How Team Building by Zip Line Leaves Your Team Hanging


Or in my case…trembling with fear. ;/  I’ve always thought of myself as a thrill-seeker AND a team player, so when my colleagues and I were presented with the grand idea of a ropes course and zip lining as a team building exercise, I thought it was brilliant!  What better way to unite a team than to put them in the middle of a muggy forest and ask them to leap from tall platforms?  Well, I thought, we’ll be united because of our common fears and joys…and we got out of the office, so a big boost for morale, right? 

I was certain my managers knew what was best for us and that my fellow team members and I would experience lasting positive change from this day-long bonding experience.  Well, I will tell you the only thing that lasted was my fear of zip lining!  Our fun “team-building” experience failed to produce any meaningful change in our productivity, cooperation, and communication…on the job, where we were expected to function as a team the other 364 days of the year. Most important, we had no collective understanding of the common purpose that was supposed to help us function like a team.  Zip lining left me and my teammates hanging.  Once was enough and I’ll never do it again.  Certainly, not for the purposes of team building.  And here’s why:

It’s the easy way out of team building…and greatness doesn’t come easy.

So, your manager is in his/her office thinking up ways to check off that team-building training box.  What comes to mind?  Oh, why zip lining, of course!  Why?  Because it’s easy.  It’s fun.  It’s one day.  And then it’s done…and my people can get right back to the tasks at hand.  It will not, however, teach the team to function like one…to complement one another’s strengths…to serve collaboratively and efficiently in the place where it matters:  On the job, every day of the job.  Can zip lining be a morale booster?  Sure.  But don’t expect it to last once your team walks back in the door and gets back to work.

It’s not the type of team building your employees need…or want.

People at work want to feel valued.  They need to know that the work they do matters, not just to them, but to all their team members.  They need the opportunity to do what they do best…every day.  True team building comes by way of developing people.  Uncover their strengths.  Make sure they have an opportunity to use them in their position.  Make sure they are in the right fit.  That’s when they’ll have an opportunity to shine.  When you will notice their brightness and express appreciation.  When you will begin to see the unique value offered by each member of your team.  And, when they will begin to fight for your common purpose.  Such development could never happen in a day-long outdoor “team building” experience.  It happens every day, on the job…and never ends.  Great teams aren’t built in a day.

It’s going to take away from your bottom line, not boost it.

What is a great team worth to you?  Our two most valuable resources are time and money.  If you want a great team, one that produces, thrives, and STAYS, you’ve got to invest both.  One-off training experiences like zip lining and ropes courses pull at your purse strings and any positive results fade quickly.  Ropes courses and zip lining experiences typically cost between $75 and $100 per employee, and they’re still “working” so you pay them for the time they are there.  For the short-lived resulting boost in morale, you would have been better off giving each of your employees a paid day off to go do what they want.  From a time-investment perspective, you get off easy with zip lining.  It’ just one day.  Again, what is a great team worth to you?  Are you willing to invest in developing them every day for the length of their career with you?  If not, they will never perform in a way that boosts your profitability, productivity, and customer loyalty.


The next time you’re considering a team building experience, consider employing tools that will uncover strengths, enhance cooperative team efforts, and boost key business outcomes.  Discard the popular for the productive.  Your team and your bottom line will soar.