Anytime you’ve been in a group, especially at work or
school, you’ve probably been subjected to some ridiculous team building
activities that were really boring, not affective, or both. If team exercises
are done right, they can be beneficial and non-painful. What does it take for
true team building and what types of things can you do that will actually work?
One idea is back to back drawing. Break the group up into
pairs and have them sit on the floor. Give one partner a simple image and the
other partner a pen and paper. Ask the person holding the image to give verbal
instructions to their partner on how to draw it; then have them compare it to
the actual image. This will reveal how well the employees can communicate
verbally, how well they listen to instructions, and any potential communication
issues that can be related to more important scenarios.
Another activity could be a survival scenario. Tell the
group that their airplane has crashed and they are stuck on a lifeboat in the
ocean and they can take 12 items with them to survive on an island. They need
to decide amongst themselves what they will take. Listen to how they decide and
rank items. What seems important to them? Do they work together and compromise
or do they argue? This activity promotes interaction and agreement.
The stereotype party is a way to eliminate labeling. Write
different professions on nametags and tape them to people’s backs. Then have
everyone ask stereotype based questions of other people: Am I a man/woman? Am I
an entertainer? Do I make a lot of money? Only allow yes or no answers and see
if anyone can guess what their roles are. This will help people realize that there can
be misconceived notions about certain roles and they should be open to
characteristics that don’t always fit the stereotype.
One thing that won’t work is to only do these activities
once or a twice a year. You should incorporate them more often (and as your
team gets to know each other, they can be more task related), maybe once a
month. This should be a continuous process that has “refresher courses” every
now and then.
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