Successful team-building needs strategic goals, right team

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the March 3, 2014 Daily Herald


There’s nothing like the word “teambuilding” to get conversation going at a business luncheon – or, apparently, to provide fodder for business-and-management book authors and other assorted gurus: Google teambuilding books on Goodreads, a book-focused social media site, and you’ll find 41. Search the same topic on Amazon and the list soars past 5,600.

Or, perhaps better, search out Kathy Miller and Kristen Harder – one an event planner big on teambuilding, the other an HR advisor big on building teams. They’ll ask some questions:

* What’s the intent of the team-building exercise?

* Who’s on the team?

* What type of activity will generate the results the sponsoring business wants?

Miller is president of Total Event Resources Inc., a Schaumburg meetings and events company that has created team-building activities ranging from digital scavenger hunts to mural painting projects to teams that put together new bicycles that they donate to kids.

“We want to know what the company’s goals and objectives are, so we know how to engage the team,” Miller says. Typically, an effective team-building exercise “tries to build relationships, to break down barriers, to get people to engage each other a little differently.

“We’re not just going bowling.”

Although Miller creates team-building experiences for Fortune 1000 companies, she also creates them for smaller businesses. In fact, Total Event Resources stages two such events for its own staff each year.

“There’s definite value in teambuilding for a small company,” Miller says. “You can have a good event for nine people.”

Planning and communication are key. Miller seeks to “know our audience, so we can work with the client to determine what would be a good experience.” Pre-event information that builds enthusiasm typically is part of the process.

Miller’s team-building activities work, in part, because her company knows how to do events. Just shy of a year ago, for example, Total Event Resources staged an eight-day grand opening at Alexian Brothers Women & Children’s hospital in Hoffman Estates; the company also creates product introductions, meetings extravaganzas and event entertainment.

Harder is an HR executive, not an events professional. Her focus centers more on making certain the right people are on the company team.

“Teambuilding enforces the ability (of a staff) to work together, but you need the right people,” says Harder, vice president at C3 Advisors, a Wheaton firm that provides financial, operations and human resources support services.

Successful teambuilding, Harder says, “starts with initial recruitment.” She suggests a staffing gap analysis. “What do we need now? Where do we have redundancies? Where do we have holes?

“Recruitment takes a lot of pre-planning, not just for today’s needs but, strategically, for needs two to four years down the road,” Harder says. Otherwise, she continues, “You’ll one day realize that staffing is completely off. You’ll have too many people doing the same job, and not enough resources in other positions.”


Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at

© 2014 Kendall Communications, Inc.