You’ve heard of business with playgrounds, nap rooms, and saunas on their sprawling campuses. You’ve heard of jobs at which team members can come and go as they see fit. These are all examples of a management style that values people and their individuality instead of the bottom line to which they contribute.
Another component of this mindset is team-building. This can be applied to increasing creativity and problem-solving in your office, or it can be applied to the ends of any business, whatever they may be. These exercises generally involve getting the whole group together and doing something a bit out of the box to get the employees to trust each other more and to form a bond that they’ll put into play on the job.
Here are some ins and outs of team building.
Trust and Understanding
One of the biggest reasons that businesses turn to team-building exercises is that they allow the employees to learn more about each other. No one comes out of these exercises without knowing their co-workers much better. Understanding more about one another’s strengths and weaknesses and life circumstances greatly increases trust.
Trust allows for better collaboration and delegation and risk-taking that can lead to truly great results.
Team-building exercises are usually fun, or at least, satisfying in important ways. Below, we’ll touch on some great examples of team-building exercises. One thing they do is to generally increase morale. This can be because of the entertaining and instructive nature of them. Also, they build morale because the participants feel better understood and appreciated by their co-workers. They tend to emerge from these exercises feeling better equipped to do their jobs.
Inclusiveness and People Feeling Valued
The American Psychological Association did a study that showed that feeling valued at work increases productivity and quality of performance. One obstacle to people feeling valued can be as innocent as their feeling they’ve slipped through the cracks. Some people in companies are quiet or overshadowed.
One thing that team-building things can do, by their inclusive nature (no one slips through the cracks in these hands-on activities), is give a bit of a spotlight to the people who don’t usually have it. All components of team-building activities can contribute to this. But ice-breaking activities at the beginning of the team-building seminar can be the most valuable in doing this. These activities can be humorous and can put people in some slightly uncomfortable situations to break the ice.
This forces the shy or recessed people in the company to do something they’ve probably wanted to do along, which is to show a different side of themselves. Once they’ve gotten some attention and have been recognized as not being a stick in the mud, less assertive employees will certainly feel more valuable. It’s important to level the playing field and not let various employees slip through the cracks.
Many team-building exercises involve problem-solving challenges. These have been proven to help do what they set out to do, to improve the problem-solving skills in your office. Yes, your employees will be explicitly working on problem-solving. But all of the other things, such as increased familiarity, understanding, and empathy and value among your employees will lead to better communication and collaboration, leading to better problem-solving.
Team-Building Activities that Will Get you What You Want
Choosing team-building exercises is no light or small matter. You need to have a clear sense of which particular outcomes you have in mind. Some things you may wish to consider are choosing activities that have equality built in. This may mean sharing all of a particular group’s answers, ideas, or outcomes with everyone, rather than picking one or two favorites. You may also choose activities that are geared to bring out strengths or skills in participants, more than weaknesses. Finally, it might be a good idea to try to pick team-building exercises in which the participants have a tangible outcome toward which they collaborate.
Here are some specific examples.
1. Common Threads
Divide your team into a few small groups. Have members of each small group dialogue until they come up with something, whatever it may be, that every single thing of them have in common. Throughout the rest of the team-building retreat or meeting, the people should, when the opportunity arises, act out their commonly. If they are big fans of a particular sports team, they may chant a certain slogan, or if they are skiers, they may mine skiing.
This shows that people who seem to be of different social types, etc., have more in common than you may think. It is also a great exercise in doing something crucial, learning how to find commonalities and celebrating them.
2. Blind Partner Drawing
Get your team into pairs. Have them sit back to back. Give one partner a fairly simple object, while the one facing the opposite direction has a pencil and a pad of paper. The first person is to describe the object vividly to the other, without actually naming it. The other simply has to draw it.
This gets into the way other people think. It teaches people how to toss aside some of their assumptions and to go the extra mile for clarity.
3. Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower
Give each team some string, electrician’s tape, a handful of uncooked spaghetti and a marshmallow. Challenge the various groups to build the tallest spaghetti marshmallow structure, with the marshmallow crowning the top of it. Using the tape and string, but nothing else, they must make the tower stand up on its own for 10 seconds or the time period of your choice.
4. Office Minefield
Set up an obstacle course full of “mines” made up of boxes or lamps or other common office items. Blindfold one member of the group and have him or her navigate through the area without running into any “mines,” which would cause the team to lose.
Other members of the team have to guide the person through with only verbal instructions. You can add other restrictions or difficulties as you wish.
Not only does this build bonding and trust, but it builds communication skills.
Team building is absolutely crucial to any business. It’s something that needs to be done periodically, even if many members of the team have already gone through such exercises. It’s every bit as crucial—and probably more valuable—than teaching various software or new techniques or theories.
It’s just important to not think of team-building as something to just do and to assume that any team-building exercise suffices, because it’s better than nothing.
Choose your exercises with some care, and be sure to emphasize the significance of it.