Office Team Building Exercises – Waste of Time Or Valuable Tool?

I called on a client earlier this week to determine how I could help them during the balance of the year. He told me his Senior Vice President had cut all training funds and specifically those related to team events at their upcoming annual meeting. Her position was the meeting would focus on the fundamental needs and she did not intend to spend any money on “fun.”

This mindset about team building being superfluous and extravagant in this difficult financial climate is simply wrongheaded. It clearly fits the proverbial saying “tossing the baby out with the bathwater.” A study published on EducationNews.Org found the average attention span in classrooms is ten minutes. This certainly generalizes to plenary sessions at large meetings. Team building exercises do not necessarily waste time and money.

Here are three specific steps that will insure your meeting is successful and not just inexpensive.

1. Specify Goals – Decide what you want to accomplish over the course of the meeting. Make sure your goals are specific and achievable in the time allotted to the meeting. Here is the important part of this process. Share the goals with your team. We call this WIIFM? Your audience must know “What’s In It For Me?” By clarifying the goals, the audience sees the value in the meeting. The more specific the goals and the payoff for achieving them, the more the audience will be invested. The sharing of the goals should occur at the beginning of the meeting. Take and answer questions about them. It is vital that your audience understands where you intend to take them and why.

2. Deliver Material in Chunks – Avoid death by PowerPoint. Break up the session with Q&A, or discussions at each table, or problem solving challenges. Get the audience involved with the material. If they understand why the material is important (see #1) and they have an opportunity to interact on that material, they will become more involved. This “break” in lecturing or presenting should be built in every 15 to 30 minutes. We are not suggesting coffee breaks. These are working breaks. It is important that they share their findings or the result of their work with the general audience. Have wireless mics available in larger groups so everyone can hear the reports.

3. Use Activities – Get them moving. A qualified team building company can work with you to design activities that will directly address the material and move your team closer to the goals you specified. The provider who understands your goals will get your team physically active in moving toward them and (spoiler alert) having fun. Hire a company with skilled, educated facilitators, a company that understands the business environment. Screen potential vendors by telling them your goals and listening to how they believe they can help you achieve them.

Volleyball Team Building Exercises

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” –Michael Jordan

Teamwork comes from having a cohesive team, and in any team sport, getting along with those on your team is essential. On my club team yesterday, we had an entire practice dedicated to team-building.

The first activity involved the team sitting around in a circle. There was a small bowl of M&M’s in the center, and everyone took as many as they thought they “needed.” When each teammate had their candies in hand, for as many M&M’s they had, they said something about themselves not related to the sport.

For example, one of my teammates said that she loved butterflies and that her room was coated with posters and paintings of them. Another teammate said that she and her grandmother were born exactly 50 years apart.

The second activity involved each member getting a blank paper volleyball. In the middle panel, you write your name. On the top panel, you write what you as an individual can bring to the team. On the bottom panel, you write what your role on the team will be.

For example, on the top of my ball, I wrote loyalty and integrity, because I will be loyal to my team and I will hold to my word. On the bottom panel, I wrote down intensity, because I am always in the game and I play to win. Once everyone had written down everything, everyone presented their ball to the team and then taped it onto a poster with the team name on it.

The third activity was writing down some key things that made a good team on the poster. Our team had determination, pride, and passion.

Lastly, on the back of the poster, the teams wrote down some things that would absolutely not be tolerated. Our team had tardiness, disrespect, and cliques.

The poster then serves as a metaphor for success. In order to have a successful season, any given team must do all that there is on the front and let the things on the back stay out of the way.

Another way to build a team is to have a challenging task you all must complete. It can be as simple as learning the names of all the brothers, sisters, pets, etc of all your teammates. It can be a group project where you have to create the highest construction out of spaghetti noodles. It can be that all members of the team have their arms and ankles tied together and they have to walk across the football field.

Team Building Exercises to Optimise the Key Characteristics of Successful Teams

Understanding the characteristics of successful teams allows you to evaluate your own team to determine where the team is doing well and where the opportunity areas may be. There are 5 key characteristics that you find in successful teams:

1. Trust – openness and commitment
2. Effective communication – clear, unguarded and effective listening
3. Effective processes – decision making, conflict management and problem solving
4. Value diversity – diversity of capabilities, clarity of roles and interdependencies
5. Results focused – clear goals and plans

Each of these 5 key areas build on each other, if there is no trust in the team then the other factors don’t really get a chance to come into play, if there isn’t effective communication then working through processes become extremely difficult and so on.

Building on understanding these key characteristics when you are embarking on either a 3rd party team building exercise or an in house activity, keep the following key tension points in mind and design your team building exercise to bring these different perspectives to the forefront. Different personalities have different viewpoints on how to approach tasks, understanding the value that each personality can bring and the tension points that can arise will allow team members to work out differences during a “simulation” so they can work together better when real results are required. Some key tension points are:

-Approach and value of planning versus doing
-Risk taking
-Structure versus flexibility
-Focus on nurturing the task versus the individuals