Four more benefits of games for team building

Games are educational

Most team building games are new to participants - we haven’t done this sort of thing before. In order to complete the challenges and puzzles, we have to experiment, or at least try new things. Then we get results and feedback, and from this we learn. When we succeed, we’ve learned something new, and feel good about ourselves. When things don’t work out, we learn to adapt - another key skill.

Games make us more creative

The adaptive behaviors we adopt in learning a new game help stimulate the creative (right) sides of our brains, even while we engage in analysis (left-brain) and investigation. This creative stimulus often carries over into problem-solving in the office, in situations where we must (WARNING:  over-used cliche alert) “think outside the box.”

Games make us more socially interactive

In order to accomplish the challenges set out for us in a team building game, we need to work with others - talk, cooperate, find ways to work together. Games provide opportunities for communication and cooperation in a non-threatening environment. Our willingness to become just a little more open and vulnerable with our teammates translates well into improved openness and communication in the work setting.

Games allow for role-shifts

Games allow people to try out shifts in status relationships. The boss in the office might not be the best person to lead the Search Party or interact with “secret agents.” The team’s success might depend on allowing new people to take leadership roles that they might not be used to taking - or that others may not be used to seeing them take. Hmmm. Interesting, isn’t it?


Team Building games: A Safe Risk

Continuing our series of the benefits of games in team building, this week we address why games are a "safe risk" for team building.


Games are “safe”

Some organizations consider a wide range of alternatives when they first investigate team building options. The more adventurous members of a group often suggest high-adrenaline sports outings, like skydiving, zip-lining, or rock climbing. Other, seemingly safer alternatives such as karaoke, go-kart racing might be suggested. While exhilarating for some, there are two key problems with such adventures.

First, some members of the group may be physically unable to participate. At times, members may be reluctant to admit their incapacity, feeling a risk of ridicule or peer pressure to “cooperate.” Already, we can see the seeds of breakdown in what is supposed to be a team-building opportunity.

Second, even the milder versions of these activities might terrify or embarrass some. While karaoke may appeal to the office divas who love the blue spotlight, others would rather cross freeways blindfolded than allow anyone to hear them sing. And “just listening” while others participate runs counter to the very idea of team building.

Games don’t require people to risk their personal safety or humiliation. Nobody dies or gets left behind. Once again, “it’s just a game,” and everyone can play.


Benefits of Team Building Games: Rules and Sportsmanship

Two more key benefits of games as team building devices:  Rules and Sportsmanship.

Games have rules

As in the work place, games have rules and structure. In order for the game to proceed, we all must agree to abide by those rules. Otherwise the game devolves into chaos. That reinforces the value of structure and process in the workplace.

But the game won’t proceed if all we do is read the rules. People have to participate, provide their input and energy, and commit to the outcome. Thus, equally valuable, games and their rules also demonstrate the limits of rules, process, and structure, and the need for cooperation, communication, and teamwork in order to get things done.

Games build sportsmanship

A terrific feature of games is that they’re “just a game.” While we can get very excited and invested in the outcome while the game is going on, deep down we know that the outcome of the game isn’t the point. Participants help each other retain sight of this, calming down team members who get too excited about winning, and helping along the shyer members who enter a competition less confident than others. During a game, team members - and even opponents - will encourage each other to do better.
We often hear participants say things like “Give Robbie a chance,” or “Wow, Chris, you’re really catching on to these scavenger hunt clues!”

This diplomatic consideration of others, learned as children during Little League, scouting, or at the school yard at recess, sometimes is forgotten during the hectic pace of our pressure-filled jobs. Games help us remember to take care of each other in times when the stakes are low - good habits to form, so that we’ll remember them when stakes are high again, too.


Characteristics of an Effective Team

Do you know how to identify the characteristics of an effective team? How do we recognize one when we see it? Highly effective teams are hard to find. There are various indicators of whether a team is working effectively together as a group.

The characteristics of effective and successful teams include:

  • Clear and concise communication and respect among all team members
  • Team members participate regularly in brainstorming and problem-solving sessions and can manage conflict within itself
  • There is an excellent mix of complementary skills and everyone’s skill set is recognized, valued and used.
  • An opinion or position has been reached by a group as a whole
  • Team members share similar values, such as integrity, commitment to the common task, mutual support, and are future focused
  • Regular team meetings that are effective and inclusive
  • Timely hand off from team members to others to ensure the project keeps moving in the right direction
  • Positive and supportive working relationships among all team members

Effective teams have certain distinguishing characteristics in the way they work together and interact. The characteristics of an effective team are those in which members share a sense of purpose and common goals, and each team member is willing to work to achieve these goals.


Games help teams learn about each other

Last week we discussed how team building games help build team cohesion. This week - another key benefit of team building games.

Games help team members learn about each other

The informal nature of games provides opportunities for group members to talk to each other about non-work topics - as human beings, with passions and hobbies and families that matter to them (usually) far more than any work issue.

Through this informal interaction, team members learn about each other and appreciate each other rather than strictly as the occupant of a position or title. For example, they’ll learn about “Frank, who loves duckpin bowling and classic rock” rather than “Mr. Simmons, Accounting Manager.”

This provides interesting opportunities for people to connect and create bonds that can help them cooperate later in a work setting. For example, they might discover a shared love of needlepoint, the Chicago Cubs, or Cajun food.

Even the discovery that they graduated from rival universities - or simply competed against each other in the team building event competition - can lead to good-natured, ice-breaking banter later to ease tension in a difficult meeting.

Next week:  Rules and Sportsmanship


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