Whilst it is easier to see the havoc that can be caused from a dysfunctional team performance identifying and quantifying the attributes of a successful team at work is much harder. Whilst positive outcomes and behaviours can be experienced actually determining whether team effort is optimised is much more of a challenge. And for this reason understanding when a team is delivering at optimal level is usually evident after the event meaning that management constantly strive to improve rather than maintain performance.
The best team building activities improve morale, increase motivation, foster a sense of togetherness and generate a focus on solving problems or issues. Whilst useful outputs in themselves, the best team building activities also allow individual employees to see strengths and weaknesses in themselves and get an insight into the culture and attributes of the company for which they work.
Selecting appropriate activities for team building games needs careful consideration. Firstly, there must be clear expectations for the teams’ actual performance and deliverables. Secondly, there must be a desire for the team members to participate in the exercise and achieve successful outcomes. Equally, the individual team members must understand why the team building exercise is being undertaken. Finally, set the context in terms of real life corporate issues so that any learning can be readily applied back in the office.
Although simply organising a night out for darts or bowls or even just a meal may meet some expectations of breaking down barriers they can fail to provide a focus for breaking down existing barriers or provide any learning that is relevant to the workplace.
One of the most popular structured team building activities is a Murder Mystery evening. The pretext is to attend an evening speech by a high quality motivational expert which degenerates into a bickering session where attendees wonder whether to laugh or leave in disgust. Then the atmosphere changes when someone unexpectedly dies! Can the team solve the murder? Typically, this evening is one of fun, laughs and enjoyment but contains 5 key team building tools for improving communication and effectiveness.
There are numerous outdoor team building activities that have proved effective in developing performance. There is a perception that participants have to be mobile, fit and athletic to participate but some of the best communication and lessons can be learned by having multi ability groups working to solve common physical challenges. These include activities such as dragon boat racing, paintballing, scavenger hunts, human sheep herding, high ropes courses or sailing. The more diverse the group the better the learning experience as it reflects utilising different skills and abilities to solve real life challenges.
Other outdoor activities that allow individuals to interact and yet participate as individuals are go kart racing, clay pigeon shooting and archery. In essence, there is no limit to the type of exercise that can be devised and the chances are that there is a company somewhere that can handle the logistics and provide qualified facilitators to maximise the learning. Some of these would be classed as individual participation in a team environment and may not be suitable for the challenge to be addressed in the workplace.
Another extremely popular team exercise includes a problem solving challenge where the task is to move a bucket of water and each team member over a high fence without anyone touching the ground within a specified area. Equipment is limited and creativity and communication a prime requirement. Expert facilitation enhances the experience and draws out key lessons in communication, inclusion and teamwork. A variation on this exercise is to build a bridge over a stream using only the available and supplied resources.
The larger the budget the more creative or elaborate the teambuilding events can be. Whilst this can make the event more memorable and create a long lasting buzz for members when back in the workplace in these more financially stretched times not all activities have to be costly or time consuming. With appropriate facilitation and careful planning a number of team building activities can be carried out in the office environment. The most effective ones include:
Scavenger Hunt – where teams are given a number of items or pieces of information to retrieve from around the office in a set time. Key deliverables include enhancing awareness of policies and procedures and a sense of realisation of corporate scope and scale.
Know Me Know You – a pairing exercise where employees who do not normally sit or work together exchange information such as times when they were proud at work, facts not commonly known about the individual and a third topic that drives to the heart of corporate issues. Information is then shared with the larger group about what has been discovered.
Feet First – a team exercise where blindfolded participants have to arrange themselves in order of foot size. This is a simple, quick to arrange and a clear winner in terms of fun, enjoyment. This simple exercise is ideal for improving communication between team members.
See What I Mean – a verbal challenge where a team member has to describe a given shape drawn on a sheet of paper and other members of the group have to replicate the design based on what they hear. A facilitator will help draw out lessons in listening and hearing.
Activities for team building can involve an element of physical challenge and place individuals into unusual and potentially dangerous positions. Whilst many events can be arranged in house, the best results will be achieved by engaging the services of a specialist team building company. They will enhance the learning experience and, with a clear brief, recommend an exercise, or set of exercises, that are safe, appropriately equipped and fit the workplace objective. With all financial budgets stretched it is important to get the best possible outcome for any spend so take time to investigate options and seek references from companies that have been on similar events before choosing which event to hold.