the daily interaction that employees engage in when working together to carry out the requirements of their jobs. It can also involve structured activities and exercises that employees can lead. Or, with the proper budget and goals, managers can contract out for facilitation with an external resource.

Internal Team Building Opportunities
With a little practice, groups of employees such as departments, product teams, marketing teams and more can use another employee to facilitate their group’s session. Often the team leader or manager will facilitate a series of meetings at which employees get to know each other and develop cohesive working relationships.


In a larger organization, organization development staff can lead team building sessions. Many Human Resources practitioners are also comfortable leading team building sessions.

But, team building doesn’t always have to have a meeting or a facilitated meeting to accomplish the goal of a cohesive team. You can build your teams by structuring activities and fun events that team members can do together.

Start with a department picnic using a couple of hours during the workday to visit a nearby park. You can grill outside of the office and suggest that employees bring a dish to pass. Or, you can cater in pizza or a lunch from a local caterer or restaurant. The goal that you share with the employees is that you gather together to share some quality talking time over the meal.

You can sponsor activities where employees get together for fun.

Bowling, Christmas Eve lunch, painting pictures with the guidance of a painting shop, river cruises on a passenger boat, comedy club presentations, and baseball games all fit the bill. Really, events that your team can do or attend together for team building are as endless as the team’s imagination.
My one caveat is that events that are physically challenging such as rock climbing and ropes courses can cause dread and days of fear in the minds of physically inactive or challenged employees. So, for team building, stay away from any type of event that any employee would be unable to participate in.

Looking for ideas? Here are fifteen team building activities that you can do at work or in your local area. They are inexpensive, not scary, fun, and do build your team.

Using External Facilitation
When using an external facilitator for team building, groups can participate in structured activities that are designed to help the employees coalesce into an effective team. Generally, the facilitator works with a group of employees to design the team building activities or sessions. You will find them most effective when they are customized to the needs of your group.

These sessions can include ice breakers, discussion topics, games, cooperative assignments, and group brainstorming.

The role of the external facilitator in these events is to help you reach your goals. Make sure the event is integrated into your everyday work so the results continue following the event.
If you want to have an effective team that produces the outcomes needed by your organization, you have to pay attention to both process and team building. In fact, 80% of the success of a team is due to team building and cohesive working relationships. 20% is the process – knowing what to do.