Sustainable Leadership : Reinventing team building

Updated: Mar 28

How to reconnect with your team(s) after the Corona virus crisis (or any crisis).



1. The Corona virus crisis will end


In these difficult times, in which we have to isolate ourselves and show self-leadership the gravity of the situation hits people.

I cannot stop wondering, what will happen next?


If you have read my previous articles, you know how much I care about sustainable environmental challenges ((1) The Challenge of Zero waste; (2) Will corona virus will help us save the planet?).


But what about sustainable societal challenges?


Think ahead: the crisis is over, the number of cases is decreasing everywhere on the planet… ’til no new cases appear, everyone is cured, and nobody dies anymore.


We can finally go out again. Yeah!


People will be ever so happy to see their colleagues, their friends, even their boss!


The impression of being part of the same community will be much stronger!


We made it! We are alive!

We may have to mourn the dead, but (The show must go on!) we will also celebrate life!


2. Team building events after such a crisis make sense


In any organisation there will be joy, relief, happiness to be together, happiness not to have lost one’s job, and the happiness to be able to go back to our old life.


And if you are a leader and/or manager of an organisation, be it small or big, this will be the moment to grow this spirit and to make it last.


And as spring is showing the tip of its nose, it will be the perfect time to invest in team building activities.


3. Let’s go back to basis


In “Team building”, there are the words Team and Building.


So, what is a team?


For me a team is more than people working together. This is a bounded group of individuals, who work interdependently and combine their effort in achieving a shared & common goal. For me the notion of team implies shared accountability. In case of success as in case of failure, the outcome is shared across all contributors. This is the key competitive element of your company. If you’ve got a kick-ass team, the common result is more important than the role and responsibility of each single individual.

A team is people whose work depends on each other; whose positive outcome depends on everyone willing to do their part and help others who struggle to get the work done. Be proud that the team is recognized for it, instead of the single contributor.


When your team is there, when the group becomes more important than each individual, you have a team that will be your primary asset for the success of your company.


Everybody knows it, there is even a science about it (Agile team building) but let’s be honest: How often have you seen that happen? And even if you’ve seen it happen, how often have you seen it last?


In any kind of team sport (basketball, sailing, curling, football…) the team fails as soon as one team member decides that s/he is more important than the team.


So why is it so difficult to achieve that team spirit, in an organisation, and sustainably too?


Have you ever participated in team building activities that solved that problem?


4. For most people team building is dreadful!


I have been working for 20 years, in private and public sectors. In 20 years, I have counted that I have probably participated in at least 45 team building activities organized by organizations public or private, small or big, in Europe and in Asia.


The truth is that even if I have fun sometimes, even if I have discovered colleagues I would have never spoken to sometimes, I never felt comfortable.


Why? Because team building events are an evaluation. Yes, you read this correctly, team building is always an evaluation of your character, of your skills… You didn’t think it was for employees to have fun?


It is an investment and of course your boss expects a return on this investment like on any investment, in this case by an increase of your productivity.


Team building events always evaluate the same things in the same way: your team spirit, your willingness to network, your capacity to think out of the box, your capacity to get out of your comfort zone etc.


Most of all, team building events are supposed the fix top 1 problem in the workplace: communication.


And does it work? No, it doesn’t.


According to Ethan Schrieberg’s 2018 study, only 14% of workers agree that such activities enhance communication with managers and other staff [1].

Not exactly a lot.


Why, then, do most offices still organize these events at least once or twice a year?

Because it should work.

But even if the idea is great, it is often poorly executed.


5. Let’s reinvent team building


What if team building events could be more than a proof that effort is being made to increase productivity or fix communication or collaboration issues?


What if team building activities, could result in a long-lasting effect that will be a gift for employees as well as a significant return on investment for the organization?


Take care of your employees and they will take care of you” says Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group and I believe that. Passionately!


In times where everyone is looking for a purpose at work, I think this is the right time to be serious about team building activities.


If, like me, you have participated in several team building activities, and perhaps even organized some, you will probably classify them into 4 categories:


  • Competition based (physical or intellectual activities)

  • Value-based (activities in NGOs, to give back to those who are in need)

  • Skill based (activities such as role plays, that allow you to learn a new skill that might be helpful in your job or daily life such as negotiation, team management, etc.)

  • Socializing (restaurant, drinks)


Each category has its pros and cons. But what I would like is to have all categories in one, improve collaboration within the workplace and have fun on the top of it.


Is it even possible?


My dream team building event would improve collaboration based on team bonding and even more on community building.

My dream team building activity will foster creativity and innovation through experiential learning.

My dream team building event will understand that mixing work and personal communication is human. And instead of leading to gossiping and a decrease in moral, it should lead to breaking barriers.

My dream team building event would make people understand that to communicate effectively you need to share information but more importantly you need to be a good listener too.


I found my dream team building events.

Two companies have found the way of reinventing team buildings.

There are both located in Belgium, but they work all over Europe and beyond.


6. “Every time you open a bottle of champagne, it’s a celebration, so there’s no better way of starting a celebration than opening a bottle of champagne. Every time you sip it, you’re sipping from all those other celebrations. The joy accumulates over time.” — David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary



Champagne & chocolate tasting event — Criollo Lifestyle events & tours


You would agree that champagne is the best way to celebrate.


Either you celebrate your success at work or that of your employees, birthdays, sports victories… you might (and probably will!) celebrate the end of the Corona-Virus induced curfew. Champagne is the synonym of celebration.


Ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days in length, Criollio events has found the key to master team buildings around this beverage.


And if you think that you don’t actually like champagne, think again. There are some 16050 Champagne producers [2], each of them producing 1 to 5 different champagnes every year.


So, the question is not: Do I like champagne? The question is: Which one?


And trust me, you will find one that you like.


How does that tally with team building? You would be surprised how well Criollio events do it.


They are passionate about champagne and they will make yourself at the very least interested in champagne, at most even passionate about it. From the “muselet”, to the “whisper of love”, you will discover champagne secrets and might become a “placomusophile” at the end.


And if you really dislike champagne (which for me, as a French, is completely incomprehensible, but suit yourself), you can also try their events around beer, chocolate, cuisine, wine, cocktail.


So, how do they improve collaboration?


From creating your own wine or cocktail (mixology), creating your own label, your own ads campaign, to have your final product tested by a jury of peers and yourself in blind test; the thrill of the game makes every one participate, even the less talkative.


This is a wonderful tool for ideation (the process of generating ideas), and for sharing.


You will be surprise how creative are people who do not feel judged or scrutinized.


Knowing why you like this champagne and not that one, knowing why your colleagues share your taste or not will open your horizon and thus your understanding of each other. Listening to how people talk about what they like or not, will open a direct line to their communication for you.


Whatever the length of the event or its subject: Criollo’s events will bring you something you will talk about for a long time.


Their events are not just a team building activities, they are team bonding activities.

You will create and innovate thanks to experiential learning.


You will break barriers, by showing empathy, by communicating how you feel, how you think, because it is from this that your creativity & innovation will be at the front of the line.


Networking and socializing are intrinsic values of Criollo events.


So at the end Criollo events offer skill based team building activities involving an element of competition, that allow you to socialise and to network.


What about the part that gives something back to those in need?


Champagne making is a world of a few large and an awful lot of small to very small producers who needs our support, chocolate making is a world of emerging countries which need our support. Criollo events knows that, they live it and they will explain to you why you should buy your champagne at small producers, where you can buy exceptional chocolate, very much different than what you are perhaps used to from your local supermarket and at decent price to boot.


And in case you are wondering about the unusual setting? If the countryside of the Champagne region, a nice conference room, a kitchen or a bar is not unusual enough for you, what about a bed shop?


“I am very serious about no drugs and no alcohol. Life is too beautiful.”- Jim Carrey


If you agree with Jim Carrey, or if your company does not allow alcohol during team building activities. Criollo Lifestyle events has it covered.


Did you know that the new trend is to do Mixology using fruit juices? You will know how to maximize the health benefice of juice. Mixed, shaken or stirred, your cocktail will be more surprising than you think.


Criollo Lifestyle and events works with artisans that will make you rediscover the real taste of fruits.

And the best part, I think is that they are able to make events with and without alcohol depending on people taste, they even able to mix both in the same event, so that nobody is ostracized or frustrated. This is the beauty of team building events, all inclusive!


Criollo’s events can be held everywhere in Europe, in English, French, and Dutch, so do not hesitate to contact them.


7. “Everyone can dance” — Briana Stuart



If you are not a dancer, this is going to be more difficult to sell, I know that.


But if I was telling you that you do not need to be a dancer? That you do not even need to have ever danced in your life.


All you need to do is feel the grove.


And if you have a team with employees who do not like music (3% to 5% of the population do)[3], there is even an activity for them.


Briana Stuart is an American dancer. She came to Brussels on a whim.


She came here to perform, felt in love with the city and moved all her life from Michigan to Brussels.



If nothing else this should convince you that she will know how to put you out of your comfort zone!


As you would have guessed, she is teaching dance, but she does more than that, she is building a community.


A community of people that would have never have met otherwise, people who want to learn how to dance, people who want to dance, people who want to feel good about it, and people who do not want to be ashamed of showing it.


The first time I have heard her saying “Everybody can dance” I have added “kind of”, and she looked at me as if I was the devil in person.


For her, everyone has its own style, it is not only about the rhythm, it is about feeling good doing it.


So, I was not surprised when I heard she was developing team building activities.


The bonding here will come through empathy. What can put you closer to someone that seeing him or her suffering as you do? Knowing that you are in hell together does form a strong connection, you will agree.


The collaboration comes from the choreography you will rehearse. This is the best example of interdependent work, where the final result depends on each individual to do their part.


If you wish she can even videotape the session for you and your team, so that you could show it at work, at home and be proud of what you could do.


The creativity will come from the free-style part of the event.


I have assisted once at a session where someone was completely unwilling to make an effort to feel the groove. He believed he could not dance and was making a point about it, moving in a robotic way, unable to relax, and on the top of that he hated the music.


But at some point, we had to dance with a partner, and everyone had to dance with him.


Everybody was suffering in their own way, so nobody actually made a comment, or ask him to make an effort, they just one after the other started to mime his own rhythm, smiling, enjoying themselves, putting themselves in his own shoes.


And he relaxed, and everyone relaxed, and even today, when we talk about this session, we smile.


If you do not like music, she does American stepping workshops [4], where the togetherness is even more important!


Again, all in one! In English, French or Dutch, bring your teams, you won’t regret it.


8. Conclusion


Reinventing team building events is possible, should you try anyone of these two, I would be delighted to receive your feedback.


Criollo Life style events & tours: https://www.criolloevents.com/

Stu Arts Dance: https://www.stuartsdance.com/


[1] https://hr.toolbox.com/articles/why-people-hate-team-building-events-and-how-to-make-them-lovable [Last accessed on March 19th, 2020]

[2] https://www.marne.cci.fr/etudes-aides-a-la-decision-data/connaitre-nos-principaux-secteurs-economiques/vin-de-champagne/les-principaux-chiffres-du-champagne-article216.html

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/03/please-dont-stop-the-music-or-do-stop-the-music-i-dont-really-mind/519099/ [Last accessed on March 20th]

[4] https://www.stuartsdance.com/stepping-brussels [Last accessed on March 20th]

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