The 7 Deadly Sins of Team Building



Having been in business since 1988 we have heard some horror stories from event planners, venues PA’s and participants about their previous team building “fails”. Most problems could have been solved in advance with just a little bit of professionalism and forethought.

Here are 7 of the big factors that can contribute to the failure of a team building event long before the day of delivery even begins…

Inflicting highly physical challenges onto non-physical people.

Enthusiastic bosses, committee members and providers who may love their triathlons, cycling, orienteering and adventure sports sometimes forget that this passion may not be shared by the rest of their team. Taking people too far out of their comfort zone without good cause is not only inconsiderate, but can result in humiliation, injury or worse for those not prepared for the physical demands of some formats. The run around / Amazing Race style events are notorious for putting non-physical office people on the run whether they are willing and able or not. For the right group physicality can be a sensational way to bond a team, but pick the wrong audience and you can do far more harm than good.

Ignoring the potential impact of weather.

In the comfortable and temperature controlled environment of an office the idea of outdoor formats in the middle of summer or winter can sound fine. The very real impacts of exposure to extremely hot or cold climates on the day can quickly ruin team morale and the value of the event. Changing weather patterns around the world certainly don’t help. Failure to consider Plan B’s and alternate venue space for wet weather is another common problem. Meeting planners running around in a panic on the morning of an event attempting to deal with suddenly looming storms is a nightmare for a venue. Having well thought out options in advance is important.

Adding alcohol to an event that is not designed for it.

There are often conflicting demands made of a proposed team-building event (more about that later). Often this manifests as people try to match a format to a dinner. Some event formats are purpose built for dinners and will take into account the progressive impact of alcohol consumption upon the moods and cognitive abilities of participants as a night advances. If an event that that is not “alcohol friendly” is forced into a dinner format it can simply become a messy and pointless disaster. Not only will people’s ability to engage and participate in anything complex decrease with alcohol consumption, but so too will their ability to see the point of most formats that are anything but simplistic and fun in their design.

Failing to obtain proper council / government permission for locations.

Just as the potentially adverse impacts of weather can be ignored or overlooked, so too can the need for council and government permits and permissions for crucial event locations. Some purely out and about formats that don’t require props of any form to be set up may get away with this, but then again, you could pay a high price for taking a chance. Embarrassing and event ending interventions from Council Officials are just not a good look on the day. Not only is it a hallmark of professionalism to seek the correct permissions in advance, but it’s also handy to be forewarned of any planned closures, maintenance or major events that may clash with your proposed use of a site.

Repeatedly using tired reality TV show formats.

If dealing with a group totally new to team building this may not be an issue, but more often than not people have knocked around a bit and been to a few meetings and off-sites. With the more common latter category, it’s fair to say that the reality TV knock-offs have been somewhat done to death. The mutterings of “not another bloody treasure hunt / Amazing Race” resound at too many conferences and meetings. At the very onset of reality TV these formats had a certain novelty, but that time has largely passed and seeking more original and novel formats is more likely to be welcomed by a sophisticated audience these days. Better impact and credibility as an event planner come from using new and original formats.

Not doing proper due diligence on your team building providers.

There are good providers with established track records and high professional standards, but there are also plenty of “cowboys” who may at face value seem to “walk the walk”. Getting a website up isn’t that hard these days, and great care should be taken to dig a little deeper than the site alone to ensure that experience, reliability, safety and professionalism are actually underpinning any marketing gloss. At the end of the day you are planning to put your people into their care and if your people matter to you, so too should choosing the best operators. Apart from any psychological or physical risks, your people should feel some discrimination and care has gone into picking exactly the right people to work with them.

Allowing committees to pull event decision-making in too many directions.

A committee may come together to plan a conference or an off-site. Some will collaborate and make decisions better than others. “Too many cooks can spoil the broth” as the old saying goes, and conflicting ideas about the purpose and objectives of a team event may result in square pegs being hammered into round holes / unrealistic expectations. Executive PA’s, Sales Managers and folks from HR or L&D may have quite different ideas when it comes to what a team building event should look like. When a proposed format can’t please everyone, which direction should you take? A decisive call may need to be made, although sometimes hybrid monsters are created that will please nobody as an output of “group-think”.

Sabre has been successfully designing and delivering team building solutions globally since 1988 and we will be delighted to help you make the best decisions when it comes to selecting the best format for your team.