Team Building Activities: an Introduction
Making Team Building an Everyday Priority
Shakira's team is experienced and hard-working – but, lately, its performance has been "hit and miss."
The team seems to have lost some of its energy and motivation, and morale is beginning to drop. So, Shakira decides to get her people back on track by exploring some team building strategies and activities.
Team building is about providing the skills, training and resources that your people need, so that they can work in harmony. But, to be truly effective, it needs to be a continual process, embedded into your team and organization's culture.
There's a place for one-off team building exercises, but they need to have a clear purpose, such as improving a particular skill, and must be well designed to avoid conflict.
In this article and video, you can explore how to use team building activities and exercises as part of an ongoing strategy for developing a strong and effective team.
Learn how to plan effective team-building activities with your people.
Getting Started: Identifying Your Team’s Needs
The first and most important step when planning team building activities is to identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Start by asking the following questions to identify the root of any problems:
- Are there conflicts between certain people that are creating divisions within the team?
- Do team members need to get to know one another better?
- Do some members focus on their own success, and harm the group as a result?
- Is poor communication affecting the group’s progress?
- Do people need to learn to work together, instead of individually?
- Do some members affect the group’s ability to move forward through resistance to change?
- Does the group need a morale boost?
You can choose targeted activities to help your team to address any problems that the questions unearth.
You and your team members can also work through our Team Effectiveness Assessment as a group exercise. It will help you to identify how well you all work together, and to find out what areas need improving.
Making Team Building Part of Your Culture
Set-piece team building exercises are one way to strengthen the bonds within your team, but they are not a shortcut to success. Instead, you need to make team building part of your group’s mindset.
Think about the team building potential of routine workplace activities, first. Then, use the following four strategies to develop your team’s strength, cohesiveness and effectiveness day to day:
1. Get to Know Your Team
Your team is made up of people with different needs, ambitions and personalities. Getting to know them, and helping them to get to know each other, can build a happy, trusting team.
Hosting a pre-holiday drinks evening or even an inexpensive team barbeque, for example, are easy ways to start to get your team members mixing and mingling.
Attending social events is a great way to build relationships. People will more likely open up and reveal more of their personalities in a relaxed setting. Also, research has shown that sharing aspects of your personal life increases your likability, as it shows others that you can be an empathic, compassionate and authentic manager.
Socializing with your colleagues or boss is different from socializing with friends and family! Our article on socializing at work can help you and your team members to enjoy yourselves appropriately.
2. Work Toward a Common Goal
You can unite your people by inspiring them to get behind a shared vision or goal. Having a clearly identified destination can prevent individuals from pulling in different directions, which is frustrating and ineffective.
Creating a Team Charter can provide your people with a written definition of the team’s purpose and goals. You can find strategies for bringing a team together to achieve a particular goal in our Bite-Sized Training session, Team Building.
3. Develop Strong Team Skills
Your team needs to develop the right skills and competencies to achieve its goals. A skills matrix is a solid starting point for doing this. Use the matrix to audit your team members’ abilities and training needs, and to match their skills to specific roles.
Developing stronger skill sets, and matching your people to the roles best suited to them, can result in a more able, more motivated team.
Take care to address your team members' training needs in the most appropriate way. Research shows that people learn best through daily hands-on experience. And, according to the 70:20:10 Framework, the optimum ratio for training people is 70 percent practical daily experience, 20 percent "exposure," and 10 percent formal learning.
4. Connect With a Virtual Team
Chances are, as more and more people work remotely, you could find yourself managing a virtual team. It can be hard to build rapport among team members who never, or rarely, meet face-to-face. Time zones and cultural differences can present additional challenges when considering team building activities or strategies for remote teams.
Your remote team members might feel isolated from their colleagues, so they will likely welcome opportunities for socializing “virtually,” improving their skills, and having fun, too! See our article, Virtual Team Building Exercises, for some practical suggestions.
It is possible to stay in regular and effective communication with virtual team members, given the wide range of online tools that are available. However, the key to building an effective team lies more in how its members communicate than in the technology they use.
Using Team Building Exercises
One-off team building exercises can be a useful, effective way to address a particular weakness or problem. But there is also the danger that, at best, they are just a nice day out of the office or, at worst, they can do more harm than good.
Poorly planned events can be embarrassing, or physically and emotionally uncomfortable, for participants.
In contrast, exercises that are well thought out and expertly run can unite people, enhance their strengths, and address their weaknesses. They help teams to work more cohesively and happily, and can set those teams up for success.
Team building exercises have a tarnished reputation, so you’ll likely have people who consider them a waste of time. Use the 4Ps of Delegates to detect such resistance and to encourage participation. This tool helps to open discussion, to explore people’s feelings about the event, and to turn “passengers,” “protesters” and “prisoners” into valuable participants.
There are many fun and effective examples to try out once you've identified specific areas where one-off exercises would be appropriate. Follow these five approaches:
- If your team members would benefit from boosting their problem solving or decision making, you can try these three exercises for turning problems into opportunities.
- It’s becoming more common for teams to develop strategic thinking skills, as organizations move away from a formal, top-down approach. You and your team can explore these strategy and planning exercises to help you to develop these skills.
- Help your people to communicate more effectively with our article on Team Building Exercises - Communication.
- Creativity is crucial to an organization’s success. It drives innovation and can help to solve even the most difficult problems. You can support creative thinking on your team with these exercises.
- Encourage your people to develop their powers of persuasion, negotiation and communication with these leadership exercises.
Team building is about uniting and encouraging people rather than dividing and demoralizing them. But competitive exercises inevitably produce losers as well as winners, and may lead your team members to work against one another. So, avoid these types of activity – they can easily backfire.
Team building can only occur when relevant and timely activities that address specific needs are part of your organization’s culture. One-off exercises can help with this, but they are not a shortcut to success.
The purpose of team building activities is to motivate your people to work together, to develop their strengths, and to address any weaknesses. So, any team building exercise should encourage collaboration rather than competition.
Be sure to incorporate team building into your workplace routines and practices. For example, get to know your people better, work toward common goals, develop their skills, and make the extra effort to connect with your virtual team members.
In this way, you'll build a firm foundation of purpose, trust and rapport that you can add challenging events to, appropriately and effectively.
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