Team Building Activities

A team is not just any group of people. They must have a common objective or goal. 

Teams, not individuals, deliver projects. They collaborate to accomplish more and more effectively than working independently. 

This whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Team

Each member brings unique abilities and forms a synergistic relationship to achieve success beyond the reach of individual effort.

Team Building Activities

Certain activities can help build a team. They motivate team members and help them work as a cohesive group.

In the 1990s, several successful American companies were studied. Researchers found that “The ability to organize employees in innovative and flexible ways and the enthusiasm with which so many American companies have developed self-managing teams is why U.S industry is looking so competitive.”

Another study by Gallup shows that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, while people with a self-described best friend at work were seven times more likely to be fully engaged.

Business environments today are increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous), and organizations need to use their human resources better. 

Team building is the process of forming, growing, and improving the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of members and those supporting them. Team-building activities help achieve these goals.

The three elements required are knowledge, skills, and attitudes. They boost the team’s competence, and members must continuously improve them.

Team building is a process of taking individuals with different needs, backgrounds, and expertise levels and transforming them into a cohesive and effective workgroup.

The aim is to channel the energies of individuals into achieving the team’s objective.

How To Organize Team Building Activities

The following steps are required for a successful team-building activity:

  1. Select an Activity: Keep the business reasons and team benefits in mind to ensure the activity provides value to the team.
  2. Prepare for Activity: Read through the details, get all materials and roles ready, and set up the room/stage.
  3. Explain the Activity: Clear goals and explicit rules lead to better engagement. Ensure the team understands the activity and guidelines. Organizers should enthusiastically welcome the team before the briefing.
  4. Conduct the Activity: This is when the team-building game starts. Members participate in the activity with minimal interference from the organizer.
  5. Debrief the Activity: The organizer discusses findings and observations during the activity. They can prepare questions in advance for discussion.
  6. Reinforce the Learning: The goal of a team building activity is to improve team dynamics. Motivate members to apply it in the workplace.

Team Building Themes

Team-building themes can help improve several skills, such as communication, creativity, cooperation, support, coping, and teamwork.

There are associated team-building activities for each theme that help improve participants’ knowledge, skills, and attitude.

#1. Teamwork Activities

teamwork activities

The diagram below shows activities under the theme. These games help improve teamwork.

In this theme, we will discuss two team-building activities: Kudos and But Nothing (Ideas)

Kudos

In this activity, participants appreciate one another for their differences. This helps bolster the team’s energy and promotes bonding and confidence among team members. 

This activity requires a box of candy called the kudos box.

Steps for conducting kudos:

  • Show a kudos box to the team.
  • Explain to the team that the candy bars are a recognition reward for any action, accomplishment, or trait.
  • Anyone can give more than one candy bar for any reason.
  • Kudos must be voluntarily given.
  • The organizer starts the game. They reward a participant for something and explain it to the team.
  • Everyone else follows suit with a round of applause at every recognition
  • The game continues until the energy level drops or the candy bars are finished.

After the activity ends, the organizer calls the team for a debriefing session with the following questions:

  • How difficult was it to give each other recognition? Why or why not?
  • How did you feel after each recognition?
  • What do you think would happen if we extend this attitude of recognition to external partners like suppliers, vendors, support staff, regulatory bodies, or clients.?

The kudos box teaches appreciation and recognition of team members.

But Nothing (Ideas)

Here, participants give feedback using the phrase yes, but… Then, instead, they use yes… or yes and…

This team building activity shows how using “but” can shut down communication. 

Steps for conducting but nothing (ideas)

  • Have the participants pair up.
  • Each pair is to plan a dream vacation.
  • One partner starts by making suggestions to the other.

For example:

Person A: Let’s go to the beach.

Person B: Yes, but… 

Keep this up for one minute and then stop.

In contrast:

Have the conversation changed but… to yes, and…

Keep it up for one minute, and then stop.

Have a debrief as follows:

  • Did you have more fun playing the game in yes, but or yes, and?
  • In real life, how does a yes, but affect thought or flow compared with a yes, and?

Teamwork is encouraged with a yes, and. The former (yes, and) builds on while the latter (yes, but) tears it down.

#2. Communication Activities

communication activities

The diagram below shows team building activities under this theme. These activities help improve communication.

We will discuss Card Triangles and Origami.

Card Triangles

This is a negotiation activity where teams trade pieces of playing cards in exchange for complete cards. It helps to see other perspectives before persuading or influencing.

Steps for conducting card triangles:

  • Prepare the materials by cutting the card into four parts, and participants need to make the card complete again. Then randomly divide these pieces into three or four envelopes according to the number of teams.
  • Divide the participants into teams of three or four.
  • Give each team an envelope containing card pieces.
  • Give the teams three minutes to examine, sort their pieces, and plan their bartering strategy.
  • Allow for eight minutes bartering where team members negotiate or influence for complete cards.
  • At the end of the time, the winning team has the highest number of complete cards.

Debrief with the following questions:

  • How willing were others to trade with you?
  • What were negotiation tactics most effective to you?
  • What things do we negotiate? (time, resources, etc.)

Card triangles show us we are interdependent on colleagues for many reasons, and we need an influenceable relationship with effective communication.

Origami

This is a team-building activity that shows the power of clear communication. It derives its name from the Japanese art of folding paper.

Steps for conducting origami:

  • Give each participant a sheet of paper.
  • Have them close their eyes.
  • Let them know they only must follow instructions as heard; no clarification is allowed.
  • Instruct team members to fold the sheet of paper in half, then fold again in half, lastly, fold again in half. Then rip off the upper corner

Debrief with the following questions:

  • Did everyone end up with the same result? Why or why not?
  • How could the result have been different if our eyes were open?
  • What if I had the chance to ask for clarification? Would the results have been different?
  • What does this imply about our jobs?

Origami helps participants see how instructions can be interpreted differently and that clear communication is vital.

#3. Coping Activities

coping activities

Activities under this theme are shown in the following diagram. These team building activities help improve coping skills.

We will discuss the changed timeline and index towers activities.

Change Timeline

This activity reminds participants of major changes they have handled before. It helps participants know one another better and encourages them to discover each other’s similar or dissimilar experiences.

Steps for conducting change timeline:

  • Give a pen and a paper to each participant.
  • Have them each recall five major life events.
  • They will draw timelines with associated changes marked with an X.

Have the participants then pair up and share outcomes using the following questions:

  • How did you feel before, during, and after these changes?
  • Was the change difficult? Why or why not?
  • What was the key to your success in dealing with the change?

Debrief by examining the following questions:

  • How do you feel sharing these experiences with your partner? Some responses could be I felt empathetic or encouraged knowing that we have experiences in common.
  • What did you learn from how your partner dealt with the change?
  • What does this bring to our jobs?

Change is common, and everyone can deal with it.

Index Towers

This is a game to test adaptability to change. Here you have a team of participants build towers using index cards.

Steps for conducting index towers:

  • Divide the group into teams of three to five.
  • Give them 25 index cards.
  • Each team is required to build the tallest free-standing structure possible.
  • Give participants a tape ruler to measure the height.
  • After the measurement is taken, announce that the towers violate safety laws and we must start over.
  • Give them 25 new cards and have them rebuild the tower.
  • Measure the structure and determine the tallest.

Debrief by examining the following questions

At the end of the activity, discuss the following:

  • How did you decide to build the structure each time?
  • When we announced a rule change and started all over, how did you feel? (frustrated, upset, challenged, etc.)
  • What new methods did you discover in the second round? (found better ways of stacking).
  • How does this apply to your job?

#4. Creativity Activities

creativitiy activities

The activities under this theme are shown in the following diagram. This team-building activity helps improve creativity.

We will discuss consultants and one-worded stories

Consultants

This activity allows participants to suggest how to handle work or other related problems. It takes creativity as participants proffer solutions as they come to mind. The solution seeker can now combine or scamper the ideas as below. 

S – Substitute

C – Combine

A – Adapt

M – Modify

P – Put to another use

E – Eliminate

R – Rearrange

Steps for conducting consultants:

  • Give the group two minutes for each participant to write one problem or concern at the top of a paper. 
  • Have everyone pass their paper to the right.
  • Each participant has one minute to read the problem and write a suggestion/advice.
  • Pass the paper and repeat as often as time allows.
  • Return the papers to the original owners.

For example:

Participant 1: I have issues replying to emails.

Response:

Participant 2: Read your email out aloud.

Participant 3: Flag all emails as unread.

Participant 4: Confide in a colleague at the end of the day. 

Participant 5: Learn to acknowledge first.

Debrief with the following questions:

  • How many team members had ideas that will solve their problems?
  • How did you feel about having to suggest a solution/advice (challenged, excited, honored).
  • Why don’t we ask each other for help more often? (not confident others could help, fear of trust/confidentiality).
  • How do we bring this experience to our job?

The consultant game shows how participants solve problems by sharing ideas.

One-Worded Stories

This activity sparks creativity. You must keep the story flowing. Participants must contribute one word at a time to keep the game going.

Steps for conducting one-word stories:

  • Explain that the group will create a story together one word at a time.
  • The word used must be as interesting as possible, supporting the preceding word.
  • Select one participant to start.

For example

Participant 1: Once 

Participant 2: upon 

Participant 3: a   

Participant 4: time

Participant 5: my

Participant 6: uncle

Participant 7: had

Participant 1: a

Participant 2: car

Participant 3: which

  • The story continues until the energy dies out.
  • After the story, try another round until the group gets better. This brain exercise improves idea generation and creativity.
  • Participants can take someone else’s place when they run out of ideas.

Debrief with the following questions:

  • How would you compare the group’s collective story with yours (was it more creative and original)?
  • How many came up with unimaginable words? (Innate capability)
  • How does this apply to our jobs?

#5. Problem Solving

Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Virtual Scavenger Hunt is one of the most popular games for team building, theme is “Problem Solving. In this theme, we will discuss this game.

This is a game full of fun and excitement. It shows how fast team members can hunt for items. The person or team that comes first wins the game. Creativity and problem-solving skills are required to win.

Steps for conducting a virtual scavenger hunt:

  • Compile a list of items that participants need to scavenge or hunt for. Since we are having it virtual, think of common items where the participants are located. For example, holding a phone charger, hand sanitizer, face mask, a souvenir, shopping bag, or coffee mug. Ensure the challenge or items are fun to get.
  • Connect participants on Zoom or any video-enabled meeting platform. Allow time for everyone to join the call.
  • Divide participants into groups and have them name their team. There could be a breakout session where participants decide on the names. Bring everyone again to the common space and introduce the teams with their names.
  • Give instructions to the game. This may include activity time and instructions, such as submitting real items, no images, or screenshots. You may assign points to a team instead of an individual. Let’s say we have five participants in a team, and three came up with the items; they could still have a full score to promote team spirit.

The emphasis is not on wins but team engagement.

  • Start the Hunt: Once you’re sure everyone understands the rules and expectations of the game, have the teams return to their breakout room with the countdown timer on their screen. Ten minutes is usually enough for the hunt.
  • Name the Winner: After the timer hits zero, everyone should rejoin the common room, where the organizer displays the photos of each team. You then score and announce the winner. It’s always fun to see different photographs showing their engagement.

A virtual scavenger hunt is a fun-filled game where you search, snap, and send!

The Do’s of Team Building Activities

  • It is crucial everyone keep an open mind.
  • Everyone must be willing to participate.
  • Create a warm atmosphere.
  • Select an activity so that all team members will want to compete.

Benefits of Team Building Activities

  • Can help improve communication and morale.
  • Helps staff unwind and relax.
  • Builds friendships with coworkers outside of work.
  • Sometimes it makes the staff feel appreciated.
  • Helps form a different type of bond among coworkers.
  • It leads to higher job satisfaction.

Summary

Team building activities should be part of organizational culture and project management. These activities help develop a team’s attitude, morale, and team bonding. All this results in a better work environment and efficient team output.

What team building activities do you use in your organization? Please, share with us through the comments section.

References

  1. Gershman, Jennifer. Drug Topics. Apr2019, Vol. 163 Issue 4, p29-29. 1p. , Database: Business Source Corporate Plus
  2. Brian Miller. Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers?: 50 Exercises That Get Results in Just 15 Minutes. New York: AMACOM, 2004. v. 1st ed, ISBN 9780814472019. Disponível em: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e220xww&AN=100156&site=ehost-live. Acesso em: 14 Jan. 2022.
  3. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/team-building-new-strategic-weapon-5140