When you hear the phrase “team building,” the first thing that comes to mind may be awkward icebreaker games and trust exercises. But the truth is that meaningful team building activities can provide tremendous value to employees and the organizations they work for. In fact, Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands, writes for Forbes that team building is the most important investment a business can make.
A study by researchers from Jagannath University indicates that team building exercises also have a positive impact on team effectiveness. The study quotes Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
With that in mind, consider these findings on teamwork and collaboration:
- 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, according to a survey by Fierce, Inc.
- McKinsey found that 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.
- 48% of office workers said in a survey by Braidio that peer collaboration is their preferred method of learning in the workplace and 81% said that peer collaboration helped improve their productivity.
While trust falls and learning about your coworkers’ hidden talents may not be the best ways to build trust and collaboration, great things can happen when teams put effort into developing thoughtful and effective team building activities.
Team building at ProtectiveProtective’s Internal Audit group has team building down to a science. The department tries to plan at least two team building activities each year. The group’s most recent activity focused on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. They walked through each personality type’s thought process, noting that certain types need more time to think and react, while others are quick to reaction, which doesn’t always allow the personalities who need to think and react time to chime in with their ideas.
“It has truly opened my eyes to who my teammates are at their core,” says Lead Auditor Alicja Foksinska. Her favorite team building activities are the ones based on strengths and personality tests.
“I see that activities that teach the person and the team they work with about their inner strengths and their personality allows us to learn how to interact with one another, as well as know what tasks they will enjoy the most and which tasks will take them out of their comfort zone (which is also necessary for growth),” she says.
“Sharing your strengths and personality traits is also a personal activity that does build the team’s trust – as you are opening up about who you are.”
The group has also participated in an escape room and visited the Alabama 4-H Center. VP Audit Heather Smitherman feels that the product is better when your connection as coworkers is strong. “Team building is necessary to establish a deeper connection within a work team,” she says. “It allows people to see one another less as fellow employees and more as people.”
Heather’s favorite team building activity to date has been a Birmingham scavenger hunt because it allowed her to explore parts of Birmingham she had never visited.
The idea for the scavenger hunt began with Alicja, who was inspired by her time as a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was a member of the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. As part of her coursework, she had the opportunity to explore Birmingham to learn about the city’s history, hardships and triumphs.
“While I’ve lived here since 2001, I never had the opportunity to explore our city in the way this class presented it to me. I enjoyed it so much that I thought that I could incorporate a similar exploration of Birmingham into a team building activity for our department,” Alicja says.
The scavenger hunt was designed around 25 Birmingham landmarks including Rickwood Field, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 16th Street Baptist Church, the Lynn Henley Research Library, Sloss Furnaces and even the original Protective Life building on First Avenue North. The team split into five groups with a goal to capture a photo at each destination. Alicja served as the “Riddle Master”, texting the group riddles and emojis as clues about their next stop once she received their photo from the previous destination. The last riddle directed everyone to Dreamland, where the team had lunch and swapped stories of what they encountered on the scavenger hunt. Each group took a different route through Birmingham, and most team members had never been to many of the locations.
“They were impressed that they could have a ‘staycation’ in Birmingham and take their kids around the city,” Alicja says. “Our department enjoyed taking the selfies and problem solving together. We also ended up with wonderful images of Birmingham locations that are now decorating our department’s walls.”
Team building activities like the Birmingham scavenger hunt allow people to see coworkers in a non-work environment. Rusty Collins, 2VP Audit, agrees that team building is a great way for co-workers to get out of their comfort zones and get people working together. He suggests that others try team building activities because it allows relationships to form where they might not naturally develop.
“Team building fosters dedication to one another and the product, as well as loyalty and respect,” he says. Alicja agrees.
“Getting to know one another on a more personal level builds trust. Knowing people on a personal basis allows us to create friendships,” she says. “Team building also channels innovation and creativity. We are in a world where those terms are thrown around loosely, but when a group of people come together for creative projects like building a tower out of dry spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, one person says an idea, another one adds on to it and the creativity builds!”
5 team building activity tipsInterested in team building activities but don’t know where to start? Keep the following tips in mind as you consider how to make team building work for you and your team:
1. Ask for suggestions.
Find informal, low-pressure ways for your team to make suggestions about team building activities they would like to try. Keep an open mind and give careful consideration to all ideas as long as they align with what you want to achieve through team building – to have fun, to foster collaboration, to improve a skill, to give back to the community or a combination of all four goals.
2. Make it fun.
There is a direct link between happiness and learning. The fun factor can be the major difference in a team building activity that your team dreads and one that keeps them wanting more. But fun doesn’t have to mean silly. Truly meaningful team building activities can be fun while also making a difference in the communication, trust and creativity among a team.
3. Make it inclusive.
Be sure to think about the whole team when planning team building activities. Consider age, physical limitations and any other restrictions that may keep someone from participating or enjoying the experience.
4. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
Team building doesn’t have to be an expensive outing or activity. While it’s always fun to get out of the office, many activities don’t even require a change of venue. Hosting a monthly birthday celebration or potluck lunch, watching free webinars or playing get-to-know-you or problem-solving games requires nothing more than a conference room and office supplies you already have on hand.
5. Keep it small.
When it comes to team building, Protective’s Audit team finds that a small group of up to 25 people is more effective than having a larger group. One benefit of a smaller group is that it gives the introverted members a better opportunity to open up, as they won’t feel as vulnerable with 25 people as they would with a larger group.
Team building activities don’t have to be a drag. Be sure to keep these tips and insights in mind as you consider activities and exercises that may help improve your team’s trust, collaboration and overall performance.
Want to know more? Learn about the team building benefits of corporate community involvement.