Chapter 4 : Effective team building exercises


Team work entails a lot of activities. There is decision making, problem solving, communication and a number of other activities. In this chapter, we look at the team building exercises that tackle different aspects of teamwork.

  • What are the different exercises that a team can participate in?
  • What do these exercises entail and how are they important?

Relationships can’t be forced; people need to work on different things to make them work. This is the same thing with teamwork. People will not just automatically learn to communicate and trust each other. They have to practice on these skills.

A Little Work

Communication Exercises

Needless to say, communication is a vital part of any given relationship. Two people can’t live and work together unless they can communicate with each other. The same theory applies to team, for a group to work together they must be able to effectively communicate with each other.

Communication goes beyond sharing a common language. Two people may be English speakers but even without the language barrier, they may not be able to communicate with each other. There are so many fundamental principles that go into effective communication. This is why this type of exercises is normally vital in any given team.

There are many types of communication exercises all geared to help team members communicate with each other effectively. One such exercise is the “blind man and guide”. In this exercise, two teammates are forced to work with each other. They need to retrieve a certain object within the vicinity. However, one teammate has to do the retrieval while blind folded. The other teammate will then give directions to help them make the retrieval. The only way they can do this is by working together and communicating. If the guide becomes frustrated and starts yelling at the “blind man” this will bring about confusion and hinder their progress. On the other hand,” the blind man” will not succeed if he decides not to listen to the “guide”.

There are also communication exercises that involve interaction with all team members. You are supposed to mingle and bond with members and get to know them well. After this, you will be asked details about the team members. This normally tests listening skills and memory.

Trust and Interdependence Exercises

According to research, this is one of the most difficult exercises to administer. Naturally, people take time to build trust. Trying to get the team members to trust each other may be a hard task but still achievable. Trusting each other cements the relationship between the team. This helps them to work with each other well. It also makes an individual gain some sense of responsibility.

There are different exercises that can be used to build trust and interdependence. For instance, there is one exercise whereby the team players line up in two rows. The people on the first row normally have their backs to the others on the second row. Now without turning back, they are required to fall back letting their guard down. They should be able to trust that the team member standing behind them with catch them.

Problem Solving Exercises

The whole concept of these exercises is to test the team’s problem solving skills. You give them a problem to solve and watch every step that they make towards solving it. You will also get to see how well they will work together in order to solve it. This is a vital exercise because it can influence the success of any team .A team that can’t handle the task may crumble and fall under pressure. On the other hand, a team that can do this well will be able to go through any difficulties and come out victorious at the end.

Some of the problem solving exercises include, putting a big puzzle together. Every team member plays a role in ensuring that this is done. You may also present a problem to the team and just ask them to solve it. This can be anything that has to deal with their work. For instance, a customer care department team may be asked to play out a scene whereby there is an irritable customer threatening one of their staff members with violence. The staff member isn’t supposed to handle the situation alone. It is up to the team to come together with strategy to handle the current problem and put measures in place for handling similar issues in the future.

Decision Making Exercises

This is much similar to the problem solving exercises. It tests the team’s ability to make decisions together. In these exercises, the whole team is supposed to work together. It will not be upon the leader to come up with the next plan of action. These exercises are very important in any team. When a team makes good strong decisions together, they will be successful. However, a team that doesn’t involve all members in decision making may end up fostering resentment from the members who have been left out. It will also affect the quality of the decision since the best ones are the ones that are made by all members sharing ideas. On the other hand, total inability to make decisions will delay projects and can ultimately contribute to the failure of the whole team.

In such exercises, a team may be presented with a problem and about five different solution alternatives. They have to discuss these alternatives and decide on the best option for the whole team. Each group member should contribute as to why they believe that is the best option. They should also get to a point of either compromise or total agreement.

Planning Exercises

Nothing much can ever be accomplished without the proper planning. This is why this exercise is very important in any given team. This goes hand in hand with the adapting exercises. This is supposed to help the group to realize their strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are them put all together to show exactly what the group is capable of achieving if at all they decide to work together.

Planning exercises are very many. You can have the team faced with a task whereby they are required to complete it effectively and in the shortest time possible. For instance, you can ask them to provide a budget for a certain amount of money. They should imagine that they are stranded at a bus station with just the basic amount of money. The budget should explain how they expect to get home with their limited funds and within the shortest time possible.

Socialization Exercises

These exercises are sometimes referred to as, bonding exercises. They are supposed to help the employees to get to know each other through a social interaction. It is important for the team to learn how to socialize with each other. This will help build their work relationship making them much more effective in their job. It will also help create a good working atmosphere free of hostilities.

Socialization exercises are normally very simple. You can actually have a setting like a speed dating game. The employees will be asked to talk to each other for a few minutes. When these time elapses, they are to move to another team members. This is repeated until all team members have had a chance to talk to each other. This exercise should be fun and simple.

Personal Development Exercises

Sometimes it’s hard to be a team player if you have personality traits that are sociable. There are people who are naturally shy; others are anti-social while others may just not be comfortable in the team. This exercise helps each individual to examine themselves and evaluate what exactly they bring to the team. It encourages members to get out of their own shells or individual limitations and become the bets that they can be.

Members may be faced with the challenge of individually coming up with their own shortcomings and listing them down. They should do this anonymously. The lists are then handed down to the leader. The team comes together after this and discusses the solution for each shortcoming. For instance, people who may have listed shyness as a shortcoming maybe offered advice on how to overcome this. Remember, nobody will be addressed directly due to the anonymity. It will just be like a braining storming session. Once a person is comfortable with themselves in the team, they will be more productive.

Awareness And Sensitivity Exercises

This is normally a delicate exercise especially in mixed teams. It isn’t uncommon to find organizations refusing this part of team building. However, it is very important. There are so many stereotypes that come with every group of people. This may naturally bring about resentment and also distrust between members of a team. This definitely affects their ability to work together.

However, you can make this exercise fun and educative at the same time. Come up with name tags for everyone. In this name tag, don’t put any negative stereotypes .Put positive messages that a group or a person. For instance, if a person is associated with a group of people considered to be sneaky liars but with very brilliant minds, put the later as the tag. Then put the tags at the back of each person. Each person is then supposed to guess what’s on their back without taking a look. Teambuilding exercises aren’t just about having fun. They help in teaching people the core aspects of teamwork and how to be a team.

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