There is a HID-100198990UGE distinction often missed in team building – and it might be why your efforts in that area don’t seem to be building anything.

Nothing seems to irritate business owners more than spending money and time on touchy-feely team-building nonsense. “So I’m supposed to spend $500 taking my team bowling and give them half the day off when I have three ticked-off clients waiting for work to be completed???”

And nothing seems to stress out an employee more than dragging them away from their desk and an overwhelming to-do list for a team bonding event they “don’t have time for!” I also can’t tell you the number of times we hear team members say, “team retreat??? Sitting in a conference room for eight hours planning is not a retreat!” There is a real disconnect on what is to occur and the purpose.

We know that team cohesiveness and growth is necessary. But it seems sometimes to have no real effect on the team.

The distinction we’ve realized is this: There is team building and there is team bonding, and while both are needed, they are NOT the same. Teams tend to lean towards one or the other, depending on the personality and preference of the owner or team lead. And after some tracking and measuring, we’ve realized that the either/or approach doesn’t work – both are needed.

Team building is just that: scheduled events to build your team and your business. These are growth-oriented, strategic type events where you are learning, debating, planning and growing as a team. A great example of these is a one-day workshop our team attended through The Strategic Coach company called the 10x Mind Expander. During the workshop we dissected, as a team, where we have grown in the past revenue-wise and what worked and didn’t work about it. We then mapped out how to grow 10x in the next five years, using what we identified and learned from our experience. As we learned and planned, we built our skills and cohesiveness as a team. Everyone was engaged and vested in the goals we had for the future, and they were clear on what their contribution was. And excited!

Other types of team building can be strategic planning days, which are team retreats (and I use this word loosely) that are designed to help the team learn, grow and work through things or plan for the future.

Team bonding is a different thing altogether. Team bonding refers to events that help you bond and connect with your team and create loyalty and trust among team members. They are also events or activities that rejuvenate your team’s energy. These can differ depending on what resonates with your team. They could be volunteering together, a team lunch, a picnic, a spa day, bowling, drinks after work – whatever gives you time to check out of the “business” conversations and connect as people. It doesn’t mean you are best friends, but it allows you time to create a connectedness, loyalty and trust among the team, which is critical. When times get hard or stressful, that connectedness, loyalty and trust is what gels the team together and keeps them committed.

Team bonding is typically fun, easy and light. Team building can be exciting and dynamic, but sometimes it is also hard, awkward and heavy. Both are necessary.

Without the team building, you might bond but you don’t see results in your business’ growth. At least you won’t see balanced growth, with the whole team on board and contributing (because they likely don’t understand the goals, or more often don’t understand how they contribute to them – it might be obvious to you, the business owner, but it often isn’t to the team). Instead, if you have growth, it’s hard and awkward and divisive, with a lot of push back from some of the team.

Without team bonding, you might build the team and grow, but the loyalty, connectedness and trust isn’t there among the entire team. When things get busy or the road gets a little bumpy, it’s easy to distract or divide the team. This results in high turnover, unhappiness and instability.

Going a step further, this principle applies to each of us personally as well. Personal growth and personal self-care are two different things – very different – but both are needed. And again, people tend to do one but not the other.

Personal growth activities are things that grow you, stretch you, confront you and challenge you. It’s not always easy or pretty. This might be personal coaching, counseling, etc.

Self-care includes acts that soften you and rejuvenate you. They’re different for everyone. For you it might be vegging out binge-watching Netflix or reading, or it might be going for a hike, fishing, going for a run or enjoying a spa day. Whatever rejuvenates your soul falls under self-care.

But you can see where, if all you do is self-care, you aren’t stretching, growing and resolving things that need to be resolved. But if all you do is personal growth, your spirit can get weary and need care.

Take a look at your team practices (and perhaps your personal ones) and see where you might create a balance of team building/growth and team bonding/self-care. If you aren’t sure where to start, contact us for a complimentary 30-minute “Team Empowerment Assessment” by emailing

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