At their best, team-building exercises can help to make a group develop its strengths and deal with any weaknesses. In short, the parts come together to create a better whole. The only way they can be successful is if the exercises are carefully chosen with a specific goal in mind.
It’s not enough to get a group of colleagues together outside of the office to participate in a specific activity. Simply spending the afternoon on the golf course or going to a climbing gym is something fun, but unless it led to changes in the way your team members interacted with each other when they returned to work, it wasn’t a very effective team-building exercise.
Start by Defining a Specific Challenge
To be effective, a team-building exercise will need to address a specific challenge. As a manager, you should start by defining the one that you want your team to address as part of the exercise. Then you can choose the types of exercises that can help your team to work through them appropriately. To help you get to the root of the issues your team is currently struggling with, consider these questions:
How well do your team members know each other?
Are there certain people who are in conflict with each other? Is this creating divisions within your team?
Are some of your team members more comfortable working individually? Do they need help learning to work as part of a team?
Does the group need to learn how to improve their communication skills?
Are some members of your team resistant to change? Is this affecting the team’s ability to move forward?
Could some of your team members use a boost to their morale?
Plan Activities that Address Challenges Directly
Once you have a clear idea about the types of challenges your team is facing, you can plan activities that focus on them directly. Keep in mind that the idea here is not to engage your team in competitive activities. The goal is to get the team working together, not figuring out who can be declared a “winner.”
For example, if your goal is to improve communication among your team members, have them play a special game of “Survivor.” In this scenario, they have to work together and agree so that everyone thrives. They have all survived a plane crash in the ocean. There is enough room for everyone in the lifeboat and a desert island is close by. They can also take 12 items in the lifeboat they will need to survive on the island. Which items will they choose and how will they decide which ones are most important?
Make Team Building a Regular Part of Your Work Activities
Rather than delegating team building to an annual event, include short activities in your work day on a regular basis. The more your team members practice these skills, the better they will get at using them, and the more effective your team will be on a daily basis.