Choosing the right Team Building ExercisesTeam building exercises and games can sometimes be 'a hit' or 'a miss'. Follow our simple process to choose the right team building exercises for you, because well chosen team building exercises will deliver benefits to the organisation and individuals. Team building exercises that are poorly chosen could waste your time or even have a negative effect.
As with many work tasks, it is important to start by being clear about your objectives. How many times have you gone to see your doctor, said "I'm ill" and you've been given some "illness tablets"? None, of course. An examination of symptoms is required first, to identify the issues you need to address.
Similarly, the place to start in choosing team building exercises is to undertake an evaluation. If there are problems, you need to determine the causes. If there are no problems, you should identify how best to maintain or improve performance.
One way to identify problems in the team is to use our online Team Dynamics Assessment questionnaire.
The above questionnaires may help identify the area where the team needs to improve, but you now have to choose an exercise or activity that will help deliver that improvement.
There are thousands of team building exercises, too many to list here. The most popular team building exercises involve some kind of outdoor activities (see our page on team building activities for a comprehensive list of ideas). These are usually fun, but often suffer from the problem that it is difficult to translate the benefits back into the workplace.
For the most effective team building exercises, therefore, you need to have an integrated programme that combines outdoor events with ongoing activities in the workplace, such as:
- Work-oriented discussion of the group's objectives, roles, processes, resources etc..
- Looking at personality styles and/or team roles
- Social events
- Joint coffee/break times
- Learning lunches on topics relevant to everyone
- Meetings, not only to discuss day-to-day work, but also to acknowledge past successes and make future plans
- Communication sessions (structured or unstructured) to increase overall team knowledge, by sharing expertise, experience, and individual knowledge etc..
Team building is not a single event that takes place offsite, but an ongoing process that takes place within the team over a long period of time. It is therefore important to choose activities that have aims/objectives that match the issues in your team, and make a long-term contribution to better teamworking.
When you then take a more detailed look at your short list of ideas, there are various things you need to think about:
- Will the activity achieve the change you want?
- Will all team members will do it? (there should never be any coercion involved, it can backfire and be damaging to the team)
- Can you find the time, budget and an appropriate venue
- Make sure there is no physical risk (for outdoor activities, the supplier should be a 'qualified instructor' and provide insurance - don't use a supplier who asks you to sign waivers of liability)
Make sure there is no psychological risk, in particular:
- members are treated equally and with respect;
- fun is not achieved at the expense of others;
- there's no humiliation involved;
- it doesn't have the potential to stir anger between members;
- individuals won't feel excluded - eg: at social activities, design the event to make sure everyone mixes;
- it won't expose fears/incompetence - eg: fear of failure
- any conflict or feedback will be managed constructively
- Will it build trust and openness? Does it require (at the start) more trust and openness than is currently present?
- Do you have contingency plans in case something does go wrong? (eg: what do you do in the case of a task failing?).
Buy in from the team is very important, so it is usually better to make the decision as a team rather than just one individual decide.
After you use team building exercises, you should perform some kind of review or evaluation of their effectiveness, to inform your choice of exercise the next time.