Team Building Exercises That Work

Team-building exercises tend to invoke one of two reactions: high fives or low groans. Gung-ho employees think team-building exercises are fun and invigorating, while more reserved staff members want to hide under their desks when the term is mentioned. So how do you get the whole team on board and bypass the dreaded eye rolls? Here are some team-building exercises that not only work, but are also bound to please even the most vocal critics. These suggestions are all low-cost/high-return, and can be conducted right in your office.

Team building

1. Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are great because they don’t require anyone to stand up and make a fool out of themselves in front of their coworkers. There is really no way to experience public humiliation because although teams are working to accomplish a common goal, they are doing so in their own private space. No one has to worry about falling backward and not being caught, being forced to reveal personal experiences to the group, or bumping into furniture while wearing a blindfold. The participants are merely given fun clues and then they work competitively in teams of two or three to find the objects that the clues are pointing to. Plus, prizes can be given to the teams that find the most objects—and who doesn’t like prizes? Most importantly, scavenger hunts are effective at building cohesion among team members because they have to work together to succeed. As an added incentive, team members can be switched around for different hunts, so that everyone ends up working with everyone else at some point.  The bonding possibilities are endless.

2. Problem-Solving Scenarios

Problem solving is a huge part of the everyday operations of most companies. It is often stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, problem solving can be quite fun if it’s given an entertaining twist. Here’s an example: several teams can be given the same scenario, such as being stuck in a room with only a tiny window and no doors. Then present them with a list (or pictures) of 10 objects and inform them they have to choose only two to get themselves out. Some of the objects might work well together even though they might not normally be paired. It's up to each team to come up with the most viable solution to the problem, and then present it to the other teams after a set amount of time has expired. It can be a contest for the best solution, or it can merely be a creative presentation. Either way, team members will be working together to solve an intriguing problem in a resourceful way. This will not only improve their ability to work with others, but might also help them to hone their critical thinking skills.

3. Hair Band Air Band

Younger office members might not remember the 80s hair band movement, but this is the chance for the more seasoned employees to introduce them to the likes of Poison, Warrant and Skid Row. In this team-building activity—or more appropriately, band-building activity—participants are divided into groups of four. They are then each assigned three hair band songs they can choose from, and they will work together to form their own hair band air band. They will then perform their song—air style—to the other teams. Granted this could be a nightmare activity for those who are easily embarrassed, but that’s the beauty of the “air” concept. No one has to actually sing or play any instruments, they merely have to mime these activities. The team building begins when the group members choose their song, and decide who is going to be on vocals, drums, guitar and bass or keyboards. From there, they will bond during their rehearsals, during their performance, and when watching their coworkers. Once you’ve air-performed “Unskinny Bop” with your colleagues, you’ve created a connection that will last a lifetime.  

4. Mega-Lists

Mimicking the brainstorming process, the mega-list team-building activity can really get hearts pumping and energy flowing. Normally, during a brainstorming session, the topic is how to improve something in the organization, or make the company more money via a new promotional campaign, product offering, etc. The idea behind the mega-list exercise is to get the teams in that same pumped-up mindset, but use fun, creative topics. An example would be: name all of the TV shows you can think of that start with the first three letters in the name of the company. If your company’s name is Acme, then they will need to list all the TV shows they can think of, past or present, that begin with the letters A, C, and M. Each team will go to a separate space, preferably out of earshot of the other teams. One person will be in charge of writing all the answers yelled out by their teammates on a white board the group can see. This is a timed activity, and once time is called, the different teams will meet to compare their lists. All duplicate answers will be removed and will not receive any points. Therefore, teams will need to be creative with their answers and not just use the most obvious ones. After the scores are tallied, the team with the most original (and valid) answers wins. Maybe they win a prize, maybe just kudos. Either way, they've worked together in an environment that feels competitive due to the fervent nature of the game, but is really all about synergy.

Even staff members who don’t enjoy playing games will find it hard to resist the opportunity to show off their prowess to their coworkers. And for those who lack confidence, these team-building exercises can give their egos a much-needed boost, especially if they're the ones who find the most treasures or come up with the best answers. Ultimately, team-building exercises can be both effective and enjoyable. Just try to avoid activities that single out one person and put them on the spot in front of their colleagues. A winning formula focuses on actual teams, not individuals.

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