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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

May 19, 2023


It turns out many people don’t like compulsory team building activities at work. So how do we build relationships and connections in a way that people do appreciate?



Welcome to episode 185 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how to build team connections without resorting to compulsory fun.

Many leaders are noticing a reduction in inter-connection between their people. This could be due to a range of factors, including an increase in remote working, busy-ness or just inattention to relationships as an important part of team effectiveness. People are therefore exploring ways of building these connections.  A tempting option is to book a hopefully fun team building activity.  However research suggests that people can resent team building activities, particularly when they aren’t voluntary. Even when people are okay with being involved, often the activities chosen don’t allow much opportunity for discussion and bonding.

Research suggests that intentional efforts at building relationships and connections are usually more beneficial than generic team building activities. Here are some of the suggestions I’m sharing with clients who are wanting to build team cohesion:

  1. Focus on team effectiveness. We are here to do a job, and your team building efforts are best placed when they have a clear link to the effectiveness of the team. That doesn’t mean it needs to be stale or boring, but the activities need to have a point.
  2. Allow people to share and get to know each other safely. Team building efforts work best when people can choose how much or how little they want to share. An example is having people share a five star recommendation. This could be anything - a book, holiday destination, recipe, restaurant, activity - anything they would give five stars and why. This simple question often breaks down barriers and allows people to safely open up and get to know each other.
  3. Invest your own time in getting to know your people. Team building works best when the leader is involved and makes a conscious effort to get to know all the people in their team, rather than just sticking with the people they know or seeking to keep a distance between them and the team.
  4. Building effective relationships is part of the work, so stick to normal work hours. If your team want to organise to do something together outside work hours, that’s great. But anything you organise should honour their time.

Give these approaches a go with your team and have a great week.



Petr Matous, Julien Pollack, Jane Helm. Collecting experimental network data from interventions on critical links in workplace networks. Social Networks, 2021; 66: 72