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The difference between Team Bonding and Team building

and why it matters.

a team building exercise building a bridge
Building and/or bonding?

Same same but different. That could be a good tagline for team bonding & team building activities.

Team bonding and team building are often used in the same context, almost interchangeably, to describe any kind of team gathering that breaks the usual 9-5 work schedule.

However, bonding and building are two different words for a reason. They have different meanings.

To oversimplify it, team bonding is about having fun together, and team building is about learning together. In reality, it is a bit more complex than that.

Most companies need to build teams before they are able to build a relevant product or a service. 

Team building

For a team to be successful, it is best that the individuals who compose it understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, each other’s roles, and where they stand in the product or service journey.

This will lead to more effective collaboration. It is also essential for the team to align as a group with organizational goals and objectives and, of course, be cohesive and efficient when addressing functional and operational challenges.

Basically, If you are on a zoom and can tell your colleagues names but not their exact roles, it might be time to lay off the team bonding and start scheduling some proper team building.

These specific goals can be addressed and achieved through team building sessions or gatherings that will focus on enhancing the team's performance and efficiency, clarifying roles and responsibilities, improving workflows and productivities, breaking down silos, and identifying bottlenecks. 

It is the perfect time to address specific team issues, such as lack of communication or micromanagement, which would hinder creativity, engagement, and productivity.  

Successful team-building retreats are designed to develop problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills.

Some examples of such activities are: 

  • Workshops and training sessions on conflict resolution

  • Problem-solving tasks like scavenger hunts

  • Collaborative games and simulations 

What we notice is that team building works best when the team members feel connected and share a sense of belonging. That is what Team bonding is all about. 

If the team building are the bricks, the team bonding is the mortar that holds them together.

Team Bonding

For everything we mentioned above to have a chance to happen it is necessary for the individuals in the team to feel they can trust, value, and support one another. 

As humans, we tend to be more engaged, creative, and productive when we feel valued for our work, acknowledged, empowered, and part of something bigger than ourselves. This is what a successful team should be for each employee.

Team bonding activities help strengthen personal bonds, break down barriers, and enhance interpersonal relationships. They offer new ways for people to connect beyond work or the water cooler break.

By creating a friendlier work environment, companies can see an increase in collaboration and a sense of belonging, as well as a decrease in stress levels, which will positively impact the overall growth of the business. 

That is the role of team bonding. It is a series of activities that are primarily social and often in natural settings, designed to foster camaraderie and personal relationships.

They often appear informal, fun, and disconnected from the work, but they are essential in building personal connections that will impact the work itself.

Going back to our Zoom call example, if you've seen Kevin from accounting on screen for the past 5 years but don't know he makes the best Chili, it might be time to add some good old team bonding in the Company retreat agenda.

After work, sporting events, game nights, or icebreakers are often cited as examples of team bonding activities.

a foosball table
Bonded together

The Importance of Understanding the Difference

If you know what your team needs most at this specific time, you can avoid wasting time, budget, or energy.

By understanding the difference between team-building and team-bonding activities, you can ensure that your retreats and gatherings offer a balanced approach, combining both types of activities. 

Knowing what your team needs to work on at this specific moment will also help you save time and allocate resources effectively by avoiding unnecessary spending on activities that will not bring the desired outcome at this time. 

Finally, understanding this difference will greatly help in assessing the success of your retreat by measuring the right KPIs. 

While both team bonding and team building are definitely essential to a successful team, and rarely go independently from one another, their purposes are different and they should be approached as two different types of activities with their own set of goals and desired outcomes when developing the retreat program. 

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