If you really want to improve team performance, you can’t just play fun games and expect a huge change. It takes thought, communication and planning to devise a program that will truly move your team forward. Here are some basic steps to get you started:
1. Poll your team members. Give each of them a Team Performance Survey. Corporate Games Team Building offers this survey free. You can request it by emailing us at Info@corpgames.com
2. Using the completed survey and the knowledge you have about your team members, make a short list of what the issues/opportunities are. It might be that there are cliques or disconnects within the team. You might have two people that just dislike each other and won’t work together. Maybe everyone works from home and they are all pretty independent. Whatever the issues decide which is the most important to overcome. It will be a list of one to three items. You cannot do everything at once.
3. Meet with your team to reveal and discuss the results of the survey. You also want to tell them what you consider the most important team issues to address. Allow them to agree or make other suggestions. After all, they are part of building their team. Once the issues are agreed upon, ask the team for input on improving those items. You can have them on small discussion groups if your team is larger than 5 people. Small discussion groups of 4-6 people insure that everyone gets a chance to share– and it will also generate more ideas.
4. Share all the ideas and decide what can be implemented. Even if it is only one, good actionable item, that is a step toward real team building.
5. Finally, there must be action and follow-up. Don’t let all the thoughts and sharing go to waste. Additionally, it is great to have fun, get-togethers that allow people to really bond and get positive energy going. A unique team building activity will help keep the momentum going.
One of the greatest problems in corporate America is that we promote people to leadership positions –simply because they have been there for years—not because they are good leaders. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the high tech industry. Engineers are hired for their knowledge and skill at writing code or designing, but they do not have any training to lead or manage a group.
You can invest in training courses and lectures but there is nothing like actual hands on experience. This is where team building exercises—the right ones—can be invaluable and very effective. Not only do they allow people to practice in an upbeat, supportive atmosphere, but if mistakes are made, there are no dire consequences. People can learn a lot about leading, managing people and about themselves.
What makes a good leadership exercise?
There needs to be a…
- Team and a designated leader. There’s no leader required if there are no people to lead.
- Challenge/problem for the team to solve.
- Deadline for executing a solution.
- A scoring process to determine the level of success.
- Debriefing and constructive feedback for the leader and the team.
Interestingly enough, many team building exercises have nearly all these elements. Where many fail is the last point—debriefing and feedback. Sometimes people are having so much fun with the exercise that someone says, “Oh, they don’t really need a debriefing.” Unfortunately, when this happens, you are losing a great deal of the value provided by this type of event.
Do people on your team work in silos? How can you get people to start working and thinking like a team rather than a group of individuals that separately contribute to one goal? If you’re the team leader, it is easier than if you are a relatively new member. In this short article, we’ll look at it from both perspectives.
As a leader, you can:
- Hold regular team meetings to share projects, ideas, ask for assistance.
- Encourage team members to collaborate rather than simply go it alone or ask for your advice.
- Get to know each other on a more personal level. You are all people. Even something as simple as all sharing what you did over the weekend helps to bring you closer by amking everyone more “human.”
- Have some fun and levity at your meetings. One of our clients incorporates one of our quick, simple “Team Minutes-to-Win-It” challenges at each of their staff meetings. It lightens things up, increases the energy and boosts camaraderie—all within minutes. Or—you could assign one person to tell their best joke each week, or tell about the funniest thing that happened to them last year. It does not need to be complicated. You just want to increase communication and interaction.
- Celebrate success. If anyone on your team has achieved something noteworthy, make sure everyone knows it. Acknowledgment is easy—and as simple as a blast email or a quick round of applause from everyone. These congratulatory recognitions do not have to just be for work related things. It can be personal success or milestones as well.
As a team member, you can:
- Offer help to another team member. If someone is overwhelmed by a big project, what can you do to help them? Be aware of what is going on around you. Help might be as simple as emptying someone’s trash can—or getting them coffee when you are going to get some.
- Ask for ideas or advice. If you are designing a new process or having a problem, ask a team member for their perspective and ideas. We all think that everyone is too busy and you don’t want to bother them. But you could approach it this way: “Do you have time for a cup of coffee with me? I’d really like to bounce an idea off of you.” Even if the person says “no.” You are still opening up a conversation and fostering more of a “team mentality” just by this simple act.
- If you don’t have regular team meetings, then suggest to your boss that it would be a great idea. They don’t need to be frequent, long or tedious—but could certainly help to build good working bonds among the team members as well as make the workplace more fun, human and interesting for all.
- Bring food. There is nothing that attracts and brings people together like good snacks. Great for breaking the ice with new team members. You can certainly do it for special holidays, but anytime is just fine too.
- Celebrate success. I put this on both lists. You don’t have to be the boss to give others recognition.
We meet lots of organizations that have a yearly meeting that includes a team building activity. This is great, but it does not have the impact of regular team interaction. It should augment your team building efforts –that take place throughout the year at your team meetings and office celebrations.
Some people are very skeptical about the value of participating in team building games. Others may say “I don’t like to play games.” But they are missing the point. Participating in these types of activities have real purpose; it is not a matter of trying to entertain people with things they may or may not like to do. Here is a short list of the benefits of playing games…
- Games force social interaction and communication among people who need to interact and communicate at work. Not everyone is good or comfortable in social situations. Games will give people the practice they need in a fun, lighthearted situation.
- When people play together, they get to know each other on a more personal level. You get to find out what your team members are good at, and how they react to various challenges. This starts the process of building trust; people start to feel more at ease with each other.
- Laughter is an important bonding tool. When people laugh together, they boost camaraderie. The shared experience of playing together strengthens the bonds amongst team members.
- Good team building games do not put individuals on the spot. The emphasis is on team performance, not individual performance… and that type of practice is very valuable.
- Games help people take “risks” in a non-threatening situation. They don’t know what the game is about to begin with, but when they commit to participating with a team, they are indeed taking a small risk. Team performance and improvement does not happen without risk. For people who don’t like change (and there are lots of them), this is good practice!
- Games, for the most part, are competitions; there will be “winners.” There is nothing wrong with this. Those people who think “everyone should win”—are missing the point. In real life, business is a competition. How people perform in competition and what they can learn from it is important.
- Games can be “business simulations.” There is a challenge; the team needs to communicate with each other and figure it out; they must succeed within a certain time frame (deadline); they must decide what their resources are and how to utilize them effectively. These are all things that are required to be successful at work. It gives people the opportunity to practice—in a more entertaining way –where whatever they do will not put them out of business.