More than just getting to know one another's favorite hobbies or some basic background information, team building is about building interpersonal relationships, developing ways of working, and improving collaboration and teamwork. The goal should be to create a more unified and efficient group.
Some teams will want to work as efficiently and effectively as possible with one another while others may focus more on interpersonal relationships. There is no one size fits all definition of what a ‘strong’ team is, so you are free to adapt your definition of team building to your unique scenario.
Team building cultivates the skills we often associate with high performance; adaptability, consistently performing at a high level, and producing results even during trying times. Team building is a way to develop and build these skills that both newly formed and experienced teams will require.
So what defines a high-performing team exactly? Well, one that communicates well and can listen to what one another has to say, process this input, and then take action is one of the defining features.
Likewise, the ability to both identify and overcome friction can be an essential characteristic of a high-performing team. Tensions often arise within teams - especially when working in pressurized situations - and being able to overcome these and work towards a common goal is vital. Team building activities can help us develop tactics and techniques that will help us get past these moments of tension and friction by improving resiliency.
Oftentimes we tend to focus so intently on our role that we don’t allow time to improve processes, refine ways of working, and work to improve our relationships with our co-workers. Dedicated team-building activities are invaluable in improving both our relationships with co-workers and how we collaborate and work in unison.
Different types of activities will help to improve a certain set or series of skills that will be invaluable for every kind of team. Let’s examine each so you can better understand what type of activity you may need to run with your team.
Teamwork does indeed make the dream work but communication is the key to everything a great team does. Team members may feel they are left in the dark, don’t understand what is expected of them, or feel confused about team goals and objectives without a high level of communication. Working to open the lines of communication won’t, therefore, just improve workflow, but should help to identify and tackle problems early.
Communication activities should help your team understand how each other prefers to communicate but also help develop active listening skills and learn how to ensure everyone is included and heard. Think of it as building the communication skills of both the team and the members of the team.
How we get on with one another outside of the office can transfer over into our day-to-day work. While colleagues don’t necessarily need to be the absolute best of friends, discovering some common interests and developing some shared experiences will make it easier to deal with one another on a day-to-day basis.
These bonding activities should help build comfort with one another so there are fewer awkward situations at work and we can better overcome challenges.
Regardless of the team’s objectives, there will come situations and scenarios where problems will need to be identified and solved. Every one of us adopts a different personality when it comes to problem-solving. Some will naturally assume more of a leadership role, others will take time to consider options and outcomes, while others will tend to be more hands-on and active when it comes to fixing things.
By partaking in problem-solving activities you can help identify where your team shines and fall short. Similarly, you will not only be able to identify how everyone reacts, but you may also work out strategies and tactics to best utilize everyone's talents.
So we have discussed the ideas of communication and problem-solving and to a certain extent, the final piece in this puzzle is making a final decision. Making collective decisions with input from each member of the team is a great way to keep everyone engaged and come up with the best possible ideas. This type of activity is also a great way to promote active listening skills and creative thinking. People can learn how to express their opinions and views in front of one another while also learning how to ask for input from others and how to actively encourage one another to take part and speak up.
Teaming up together to tackle an upcoming project, getting together to pair program, or workshopping ideas with one another are just some examples of how we will collaborate regularly. Thus, it’s vital that members of a team become accustomed to and skilled at working closely with one another. Working to improve collaboration skills will of course include elements we have previously mentioned (communication most of all) as well as interpersonal skills like patience and delegating.
Now that we know more about the importance and the benefits of team building, let’s look at some activities you and your team can try.
Quizzes can be a great way to bond and develop a strong sense of teamwork. Split your team into subteams and let them shoot it out in a general knowledge quiz or pick a specific topic that everyone has a keen interest in - this can be a great way to stoke some competitive spirits.
Top tip: If you want to add a unique element then add some facts about one another into the quiz and see who knows the most about their colleagues. This one works great with teams that have been working together for a while and who have built a strong connection.
This is a great way to have some fun, look back at the year, and give each other a nice pat on the back or a well-deserved shoutout. See if someone is willing to host the event and get creative by making it Oscars-themed awards show. Create some fun awards like the best email of the year or highlight of the year and get those prizes ready. You want to let everyone vote on the various awards so they can collectively decide on a winner so to help we’ve made a template you can use to get started.
Who said legos aren’t for adults? The name of this game is to build a lego set (the exact type of structure is up to you to determine) in complete silence but with one small caveat! Everyone receives a specific instruction like ‘You can only build with yellow blocks’ or ‘You must only build the 3rd level of the structure’. Feel free to get creative with the cards and give really specific instructions - this game will test communication and reasoning skills and will force everyone to work together.
Do you want problem-solving? Well then here are the most mind-boggling and deviously tricky ways to improve your team's problem-solving skills! A Murder Mystery Game will prompt team members to ask questions and explain their reasoning while requiring them to listen, participate, observe, and discuss; the same goes for an Escape Room. These activities are a great way to bring a team together and add a nice little competitive element too.
Learning can be fun, don’t forget that, and learning together can be all the better as it will become a shared experience for everyone. There are of course a lot of different classes and courses your team could take together such as cooking, drinks making, or even an art class (painting and glass blowing are particularly enjoyable - speaking from personal experience).
Perhaps someone in your team is passionate about adventure sports, while someone else is a history buff with a keen interest in statues and sculptures. No matter who is on your team they are bound to have a passion outside of the office. Why not give them a chance to break from the normal presentations and talk about something they are deeply passionate about over lunch? This is a great way to learn about teammates and to help those who are more hesitant presenters get over their fear by talking about something they feel strongly about.
It could be dinner, it could be karaoke, it could be bowling, as long as it’s fun and lets everyone get out of the office and out of the house for a few hours. Team building activities at work can be fun but just doing something simple after work away from the office can be the perfect way to get people to relax and get talking. I’m not saying you need to put a ban on work talk for the evening but try and encourage everyone to just put work out of their minds for the evening and get mingling.
It could be something calm like a round of mini-golf, or something way more adventurous and adrenaline-fueled like paintballing. No matter what sport or outdoor activity you think would be best for your team, get outdoors and enjoy some time moving around. Some are sure to enjoy the competitive nature that comes with games and competitions, while others will enjoy trying new and may even find a new hobby or passion.
What if you can't figure out what to do?
Then Menti is here to help find something you guys can do as a team. Ask everyone for suggestions, narrow them down to the best options and add them to our Spinner Wheel. Then you can leave it all to chance and see what your next team day will be.
There we have it, a better understanding (hopefully) of team-building activities, the benefits, and the reason why it’s so important. To finish off though it’s important to say team building activities work best when they are done regularly and not forced. It’s a tough line to navigate but arranging something once every four or five months is too infrequent to have any significant benefit. The same goes for really heavily structured sessions that focus too much on work goals and strategy and less on just having some fun.
Team bonding should be enjoyable as this will more likely have your team gelling together as a group rather than just colleagues getting together to complete some task. If in doubt then try a few different things out and see what works for your team.