Can a technical team go to the movies as a team building event? How about a BBQ, bowling, or paintball? If a team spends time together is that team-building? The answer, like so much in the world of leadership, is ‘it depends’.  At Brilliant Training, we think there are two main differences between spending time together as a team and true team building – purpose and facilitation.


Effective team building events always have a clear purpose. Ideally this purpose will be determined by what stage of development the team is in, as well as any specific issues that the team is struggling with. Matching the specific activity to the issues facing the team and the stage of team development they are in is particularly important, and is one of the areas that a professional might best be able to assist with.


For team building events to achieve their purpose, someone must be responsible for facilitation that directs the sequence and speed of activities, as well as presenting clear opportunities for the team to reflect and apply what they are learning.  This role is often performed best by a non-team member, but whoever does it should be experienced at walking teams through this sort of discussion. It’s also important that the facilitator is trusted by the team.


So, back to the original question, can a team go to the movies as a team building event? Well again, that depends what stage of team development a team is in. For a team early in the Forming stage, attending a movie together might present an opportunity to learn a little about each other outside the workplace. Although this would mostly happen before and after the movie itself. An activity like bowling or an informal BBQ would present similar opportunities. A leader could further facilitate the purpose by asking each team member to share a little about themselves – their background, hobbies, passions, and goals.


For a team that has been together for a while and is in the Norming stage, this activity wouldn’t add much value (and team members in the Storming stage might not even show up!) So although attending a movie might be a great way for a team to blow off some steam, but for many teams little will be accomplished in terms of changes in behavior or performance.

Share your experience of team building events in the comments below!