It’s no secret that if you want your team to be more effective, productive, happier and successful, they have to work well together. But how can you bring together individuals who have varying skills, contrasting personalities, and different responsibilities?
One tried-and-true method for making your team more cohesive is having them participate in team building exercises. Throughout my career, I’ve found the following five examples to work well.
Writing Down Expectations
This is a simple team building exercise where a facilitator hands out blank cards and asks each member to list his or her expectations on the card. After you collect the cards, place the responses onto either a chalkboard or whiteboard so you can discuss them as a team. This way, your team can focus on the ideas rather than who submitted them. In the past, I found that people on my team let their feelings about others get in the way of ideas presented. The focus on the ideas themselves has made the discussions much more fruitful, and has increased enthusiasm.
The Great Egg Drop
This exercise can last up to two hours and can make the workplace a little messy, but it’s a classic problem-solving and collaboration exercise that I enjoy. Start by dividing your team into two or more groups and assign the task of constructing an egg package that is able to sustain an eight-foot drop. Of course, you’ll have to provide your team with the proper tools and materials. The Egg Drop Project has a useful list of materials and the process I like to use.
Once they build the packages, have each team create 30-second ads for whatever they used. After the presentations, have the groups drop their eggs to see whether the packages worked or not. This exercise is fun and has taught us a lot about how working together increases creativity and innovation. The ads are a concrete example of that collaboration, while the egg drop offers an exciting challenge and competitive component.
Not all team-building exercises have to be games. Sometimes, you can bring your team together by being charitable. For us, that means donating our time and/or money to charitable causes. We give each employee two-to-three work days each year where they can go donate their time to a charitable cause. We encourage team members to go in groups and help out together. For two years now, employees have taken the opportunity to mentor at nearby schools, build houses for veterans and volunteer at homeless shelters to provide meals and job training.
Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower
In this exercise, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure with 20 pieces of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow in just 18 minutes. I have found that you need to leave ample time to discuss the exercise and strategy and ask follow-up questions, such as:
- Who was the leader?
- Could you have accomplished this task without a leader?
- Were team members helpful?
- Were everyone’s ideas well-received?
- How did the time limit impact the team?
- What could you have done differently?
- Did your team celebrate small wins?
Beach Ball Toss
For this activity, all we used was a beach ball. Write random questions on the ball in advance, taking suggestions from the team. They should be a blend of easy and more complex questions that range from, “What’s your favorite food?” to “What are your weekly goals?” to “What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?”
Have your team stand in a circle and toss the ball around. Whoever catches the ball must then any the question that is closest to their pinky finger. This exercise builds collaboration by helping your team get to know more about each other.
Changing Mindsets and Deepening Collaboration
You don’t have to stay sedentary or indoors to grow as a team. We’ve also turned music on and had everyone line up and while one or two people come forward and show their best dance move for 15 seconds. Other ideas include getting tickets and going together to a local team sporting event, playing kickball, having a bowling night, planning a bring-your-family picnic every summer, and setting up a regular happy hour. These exercises will change the mindset of your teams, bring out creativity, smooth out any rifts that have developed, and unite everyone together as a group.