Teamwork is about a lot of things – helping each other with stuff, working towards deadlines, communicating – but it’s also about fun.
They say a brilliant idea isn’t worth much, unless it’s executed perfectly. The same can be said for a project. You may be the best project manager, but without a good team members that can work smoothly with each other, there is little you can do.
If you want to achieve good results, you will need to invest some time into building your team and improving them not on the individual level, but as one combined unit.
You know how the saying goes “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth” (well, technically there is no such saying, I came with up it while writing this article :D), but you get the point – make your team feel at home while at the workplace and you will notice the difference.
There are a number of fun team-building exercises that you can do with your team, depending on which aspect you want to emphasize and improve – communication, hitting deadlines, eliminating stereotypes and so on.
It’s important to make these exercises serve a specific purpose and not just waste time because people feel obliged to do it. Make sure you plan everything with a certain goal in mind: improving any teamwork aspects, having a common goal and working towards it, or it could be just for fun. In any case, everybody needs to know the purpose behind the exercise to really make it work.
Explanatory drawing (communication)
This is a fun exercise that will help team members enhance their communication skills. Break up into groups of two people and have one of them try to explain in details what he or she wants the other one to draw on a piece of paper.
The key here is that team members are sitting back to back, so there is no way to show what they want to say with the help of gestures, they need to tell it verbally. Start with easy images like a house or a tree. The point is not to make a painting on the level of Leonardo Da Vinci, but try to draw everything as explained by the partner.
You could host a competition and have small prizes for top performers to get everybody engaged and try their best.
Catastrophe master (meeting deadlines)
This is an exercise that will help team members meet deadlines much better and also prioritize their decisions when there is little time to make a choice. As a project manager, you need to educate your team on autonomy – you can’t be there for every small decision they have to make and tell them what to do.
Divide your team into smaller groups of 3-4 people. Choose a catastrophe scenario – plane crash, earthquake, fire in in your office, ship sinking or anything else – and give each team 2 minutes to decide how they are going to escape and survive later for two weeks before help arrives.
Team members will have to prioritize certain possessions over others – the ones that will help them survive for two weeks – and plan their escape in 2 minutes.
Again, use some motivational approach to get everybody engaged. A small salary bonus or a day off during the month are good examples to start with. Make sure to change the catastrophe each time, so that teams won’t know what to expect and can’t prepare beforehand.
Who Am I? (Eliminating stereotypes)
It’s very important to have as much diversity in your team as possible. But at the same time, differences tend to drive people away from one another and make invisible barriers between them.
I blame stereotypes. Stereotypes make us forget that we are all humans above all else, and when we are a part of the same team, we work together towards the same goal. Eliminating those stereotypes is an important step towards high performing team building.
This exercise is best to perform with around 5-6 members at most, so if you have a bigger team, just break it up into smaller ones. Make sure to mix as many different personalities as you can and swap team members after each exercise.
Have each person write the personality stereotype on a sticker note for the person next to him or her (it’s important to be completely honest and write exactly what you think about the person, even if it’s something bad – e.g. cocky know-it-all, simpleminded blondie, freaky psycho, etc.)
After writing the stereotype down, have them hand the note to the person next to them and pin it somewhere they can’t see – forehead is a good place typically – and then start asking questions to find out what stereotype they are. Other members can only answer “Yes” or “No”.
It’s often difficult to work together when people feel hostile towards each other. Knowing what others think about you and having a good laugh about it is an excellent way to let go of those stereotypes.
If you decide to implement a team building approach, make sure you plan for long term and commit to it. If you aren’t going to be consistent about it, it will mostly like be just a waste of time.
Plus, whenever a new team member will join your team, he or she will need to be integrated into those exercises to really become a part of the family and team.
Change the exercises from time to time to maintain intrigue and focus on a different aspect that needs improvement for every upcoming exercise. You could either host them in the office or go outside for a picnic to really enjoy it. You will be surprised how adding just a bit of fun into your daily routine will improve the overall work process and productivity of your team.
The games might seem a little awkward for the first few times, but the more you do it, the more fun it will become. Lastly, don’t be hesitant to join in the games yourself. After all, you are a part of the family too -)