When choosing the types of team building activities you want to undertake in your efforts to build and strengthen a powerful team to meet your goals, consider the type of team that you are working to build with, an existing team or one that you are starting from scratch. Whichever is the case, there will be particular struggles and challenges as well as benefits and opportunities.
Now that you have designed and created your ideal team, it is time to get to work outfitting it with the experience, time, and effort that will make it a cohesive unit fully able to process information and provide all the benefits a team can give. Team building activities can be very simple or very complex and chances are that you will need to utilize a wide range of activities to meet the individual and collective needs of your particular group.
The most basic team building activities focus on time spent together rather than on developing the team's overall capacity to perform. While this tactic can produce successful results, it does have its limitations. Most importantly, time spent together as a team should still have some basic rules or direction to prevent certain complications. Consider the following examples.
Traveling. In school, what do kids usually get the most excited about? Field trips! Sometimes a field trip might mean something particularly fun or engaging, but most often it is simply the change of venue that appeals so strongly. As adults, we sometimes lose this element of fun in our day to day, humdrum lives. But the vast majority of American adults enjoy a a break in the routine. Whether you take your team on a work related "field trip," or simply something fun that they can all do together (even if it has nothing to do with the team itself), can be great for team building. It allows the team members an opportunity to see each other as human beings and not just coworkers or fellow team members. It allows them plenty of opportunity to communicate, discover common ground, and learn to genuinely enjoy time together, and overlook differences or past mistakes. This consequently builds up trust and makes your overall team dynamic much more positive and engaging.
Breaking the routine. Similar to a field trip, a business trip, or some other fun activity away from the office or regular team meeting space, altering the routine does not have to be as dramatic or expensive as traveling together might be. Sometimes, a simple change in the routine can breathe new life into team members. Instead of running drills for a soccer team, have the team divide up, put on some loud music, and just let them play without any coaching. If your team has been working hard on a special event, after it ends give them a day off; even time spent apart can be great for the team, as it will help them refresh before coming back together. If there is a training event your team is dreading, provide team members with a small goodie bag consisting of some snacks, a bottle of water, a can of play dough, or some similar items.
Team Building Activities 2
A lesser discussed but excellent form of team building is a more emotional, simple activity as opposed to the more fun activities. So much of team building is about people coming together to realize that they share a common goal and to realize that they can meet their common goal while meeting personal ones as well. In fact, the best teams are composed of people who are engaging in work that they believe is important or meaningful and who develop an emotional connection with either the work or their teammates (or both). When teammates develop an emotional bond, they are more likely to have effective communication with each other and a greater shared interest in achieving the team's goals.
Alternatively, if the team you are constructing is not one that operates within a professional or job-related setting, you may not have to be held to the same restrictions. Depending on the nature of the team and the team members, building an emotional bond through voluntarily shared experiences can be extremely successful. Far more people are willing to tell their story than what most people usually believe, often because they do not feel that anyone wants to hear it or that they will be judged for their disclosure. If you can provide a controlled environment that guarantees the safety (emotional, physical, and otherwise) of those both sharing and listening, the response you receive can be incredible. Closely knit sports teams, other extracurricular teams, and those studying or involved in religious or spiritual activities, frequently share a lot of very personal information with each other to build a stronger team. By providing a safe space and prompts that might help people examine the kinds of things they might be interested in hearing about or sharing, you can conceivably pull off an event that can have some of the strongest emotional results that you have ever seen.
Simple team building activities are not the only option out there. Most people who have gone through some sort of formal or institutionalized team building have engaged in more complex, skill building team development activities. These types of activities are designed to further develop soft skills that are absolutely vital to successful team or such as communication, team problem solving, shared responsibility, and so forth. Professional companies that offer these types of activities have become widely used and tremendously successful as more and more companies are learning that investing in teamwork as well as in individual team members can produce fantastic results for their business or other organization. These types of companies tend to use activities that get team members physically interacting with each other to stimulate verbal communication and achieve specific goals for each activity. Different types of team development activities include the following.
Planning exercises. The purpose of exercises designed to strengthen planning procedures are self explanatory. Nevertheless, there will always be members of your team that seem to think that "winging it" will be an acceptable plan to reach any given goal. Particularly, those who are hesitant to engage in team building or team development activities will often resist planning during the activities because they undervalue the activity itself and the role it can play in success of the team. For that reason alone, it is always a good idea to incorporate at least some planning activities into your team building agenda. Tried and true team development activities usually are unsuccessful by those who attempt to just wing it and consequently, force people who are resistant or hesitant to plan as a team to do so to achieve success with the specific goal set before them. This is a great way to help identify and address any team members that you suspect are particularly hesitant about being part of a team. If there are existing problems on your team or you are hoping to do some assessment, planning activities tend to show you not only personality and work characteristics of your team members but also their general willingness to operate as a team.
Communication exercises. These types of exercises help teammates identify their own communication style, the communication styles of their teammates, and what may be the best method to establish positive and productive communication within your team. By assigning a project or activity that relies heavily on interpersonal communication, such as many problem solving activities that require a wide breadth of knowledge. Activities that require a variety of knowledge or skills means that there is not only a person or two who are able to contribute; your team members can begin learning that they each have a voice and that everyone's voice should be heard, treated with respect, and appreciated for what it can contribute to the overall group. It will also help you during assessment times to determine whether or not people are more or less solution oriented, introverted, extroverted, and more comfortable as a natural leader or follower, and so on.
Decision making exercises. Problem solving and decision making exercises are among the most popular team development and team building exercises that there are. After all, one of the main purposes and benefits of having a team is having access to a group of people who are working together to solve a problem, whether that problem is rescuing a hostage, raising enough money for a program, making enough sales to keep a company afloat, or having a winning season. In every activity we undertake, there is constantly some level of problem solving that is inherent. If a team is unable to work together successfully to problem solve, there is no way that it will be able to succeed, whatever its goals may be. There are always complications and there are always new things to consider, problems that come up on the fly, as well as long term problems. By getting a team to practice solving problems together, even if the problem is how to get all 13 members of the team up over a wall, it will easily translate into solving real world problems together.
Trust exercises. The physical counterpart to the emotionally vulnerable, simple trust exercises outlined earlier, these types of trust building activities usually involve some measure of physical discomfort. From the old, standard trust fall (where a person on a platform must fall backwards into the arms of their teammates, trusting they will catch them), to much more complex scenarios, trust exercises definitely have a place in the annals of team building. But many people have questioned whether trust exercises are truly helpful taken out of the physical context and put into a more normalized environment, such as working at a bank. For some people, the act of having a teammate support them physically is able to give some measure of comfort or security about other areas of their life where security and trust are are prominent, such as job security and even emotional vulnerability.