Why Team Building Games? A blog series

A while back we did a series on the benefits of team building. In this series we'll get a little more specific: when and why are games the best choice for team building?

Participatory games are among several options managers have for team building. Others include retreats (usually heavy with organizational development meetings and exercises), participatory sporting events, company dinners or parties, or group attendance at a performance of some kind. Like games, each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Our focus, however, is on games.

Games help develop teams when team members enjoy the activity and each other and learn something from it that they can apply to their daily (work) lives. Games improve productivity through improved communication and team bonding.

The use of games in team building games has gained significant popularity in recent years for one simple reason: they work. A well-run game will:

  • Improve communication
  • Provide opportunities for group members to relax and “be themselves”
  • Provide opportunities for group members to learn about each other as human beings
  • Teach valuable skills
  • Involve as many participants as possible
  • Be enjoyable, thereby maximizing participation
  • Improve morale and therefore productivity

Games are not always the best option for a group. Groups that have suffered from bruising problems such as massive layoffs, discrimination or harassment lawsuits, or workplace violence would be better served by specialized workshops designed to heal in those specific areas. Games work best for team building when the team is overall in a reasonably healthy, productive state, yet could benefit from a morale boost. Even highly productive teams can benefit from participating in a team building game as a reward for a job well done, as a chance to blow off steam during an intense set of meetings or product roll-outs, or as a welcome change of pace from the usual routine.

Next week we'll start touching on the specific advantages of games for team building versus alternative forms.


Quick and Easy Team Building Idea #41

Here's another quick and easy team building exercise to start off your next project meeting. Depending on the size of your team, it should only take 10 to 20 minutes and is a great "getting-to-know-you" exercise, whether you have a brand new team, or one that has worked together for years.

It's called "Two Truths & a Lie." Here's how it works:

  1. Pass out one index card to each team member.
  2. Next have them write down two (2) true statements. These should be truth's that aren't obvious, i.e. I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters, I was my high school football team captain, I speak 3 languages, etc. Have them mark the true statements with a capital "T."
  3. Next have them write down one (1) lie.
  4. They should not let anyone else see their cards.
  5. This should take about 5 minutes.
  6. Next go around the room and have everyone read out loud their 3 statements one by one. These can be read in any order.
  7. Once the reader has read all three statements, have everyone else vote which statement is a lie.
  8. The reader should then show their card to the group. Everyone who correctly identifies their teammate's lie scores a point.
  9. The team member with the most points at the end is the winner.

The fun thing about this team building exercise is that it gets harder the more times you play it as team members learn more and more about each other.


Quick and Easy Icebreaker #17

An icebreaker can be a great way to start off any project meeting, training session, or company retreat. Contrary to what you might think, these do not have to be elaborate, or complicated, in order to be fun and effective. Here's an easy one we call Comic Chaos.

  1. Find the comic section from your local Sunday paper. (If your local Sunday paper is the New York Times... then find your almost-local paper.)
  2. Cut out a few of the multi-panel comics. You will want to cut out enough strips so that you will have roughly 1 panel per person who will be in attendance at the meeting. Most comics have 6 to 8 panels, some of the longer comics are made up of 10 or more.
  3. When you're back in the office on Monday, photocopy each of the comics. You'll need these photocopies to help verify team answers at the end of the icebreaker.
  4. Now take some scissors and cut up the comics into panels. You will want roughly one panel per person in attendance. It's OK if two or more panels are left connected. Each comic strip will end up being a team, so this is where you can decide on how many people will be in each team. If you want teams of 3 cut each comic strip into three sections. If you want teams of 6 then cut them into 6 parts.
  5. Once you have all of the comics cut, put the pieces into a brown paper bag, or hat, ermine bag, etc.
  6. And... you're done with prep. (It's that easy.)
  7. At the meeting have everyone reach into the hat and take one of the comic sections.
  8. Once everyone has their panel, go over the rules: 1) find the team members who have the other panels to your same comic strip, then 2) as a team put the strip back together in its correct order, and 3) the first team to complete their strip wins.
  9. Use those photocopies you made at step 3 to verify the team answers and declare the winner.

This is a fun and easy way to break large groups up into smaller teams for breakout sessions, small discussion groups, etc. It's a simple activity, but challenging, especially if you have a main group of 30 or more.



Team Building Helps Government Succeed, Too

There is a new trend in American politics, and it has nothing to do with the degree to which the country leans left or right or backwards.

Increasingly, American political leaders embrace team building as a key strategy to making government more effective.

Take John Hickenlooper, the newly elected Governor of Colorado. A centrist who appeals to both the blues and the reds, Hickenlooper applies his business experience as a successful brewery owner to the principles of governing. And he's a fervent believer in team building.

And not necessarily the kind of team building that isolates bureaucrats in a room and makes them apply blue, red and green dots to butcher paper. The New York Times describes Hickenlooper's style as "fun-loving and freewheeling" - the kind of guy who understands that people who have fun at work, perform better and make the organization more productive.

The results?  According to the Times:  "...he has had a remarkably successful administration, streamlining government, persuading voters to go along with a range of tax increases for projects like regional light rail and a new city jail and shepherding many homeless people off the streets and into newly built affordable housing."

Hickenlooper is in good company, too. Federal agencies such as the International Trade Association proudly publish team building advisories for their staff, and the City of Louisville, KY hosts team building retreats of various kinds in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. GovConExecutive, a blog site for government executives, urges top government executives to engage in fun team building outings such as scavenger hunts and cooking challenges to foster "creative thinking and relationships... while having fun."

Fun team building isn't just for the private sector any more.



More Tips to Improve Employee Morale and Motivation

As a team leader, you may not have much time to spend on morale. You need ways to engage your employees that do not consume your time.  Here are more easy tips to improve employee morale and motivation:

* Say good morning. Yes something this simple and easy can be very effective. It starts the day off on a positive note, even on stressful days.

* Pass on compliments. If you receive a complimentary e-mail regarding an employee, make sure to let that employee know. Better yet, make it an example of how every one on the team should go above and beyond to ensure sayifactory results.

*Applaud team efforts. Cheering on the team is a great way to keep teams motivated. Being recognized by the manager reinforces what the team already values and they will want to continue in getting the job done effectively. 

Say good night. Yes this too. End the day on a positive note whenever possible.

Try these tips. It only takes a few minutes and the results are worth your while.


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