We have this quick team building activity that we sometimes do at Cortex workshops that clearly is horrifying for some participants. No, I’m not kidding. The look on a woman’s face, after explaining what they were going to need to do for the next 5 minutes caused what looked like her to fall ill. Her eyes popped wide open and she looked around to the person next to her as if to find out if they were as scared as she was.
The activity was simple. Find a person to ask the following questions to: What do you want to give in today’s workshop? What do you want to get from today’s workshop?
The challenge, from the horrified woman’s point of view was that she would have to eventually talk to someone she might not know that well, or perhaps she doesn’t like that much, because she was being asked to do the exercise 3 times in a row.
Certain people love team building because it invites people to get to know each other better. Some people hate it. Others kind of hold their breath and jump in hoping it won’t be as mortifying as what they are thinking in their heads. The good news is that after every team building exercise we do, even those hardened souls that begin wanting no part of it, express afterward that they actually found value in what they participated in.
Not all team building is alike. Some types are quick and simple, like the one I just mentioned, and others are more complicated and time-consuming… think weekend retreat at a ropes course. What is team building, anyway, and why does it lead to better outcomes at work?
Team building can be defined as a collective term for various types of activities that are used to enhance social relations and define roles within teams, often involving collaborative tasks.
Team building exercises can be categorized into four different types:
- Problem Solving/Decision Making
- Building Trust
Depending on what you need to accomplish with a team, whether it is a new team or an existing one, and if there are past experiences between team members or with their boss or others in the organization, it will determine which one you might want to focus on first. Regardless of where you start, though, as a leader and manager, it is important to consistently devote time to building your team. Why? Because strong teams that communicate and problem solve effectively are more efficient and productive. When a team does not trust you or any of it’s members, the results will affect an organization’s ability to function optimally.
Here are 4 quick team building exercises for each of the categories:
Communication and Icebreakers
Go around the room at your next team meeting and have everyone to finish this statement:
“If I had one more hour this week I would….”
The answers are interesting. It quickly let’s everyone in the group know what each team member thinks they should be doing and don’t have time for or what they want to be doing and are not making time for. Either way, it can be educational to listen to the answers you will get.
Problem Solving/Decision Making
Choose a well-known picture or cartoon with a lot of detail. Cut the picture up into as many pieces as you have team members. Give each of the team members a piece of what is now a puzzle. Do not let anyone know what the picture or cartoon is. Their objective will be to see how their work fits together with the rest of the team members work.
Ask each team member to take their piece and draw it 5x larger on a piece of paper.
The team’s goal is to work together to put the puzzle back together.
Road Map Game
The objective of this game is to get team members to work together to plan a trip in 30 minutes.
The participants need to be split into 2 groups with the same amount of players (if possible) in each group. Participants will need paper, pens, and a map of what the team may consider to be a great vacation spot. Each group needs a copy of the same map.
Instruct the teams to plan a vacation with the following parameters. Each group should be given a list of what they have for their trip. Tell them how much money they have to spend, what kind of car they will have, the size of it’s gas tank, m.p.g., the price of gas, the beginning and ending destination, and anything else you can think of.
Each group should write down their travel plans and any group that runs out of money or gas will be disqualified. You can give fun prizes to the groups that saw the most with what they had as resources, the most exhausting trip, the most relaxing, the most exciting, etc.
The objective is to get team members to trust one another’s directions and learn to communicate more effectively with each other.
You’ll need a large, open room, or parking lot or field for this one.
Set up an area that contains “mines” like balls, bowling pins, cones, etc.
Break the team up into pairs. It would be helpful to have team members that may not have built trust yet, or are having problems in this area, work together on this exercise.
Blindfold one person in each pair.
Have the sighted person give instructions to the blindfolded one to help them maneuver through the mine field.
The blindfolded participant can only ask questions during this exercise.
See if you can run all pairs through at the same time. If that is not possible, be sure that no blindfolded person can see the course before they start.
The purpose of this exercise is to build trust with team members. It is not necessary to give prizes as that may create a focus on competition between people and teams. The point of this exercise is to build trust.