Mention team building activities to most employees, and many will groan and roll their eyes as they mentally picture some lame or embarrassing activity, like doing trust falls. For most folks, that’s the last thing they want to do!
The goal of any team building activity is ultimately to improve team health, lower barriers to open and honest dialogue, and foster cooperation and joint problem-solving. To do this, you have to get people to know each other better; to lower barriers between people.
Get to know each other on a deeper level
Social events and friendly competitions are a good start, but those activities can only take you so far. Eventually, you’ll need to engage in more advanced forms of team building.
Here are a couple of options to consider:
1. Assessments. Have everyone on your team take an online assessment and compare the results as a group. My favorite is the Kolbe A Index, which identifies what methods individuals use to solve problems.
When you compare these results as a group, light bulbs begin to glow. People say, “So that’s why you do so-and-so!” or “That’s why I’ve never been able to ______.” Often, frustrations with fellow team members disappear because they now understand why someone does / doesn’t do things that have been puzzling in the past.
Other good options are Strengths Finders, Myers-Briggs, or DISC, to name a few. Anything that helps the folks on your team understand what makes each other tick can be very illuminating and lead to greater cooperation.
2. Personal histories. Get everyone around a table together and have each person answer the same question about their personal experiences. Good questions include:
- What was your very first job?
- What was the thing you struggled with the most as a child?
- What’s one thing no one at this table knows about you?
After this activity, people who like each other already will like each other even more. And I’ve seen it make people who could barely stand to talk to one another before begin to sympathize with and even like one another. That’s the kind of bond you need to have a strong, healthy team.
Solving more serious issues
If you have a situation where there is distrust or hostility among departments or between individuals, you are not alone. The vast majority of companies I’ve worked with have dealt with this at one time or another. In such cases, you need to utilize a skilled facilitator who is completely impartial to guide you through personal issues-solving exercises.
These advanced activities typically involve getting people to reveal something personal and sensitive about themselves, or to face issues everyone’s been ignoring – the proverbial “elephant in the room.” If you don’t have an expert at facilitation there to make sure everyone is heard and participates, your efforts could actually make things worse.
Do’s and Don’ts
Whatever activity you choose, keep these tips in mind as you plan:
Think ahead. Figure out which team building activities are right for your team, as every team is different. You’ll know you’ve chosen the right activity if everyone is participating. If not, you have a bit more work to do.
Prepare. Read articles online to get advice on how to conduct the activity you’ve chosen or get a facilitator who will be impartial. If you hire a facilitator, make sure before beginning that they are fully briefed on the situation you want to resolve and your desired outcomes .
Don’t get too personal. Using a comfort/discomfort scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being easy and comfortable, never go above a 7.
Don’t ever embarrass anyone.
In these hyper-competitive times, building a healthy, cohesive team is a crucial element in a comprehensive plan to achieve your vision for your organization. Make sure to consider and use them carefully to ensure they have the desired positive effect on your team.