Why is team building so important?

Intentional and strategic team building can help turn a group of people into a unified team.

Often a group of people will refer to themselves as a team, but are those terms really synonymous? Whether for a youth group like a 4-H club or a group of adults like an office committee, building a team takes more than just putting people together in a room. Michigan State University Extension recommends intentional and strategic team building to help turn a group of people into a unified team.

A team will have a purpose for being organized, such as a goal to achieve like organizing a fundraiser, or for the purpose of furthering a mission like youth development or awareness of an issue. People join the group so they can individually work towards this goal; however, if they learn how to effectively work together, their efforts may be magnified. A good team is more than the sum of its parts!

A valuable beginning is to ensure the members of the team know each other. A group’s leader can introduce activities such as icebreakers into regular meetings to ensure people become familiar with others in the group. As people get to know each other, they will care about each other as individuals, not just as professionals or fellow club members. Learning to appreciate each team member as a whole person – and in turn, being appreciated by others – can lead to a greater sense of belonging and loyalty for everyone involved.

Once people are more comfortable with each other, they can start to build trust. This is accomplished through time spent working together and people following through on their commitments. This can also be accelerated and augmented with intentional teambuilding activities. From silly games that make everyone laugh and break down barriers to more serious problem solving missions, purposeful activities can help team members understand the team has their back and are worthy of trust.

As people are building trust with one another, they are also learning how to communicate. Guiding group members through intentional games can help them improve their communication skills with each other, which will transfer to their work or club projects later. Many team building activities incorporate such skills as active listening, questioning assumptions, giving clear directions, problem solving or learning how to ask effective questions.

There are many advantages to intentional team building, including increased trust and communication amongst team members. All of these add together to help make a team stronger and more productive, no matter what their purpose is. Michigan 4-H includes team building as part of many trainings and resources; read articles about teamwork in the workplace or icebreaker activities, or visit Michigan 4-H Leadership for more information. 

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