The adage “no man is an island” is certainly true when it comes to running a business, which is why it's so important to keep your whole team working productively together. How do you do that? Incorporate team building exercises into your corporate routine. The small-business owner who can build a culture around cooperation and collaboration enjoys more success.
Effective team building exercises help cultivate trust, support and respect among the group, positively affecting the work environment. These exercises can also help to shine a light on the strengths and weaknesses of participants, which gives management a better idea of job fit.
When You Need To Use Team Building Exercises
Many small-business owners know when business is not progressing as well as it could. When you see persistent problems—such as decreased productivity, conflict, lack of cooperation or involvement, hostility, apathy and complaints about favoritism—it’s in your best interest to look at team building as a way to restore camaraderie and a positive work environment.
Determine Your Team Building Needs
Team building exercises aren't effective in a vacuum. In order for your company to benefit from these exercises, you must be clear on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. Identify your reasons for the team building exercises and share them with your employees.
What are some of the most common reasons? A need to improve problem-solving skills and communication, develop creativity and build trust. Once you know the qualities you want to encourage, you can choose the team building exercises designed to accomplish your goal.
5 Team Building Exercises
Five main categories of team building exercises exist. They consist of activities that build communication, promote problem solving and decision making, encourage adaptability and the ability to plan, work to build trust, and develop a cooperative spirit. The team building exercises that promote these various skills are meant to be enjoyable and instructional.
Depending on what you want to improve on your team, you can try some of the following activities:
1. Build communication.
Activities that develop open lines of communication and listening increase communication. Try games like telephone, where you sit in a circle and one person whispers a scenario into the ear of the next person, such as how an important report was not delivered to the president in time. The “telephone” chain continues until the last person, who announces what he or she heard. Generally, by the end of the chain the story has been altered substantially. This gives employees a chance to discuss how the story changed along the way and methods they could use in the future to improve communication.
2. Promote problem solving and decision making.
Used often in science fairs, the egg drop is a particularly effective activity for promoting problem solving. Split the employees into two groups and have them rig up a package that ensures a raw egg doesn't break when dropped from a distance. Make it more challenging by timing them and limiting the types of materials they can use to protect the egg.
3. Encourage adaptability and planning.
Survival scenarios work well to encourage planning and adaptability. Announce a survival situation, such as the fact that everyone will be deserted on an island indefinitely. Instruct the group to come up with a list of 15 items they must bring with them in order to ensure their survival. The process of choosing will require that they adapt and plan for the unexpected.
4. Build trust.
One of the most efficient ways to test the trust between two individuals is to have them protect one another physically. This can be done by having one person close his or her eyes and fall backward into the arms of another. Or, you could have employees stand facing each other in pairs; with their elbows bent, they place their palms together, leaning toward each other and moving their feet back further and further until they’re supporting each other. Such exercises quickly highlight trust issues and help everyone learn to believe in one another.
5. Nurture a cooperative spirit.
Assigning employee teams to volunteer with charitable causes is the best way to encourage cooperation. When people work on a cause that the team cares about, they will bond. The opportunity to give back to those less fortunate often creates a charitable, cooperative attitude among everyone involved.
Armed with these ideas for team building exercises, you can create the best working culture for your business.
Read more articles on company culture.
A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.
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