Banding Together

Dangling from a ropes course, going on a weekend retreat or role-playing in the conference room:…

Georgia (Jun 25, 2013) — Dangling from a ropes course, going on a weekend retreat or role-playing in the conference room: These are all ways that companies try to foster team work.


Link To Article

While it’s nice to get out of the office or get to know co-workers on a more personal level, what are really the best ways to build an efficient team? Although it’s different for each company, experts agree, team building in all cases requires some heavy lifting and begins from the top down.

“Sometimes [team building] becomes a buzzword. Organizations say we are going to create teams, but they really don’t necessarily understand what commitment it takes to form teams and that the fact that it really needs to start strategically from the top of the organization,” said Deborah Roebuck, professor of management at Kennesaw State University. “You really have to create your vision and your mission and core values, and teamwork has to be one of those core values, and it has to be out there and visible and talked about and expressed how valuable this is for the organization.”

As part of setting the example, leaders must be willing to receive feedback and modify behavior if needed. Building a foundation of trust that supports everyone’s voice, Roebuck said, is key, and creates an environment that allows for individuals to raise concerns or challenges they may have.

Roebuck also suggests team members take some kind of personality assessment so everyone can become familiar with each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities and better understand their style of communication.

“Then you can understand why they may react or become defensive when this comes up or that comes up,” Roebuck said. “Often, when I do work with organizations, I try to give them that language and turn it into a fun event, I think that is another critical way to foster teamwork.”

Alan Schaefer, founder and CEO of Banding People Together, does just that, using band dynamics and songwriting to help teach individuals and organizations how to establish and maintain a collaborative environment.

Through music, he said, his company can connect with people across ethnic, cultural, generational, socioeconomic and organizational divides. The methodology covers various exercises themed around trust, communication, accountability and the fundamental concepts of collaboration, often culminating in members of the group writing and performing a song together.

“We are taking the wisdom and lessons learned from what can be a volatile environment in the band world, collaboratively speaking, and combining that with science and research to then teach others outside of that environment key collaborative principles and how to essentially create an environment that people want to be in,” Schaefer said.

As part of its events, Banding People Together helps individuals understand the behaviors of group members, or “bandmates,” so they are better able to work together.

Being aware of another’s behavior style, Schaefer said, facilitates communication, conflict resolution and motivation. The ultimate takeaways from such an event, he said, is creating a team environment in which everyone feels they have a voice, they know than can contribute and they see how they fit into the big picture.

“We believe those three things are really the keys to increasing employee engagement, which research now shows directly impacts the bottom line,” Schaefer said. “So what some organizations would call culture, we just call it vibe. We’re teaching people how to be cool to each other.”

Ultimately, the goal of fostering teamwork is to create a better working environment. As a result, allowing teams to solve real work issues is vital to building strong teams, but something that requires addition employee training on how to make decisions as a team. Inevitably, making decisions together can come with its share of conflict, but Roebuck said conflict is an important part of teamwork as long as its focused on the objective and it doesn’t become personal. While not every situation may require a team approach, the ability to build a high-performance team has benefits for a variety of different companies.

“There is an old cliche that says two heads are better than one. Well, it’s so true because we don’t all see the world the same way and the more diverse points of view we have, eventually the better outcome we’ll have,” she said.

Depending on the company, there are a variety of different ways to advance team building and each company also has its own set of challenges to overcome in the process.

Often, one of the big obstacles is a company’s reward structure. Rather than recognizing a job well down with individual rewards, which is often the case, Roebuck suggests realigning incentives to encourage teamwork. Another common pitfall is taking employees out of the office for a fun team-building activity and not applying what was learned to the office environment.

“People tend to think that team building is ‘Let’s go away and let’s do a ropes course and we’ll sing ‘Kumbaya’ and we’ll work hard together this weekend,’ and then we come back at the end of the weekend and it’s business as usual,” Roebuck said. “Team building needs to be built into the culture almost every day.”

Schaefer agrees, noting that companies shouldn’t confuse a good time or bonding with building a team. It is important that there is “real instructional design” around the program, something that is purposefully going to teach, and that the experience includes some kind of post-event debriefing so that everyone understands how what is learned will be applied.

“We get calls from people that say, ‘We are having a lot of conflict on our team,’ or ‘We want to really get our people aligned and focused and we have an hour and a half. What can you do?’ ” Schaefer said. “It’s kind of like somebody coming to a personal trainer and saying I need to lose 100 pounds by next week before I go to the beach. It’s just not realistic.”

That being said, it also doesn’t hurt to get outside the workplace just for the sake of fun or to celebrate a team that is already working successfully.

Jason Raymond, Seed Kitchen + Bar general manager and sommelier, encouraged his staff to take part in the Spartan Race to raise money for charity. Although the grueling obstacle course race wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, nine staff members signed up and competed in the event in March.

“We happen to be in a restaurant where mostly everyone that works here is kind of fit, which is very unusual in the restaurant business,” Raymond said. “We have a guy that was in the process of losing 100 pounds and we thought that would be a great way to end his run and he actually lost the 100th pound on that day.”

Leading up to the Spartan Race, the Seed staff participated in weekly training sessions and during the race urged each other on, over obstacles and past the finish line. Of 370 teams, the Seed staff came in 23rd and Raymond said the experience not only supported a charity — they raised $6,000 for Share our Strength and MUST Ministries — and promoted teamwork, but gave him a chance to spend time with his employees outside the restaurant.

“At the end of the race we got together and went out to eat and celebrated and came back right to work because it was a Saturday night,” he said. “You walk away from that better friends and it just brings it back into the workplace because it’s all about teamwork and we have each other’s back and that is what you have to do to make it in this business.”

Tips for team-building sessions

  • Team building begins with leadership setting the example.
  • Set clear goals and expectations with the team about what should be accomplished.
  • Have a post-event plan for reinforcing new desired behaviors.
  • Be realistic about what can be accomplished in a few hours.
  • Awareness of team members’ behavioral style makes an impact on communication, conflict resolution and motivation.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit