Insider Exclusive: Skip the Zip Line

Insider Exclusive: Skip the Zip Line

Building an effective team involves more than a one-time activity

By Pete Smith

Think about your house for a second. More specifically, think about cleaning your house. Are you someone who cleans diligently and consistently, or are you someone who decides to embark on a marathon cleaning day when you can no longer see what your floors look like? No right or wrong in this sense; more of a personal preference, really.

In business, however, you’re not afforded the same luxury when it comes to building effective teams. Regardless of how creative a team-building activity might be, strengthening the bond between individuals should not be just a one-time event. It requires continuous thought and attention.

It’s not that engaging in team-building activities is a bad idea. What needs to be considered is the intent or purpose of the event, especially when trying to determine the impact you hope the event has on your team.

When you have a team that works well together to achieve collective goals, you can use a team-building activity as a break from the mundane, a spark to re-ignite its passion, or a strategic maneuver to get refocused. An opportunity to spend time with one other outside the office might be exactly what the team needs, and it may reflect in renewed energy, enthusiasm, and shared laughs among your employees.

That’s not how many offices utilize team-building activities, however. By the time some managers realize something is wrong, communication among coworkers is down, goals are not being met, and morale is in decline. “We need to work together. Let’s schedule a team-building activity,” says the boss.

Unfortunately, without addressing the root cause of the struggle, no puzzle completion, zip line, or obstacle course is going to suddenly change your perception of your coworkers or the contribution they make. Trust, camaraderie, and productive communication doesn’t mysteriously appear in a day.

Additionally, employers and employees who don’t value each other, who don’t share a common bond, or who aren’t communicating well typically do not make ideal participants during a team-building activity.

Do you ever secretly feel this way about an employee or manager: “Jeez, Dave! I didn’t know you were so good at riding the zip line. Unfortunately, we don’t have a zip line at the office, so I’m not exactly sure how we can apply that particular skill, although hanging you from the zip line does intrigue me a little. To be honest, I secretly despise you, so I was really hoping you’d fall head-first into the piranha pond below but, hey, let’s hug it out and achieve some goals, shall we?” If only it were that easy.

Strengthening the bonds between team members requires a dedicated, persistent, focused effort, all with the intent to create the productive environment you desire. If a strong team is what you seek, be sure you understand that a team-building activity can be a step in the process, but is not the entirety of the process. Finally, when it’s your turn on the zip line, hold on tight. It’s going to be one heck of a ride.

Pete Smith is an international speaker and trainer on leadership, management, personal growth, and development, and is the author of Dare to Matter: Choosing an Unstuck and Unapologetic Life of Significance. He will be a speaker at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting & Marketplace. To learn more about Smith, visit

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
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