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5 Jan 202411 min read

Team Development vs Team Building

Understanding the Differences Between 'Team Development' and 'Team Building'

When we hear the terms 'team development' and 'team building’, there can often be a sense of confusion that arises because, after all, they are the same thing, right? In fact, while 'team development' and 'team building' are often used interchangeably, they are two distinct entities and represent individual approaches to enhancing a team’s dynamics and ultimately effectiveness. What are the differences between the two, and what is most effective at nurturing long-term success?

What is 'team building' and 'team development'?

'Team building' focuses more on short-term events and activities, but 'team development' encompasses comprehensive long-term strategies with the aim of achieving sustainable change, growth and success.

Which is more essential? Arguably, for better team performance in the long run, it becomes essential to develop long-term strategies.

'Team building' typically involves one-off activities or events designed to improve an inherent weakness or bolster certain skills. One-day training sessions are a key component of 'team building' and can encompass a number of different activities, which may include games and exercises. If communication is the problem, there can be a number of different methods to break the ice or increase trust.

The benefits and drawbacks of 'team building’

'Team building' can provide many immediate benefits, but the effects are often short-lived.

Some of these benefits can include: 

  • Helping 'break the ice', especially when new teams or team members are being brought on board.
  • Improved communication, as 'team building' activities encourage open and honest communication among team members, resulting in better understanding, which translates to improved cooperation.
  • Enhanced collaboration and teamwork help employees work together more effectively towards a common goal.
  • Increased employee morale and motivation, as 'team building' exercises provide opportunities for achievement in a nurturing and fun environment.
  • Building trust among team members, which is essential for key components like improved engagement, morale, and productivity.
  • Increased productivity arises from better communication, trust, and collaboration, resulting in a positive workplace culture, improved communication, and higher morale, which then impacts the performance of the organisation.

Some of the drawbacks can include:

  • Often team building is used as a form of intervention due to perceived issues within a team or organisation; it is therefore often more of a plaster - covering some systems - rather than a solution to a problem
  • The short-term nature of the activity or event, especially if this is the only team development activity undertaken, can mean participants are less engaged and bought into each successive event.
  • It doesn't show long term commitment by the organisation, especially if coupled to either rewarding teams for achievement or using it to address problems.


Why are the results of 'team building' activities short-lived?

The results can be attributed to a number of factors, including the temporary nature of the activities and the potential resistance from some employees.

There is also the somewhat synthetic nature of 'team building' activities that can cause employees to resist any form of change. Not all employees are enthusiastic about these activities, and the resistance can affect the long-term impact of those exercises. The resistance may often be linked to different personality types and where, for some, this type of short and sharp intervention may not be comfortable or natural.

Additionally, 'team building' activities can take up time that may be better suited for regular work, which impacts productivity in the short term. What's more, the difficulty in measuring the long-term effects of 'team building' activities can contribute to the perception of short-lived results in addition to literal short-lived results, and this will have a negative impact on the team and the organisation as a whole.

What is 'team development'?

'Team development' is classed as a continuous and long-term process that focuses on enhancing the skills, relationships, and overall effectiveness of a team or workforce. It comprises ongoing efforts to identify and address challenges, building strong communication channels, and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.

'Team development' is a far more focused effort than ‘team building’ - it recognises that ongoing and sustainable success requires an appropriate investment, namely, an investment of resources, time, and most importantly, commitment to evolve as a cohesive unit.

The fundamentals of 'team development'

'Team development' comprises evolving a group of individuals into a cohesive team. This process is critical for achieving high performance and is typically characterised by five key stages that we can observe when building teams:


This is a stage that involves orientation and is a critical starting point because of the high levels of uncertainty; it is the stage where people are looking for leadership and authority to take control.

Put simply, this is where people become acquainted with each other, but it also encompasses the period of time when team members are asking specific questions of themselves, for example, whether they would fit in or if the team would offer something to them.


This is the most difficult stage and is typically marked by conflict and competition as the individual personalities emerge and, in the short term, can result in decreased team performance because of certain energies being put into unproductive activities. There could be conflicts arising from disagreements or cliques forming around personalities or areas of agreement.

To overcome this stage, the members of the team must work to overcome obstacles, accept individual differences, and prioritise the team rather than the individual. Conflict is a natural part of 'team development,' and therefore, rather than avoiding conflict, embracing the storming stage becomes essential, as it will mitigate long-term problems.


When teams go through the storming stage, it is vital to resolve conflict and form some degree of unity. At this stage, there can be a certain agreement as to who the leaders are, and the individuals have a better grasp of their role within the team and the organisation.

Interpersonal differences become resolved, and there is a greater sense of cohesion and unity, resulting in increased team performance because people are now learning to focus on the goals and cooperate accordingly. 

This stage can easily slip back into storming if disagreements continue and the sense of harmony is not tangible. This is why the previous stage is so critical, and addressing those elephants in the room becomes essential for long-term development.


At this point, there is a clear and stable structure, with members all understanding and committing to the team's mission.

It isn't plain sailing at this stage because there can always be problems and conflicts, but what is vital at this juncture is there should be a framework for dealing with problems and conflicts constructively.


This is where most goals are accomplished, and tasks are in the wrapping-up stage. This means a diminished workload, and depending on the needs of the organisation, individual members may be reassigned to other teams.

If the team has ongoing responsibilities, there may be a replacement of certain members with new individuals, which results in the team going back to either the forming or storming stage and repeating the development process.

The great benefits of 'team development'

'Team development' is a long-term practice that doesn't just aim to achieve certain goals of an organisation but digs deeper into the day-to-day tasks and provides several amazing benefits:

Improved team dynamics

Developing a team enhances the dynamics of a team. Because morale and engagement are so important to developing the individuals from within, this has a greater sense of cohesion because it can reduce conflicts and bolster a sense of purpose.

When everybody within a team understands their particular roles, functions, and interpersonal and professional relationships, everybody integrates far more effectively.

Enhanced commnunication

Communication is one of those essential skills that are constantly put forward as key to improving relationships within a team. If team members have communication skills combined with self-awareness, this can result in more effective collaboration.

Individuals within a team who work to understand how to benefit the other person, rather than themselves, create a solid foundation that results in far more effective collaboration.

Greater Performance

In a world of KPIs and targets, having team members who understand the importance of their own work and address differences effectively can create improved communication and collaboration, but also develop a sixth sense of how to push the team in the right direction.

Rather than working to benefit the person, when a high-performing team can understand the steps to achieve a result and how each individual member can get the team there, it inevitably results in a better outcome for everyone.

Enhanced skill sets

'Team development' programs, either for managers or individuals, can provide employees with a greater understanding of their skill sets.

There can be a tendency for employees to stick within their remit. However, 'team development' programs can be invaluable to help employees expand their knowledge base, which doesn't just increase their expertise but makes them more invaluable to the organisation and provides them with a greater sense of purpose relating to their role. 

No employee wants to feel like they are stuck within a certain skill set, which is why 'team development' can improve confidence among every cog within the machine.

A lasting impact

'Team building' provides short-lived results. 'Team development' provides something far deeper: a methodical impact on the organisation that is predicated on change. To spearhead seismic alterations within an organisation, there has to be an impact on the culture, resulting in improved performance and achievement. 

'Team development' programs should not just provide a forum to solve problems, but should help team members realise they need something far deeper than standard 'team building' activities. 'Team building' tasks can be superficial and very light in nature, but 'team development' targets problems, focusing on a specific ailment and finding opportunities for improvement by engaging in difficult questions and raising self-awareness.

How to prioritise 'team development' for long-term success


Focus on continuous learning and training

'Team development' should be a continual effort through skill development programs, training sessions, and workshops tailored to the specific needs of the team, ensuring the team can adapt to new challenges and stay resilient in the face of change.

Many team members can be resistant to the idea of change because it involves getting out of their comfort zone, but by fostering an adaptable mindset, this, in turn, creates resilience.

Regular reflection

There is a lot to be said for regular feedback and reflection. It should be a fundamental aspect of 'team development,' and a team should provide a mechanism for offering constructive feedback that reflects on overall performance and identifies areas that can benefit from improvement.

This notion of reflection will contribute not just to continuous improvement on a small scale but will foster a culture of accountability, rather than playing the blame game that is endemic within fragmented teams.

Clear communication channels

Effective communication is always at the core of a successful team. Open dialogue within clear communication channels and ensuring that information flows within a team via regular meetings, updates, and transparent communication will contribute to greater interplay between the teams and a shared understanding of goals and expectations.

Understanding individual goals

Accountability is essential when each member of a team has a specific goal. 'Team development' should prioritise aligning the individual and team goals alongside the objectives of the organisation, which ensures that each person understands their role to achieve the goals on a broad spectrum. It also ensures team members have a sense of purpose and commitment within the group.

Creates conflict resolution

Conflict is inevitable, and it's something we should not ever shy away from, but there is a difference between conflict for the sake of clashes in comparison to how it's addressed. 'Team development' should involve skills like open communication, collaboration, and mediation, rather than competition.

When we address conflicts constructively and ensure that, when each individual recognises that addressing conflicts in a constructive manner contributes to a healthier dynamic, this will result in a far more effective and efficient team.

Developing leadership

Of course, it's not just about the individuals within the team but how the leader can stimulate change within a team. Team leaders should possess the necessary skills to guide, motivate, and inspire their teams.

We always look to the person in charge because they won't just tell us what to do, but they will lead by example, and therefore, teams who have an understanding of how best to conduct themselves within a team can experience long-term success.

How Strengthify can help

'Team development' should be a priority over one-off 'team building' activities. While 'team building' still has value, we always recommend team workshops conducted as part of a longer-term strategy.

Strengthify provides a number of approaches to embolden a team by harnessing its strengths through guides and materials, as well as manager-focused training, so the entire group is firing on all cylinders, working collaboratively, and being able to work to their strengths.

An amazing team is only as good as its individual members, and this is where we can help you learn about yourselves and others, and how to capitalise on your strengths together. If you want to find out more about our approach, you can join one of our Events, or you can set up a meeting or call with us so we can explain how your team can flourish.

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