No Taste for Team Building? Try A Dish of the Black Eyed Peas!

I always dreaded it—team building training, like the one where you fill out a profile and learn whether you’re a lion or a fox. 

Then you stand around the room with the other “animals” like you and talk about how to work together better. I guess that meant without eating each other for lunch. 

I’ve also been to outdoor courses where everyone collaborates to solve a physical problem, like getting the team to stand together on a wooden box without falling. That was awful for my friend, Joe, a super respectful guy who inadvertently grabbed my breast when I started to fall. He blushed so hard I was afraid he’d pass out. 

Not only did I attend these programs but I also arranged them over the ten years I was the company’s training manager. Sadly, I never saw any sustained team building come about. 

The work builds the team. 

Last week NBC’s Today Show had a “Today Goes Viral” series, designed to drive social media sharing of video clips. The Today Show anchors invited noted YouTube video creators to work their magic with them. 

For the series finale, the Today Show cast and crew came together on their own to film a music video to “I’ve Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. The video had to be shot in one continuous take, mirroring what had been done by students at the University of Quebec. 

This was a never-done-before undertaking for the Today Show’s150 coworkers. Because the goal was to film it in one uniterrupted take, everybody had to perform their part correctly or they’d have to start over. 

As you will see in the link, staff members wore black t-shirts showing their job titles, had  specific song parts to lip sync, and could “perform” in a way that showcased their personalities.

They were all in it together. As you can see, a lot of great things happened to build their team, allowing each person to make an indelible contribution to something unique. 

Teams thrive when the goal is clear. 

This video experience speaks volumes about team building: 

  • There are no small parts—everyone impacts the end product.
  • Working together generates energy and produces the best result.
  • Self-expression and uniqueness make the outcome richer—so wear that boa, bring your funny hat, ride your unicycle, and turn that backflip.
  • Age excludes no one—the Boomers, Millenials, Gen’s X and Y make it happen together.
  • Trusting in each other to deliver on cue tightens the bond.
  • Celebrating the collective result and recognizing each individual’s contribution create a lasting marker. 

When the music in the video is over, everyone is gathered in Rockefeller Plaza singing a cappella but with a twist. Instead of the Black Eye Peas’ lyric, “Tonight’s gonna be a good night,” the group sang, “Today’s gonna be a good day.” If anything can build a team, that line surely summarizes it.

Take a fresh look 

If your team is flat, resistant, or non-collaborative, try looking at the work rather than the personalities. Most of us do work that can become pretty mundane. But there are things that can bring everyone together. 

Ask yourself, “What excites my staff?” Is it the chance to visit customer sites in small teams? Working together on a new marketing, product, or program idea? Arranging an event to recognize internal customers, a company milestone, or completion of a special project? 

Maybe creating a team commitment to building their collective “business fitness” would be interesting. Coworkers could identify areas they want to grow in, come up with creative ways to get there, and then help each other. Let it become a kind of group employee development commitment,  a “The Biggest Winner” program.  Whatever the strategy, try to build your team around the work that binds people together and enjoy the energy it creates.  Today is gonna be  good day!

What team building experiences have you had? Anything you want to recommend? Thanks.

4 thoughts on “No Taste for Team Building? Try A Dish of the Black Eyed Peas!

  1. I liked the time I was a Turkey Vulture. Seriously, good post. Too often the learnings from team building activities of any sort aren’t connected back to relevance to work (experiential learning cycle) and there’s no follow-up.

    • A Turkey Vulture…how glamorous! At least they just peck at the carrion! I love the “experiental learning” that you mention. When learning isn’t connected to something we have to do, it easily dissipates. Great to hear from you, as always!

  2. I agree that teams are built “in the trenches”. I have had success using strategic planning retreats with my team to discuss what are we passionate about, what do we want to accomplish, what are our challenges, and how will we overcome them.

    It is exciting and everyone likes to have input and feel heard.

    Great post, as usual, Dawn!

    • I love that you have “strategic planning retreats!” They are the BEST. There’s nothing like engaging the thinking of the whole team in the formation of goals and direction going forward. It connects everyone to the “big picture” and makes each person’s role, assignments, and contribution relevant. I wish everyone followed your lead on that! Thanks for commenting, Daria. It’s always great to hear from you.

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