Category Archives: Team Building Activities

My First eBook and Conquering Fear

conquering fear and leading teams

Well, today is the first official day of the launch of my eBook, 4 Steps to Choosing the Best Team Building Activities. It’s been an interesting journey. I’ve learned a lot not only about the eBook process, but also about stepping out in the midst of fear.

You wouldn’t think that writing and publishing a relatively brief eBook would be that big of a deal. It’s taken a while for me to complete the book, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the doubts and fears that seem to pause me in my journey along the way.

I want to encourage anyone who is thinking of writing (whatever form that takes) to begin and push through. Simply going through the process has been worth it for me. Regardless of the outcome. The goal of the book is not to make a ton of money, but to get it out, to push past the fear and uncertainty, and to produce and release something that will help others, and that I can be proud of.

Who is the book for?

The book is written for leaders and managers who want to know how to choose and implement the best team building activities for their group. Leading your team through an activity is not enough. There is a process to truly finding and facilitating effective team building.

This book is for those leaders who want to get the most out of these kinds of exercises, and not only lead their team through them, but also transform their team in the process. By following the steps in this book, a facilitator can learn the process by which teams are not only improved but changed for the better.

What is the book about?

First, this book will teach you first about the different types of team building activities. In order to lead these kinds of activities effectively, it helps to first understand the differences between group initiatives vs. low ropes courses elements and several other distinctive activities.

It then lays out a simple 4-step process for choosing the best team building activities. It’s not complicated, although it does require the facilitator to be intentional about each step in this strategy.

It is the exact process I use when working with teams and facilitators.

Whether a half-day program, or multi-day event, this book will help the reader in several areas:

  • How to select the right exercises to boost team productivity, trust,         communication, and more!
  • Feel confident you’ve chosen activities your team will enjoy and benefit from
  • Achieve your team’s goals and objectives.

Why did I write this book?

There are a number of team building resources on the web, but there are only a few really excellent ones. My goal with this site and the books and resources that I develop is to create high-quality resources and training for those who want to learn how to facilitate and lead only the most effective team building activities. This is the first of those resources.

I hope you enjoy the book and learn a lot!

best team building activities cover

To order a copy of the book click here.

What did you think of the book? Leave your comments below. 

What Makes Team Building Activities Effective?

effective team building activities

There are words and phrases that get watered-down, misused, and ultimately can get a bad reputation. Team building is one of those, especially when people discuss team building activities. Now, just about everything is labelled as team building as long as it’s done with a group of people. Thoughts of trust falls gone wrong, “paintballing the boss”, and other horror stories abound. For those of us who have worked in the industry, it is painful to hear about and read about these stories.

Team building is a legitimate and helpful field, when done correctly. There are numerous things that are labelled as team building activities that shouldn’t be. However, there is a vast amount of creativity and ingenuity in the field of team building. If you’re wondering about what makes team building activities effective versus what does not, here are some helpful suggestions:

Effective Team Building Activities are Goal-Oriented

The first step even before choosing these activities (or a company to run them) should be to sit down with your team and set goals for the day. What do you want to accomplish? What issues is your team facing? What changes do you want to see in your team following these activities?

These questions need to be answered as well as looking at what activities will best fit your goals and needs. If you are not sure, hire someone who is. There are some great facilitators and organizations that I could recommend to you.

Legitimate Team Building Exercises are Purpose-Driven.

There is a purpose behind each and every effective team building activity, whether it is an icebreaker, a group challenge or initiative, or a ropes course element. Look at your goals and what purpose will drive each activity. Could “having fun” be a purpose? Sure. But, hopefully it’s not the only one. There are numerous purposes that can be obtained from each activity. Focus on the ones that your team needs the most.

Top-notch Team Building Activities are Results-Focused.

No leader or manager wants to go through a half-day or day-long event and feel like time has been wasted and nothing has been achieved. Top-notch team building companies will focus on results during the day, but also be able to achieve longer-lasting results.

Some facilitators require follow-up sessions as part of their team building packages. Why? Part of it is for sustainability. These coaching sessions can help sustain the work that was done during a day or two and keep teams accountable to maintaining results.

Powerful Team Building Activities are Situation-Specific.

Some companies and facilitators have one-size-fits-all programs that are pre-packaged and confine teams to a specific structure. If these kinds of programs fit your goals, that’s fine. What if they don’t? What if you’re looking to reach Goal A, and they address Goal B (or C or Z?)

The best team building programs are customized to your team and require a bit of both front-end work, lots of work and ability to adjust on the fly during the program, and back-end follow up. Don’t let anyone tell you that the one-size-fits-all process works for everyone (not even those hats fit every one – much less when you’re dealing with a whole team!) 🙂

What other characteristics define an effective team building program? What have you observed in programs in which you’ve participated?

What Difference Does it Make?

What difference does it make?

There are a lot of team building activities that exist, and there are also a variety of team building companies that boast everything from a Drum Circle to Cooking to get your team engaged, communicating, and more productive. Sure, they may sound like fun, but what makes a team building experience worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it? Read more

How to Use Team Building Activities in the Classroom

team building activities for students

This week’s post is dedicated to teachers everywhere. You are a hard-working bunch, and I admire what you do and the dedication you bring day in and day out. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for educators. I consider myself an educator; although, not in the traditional sense.

Here are some suggestions on how to use different kinds of team building exercises in the classroom. I’ll also include some specific names and ideas of activities you can use, as well as some links where you can go to find more detailed instructions.

Most team building activities are designed to be done in smaller groups (10-12), but there are always ways to modify them. I would encourage if at all possible to do these outside. Allow your students a chance to take a break from the classroom and enjoy a change of scenery.

Set Your Goals

Before doing any kind of team building activity, I always recommend setting goals. This will help you be very focused and intentional about the activity and its purpose. Questions to ask when settings goals for these exercises should include:

  • What is the purpose of this activity?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What do you want the end result to be?
  • How will your team (or class) be different when they’re done?

It’s important to be intentional about these activities from the beginning. Although you can do activities just for fun, I find that the more purposeful you are, the better the activity will go, the more the students will get out of it, and the more effective they will be in the long run. It does take a bit more time on the front and back end (because you also want to make sure you debrief the activities, including icebreaker activities [link]).

Icebreakers

Icebreakers are great activities to use for your classroom. There are all kinds of icebreaker exercises that you can use. They are good for having your students get to know each other (and you) better. They are fun and high energy, so be aware that they might get your students engaged but some will also be loud and spirited.

Depending on your goals, there are different categories of icebreakers that you can use. There are problem-solving icebreakers, get to know you games, and more. Check out a few problem-solving activities here. [link]

Icebreaker Ideas
Group Juggle 

Groups of students form circles of 12-15 each and attempt to toss a number of objects around the circle without dropping them.  There are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Say the name of the person you are tossing to before tossing
  • Toss across the circle (don’t just hand it to someone next to you)
  • Underhand tosses only
  • Everyone gets it once, except the person who started.  The game starts and ends with him/her.

Name Samurai

Using a foam sword, students sit in a circle with legs extended. The “samurai” stands in the middle trying to tag the people speaking. Someone in the circle starts by saying their name and then “to [another person’s name], so it would sound like, “Jeff to Amy”, “Amy to Molly”, “Molly to Braden”, etc. The player who gets tagged while speaking then becomes the Samurai. Great activity for learning names!

Man – Gun – Bear

Think the full-body version of rock-paper-scissors. Divide the group into pairs (perfect for a large group). The pairs start back to back and after the facilitator counts to 3, they jump around assuming one of the 3 characters (man, gun or bear). Karate man beats the gun-slinger, gun-slinger beats the bear, and the bear beats the karate man, and if you tie, both die! Play until there’s one winner.

Team Initiatives

Team initiatives are great for getting groups of students working together to achieve a common goal. You can focus on leadership, communication, problem solving, and more. These challenges can vary from short 10-15 minutes problems or longer (30-45 minutes or more) exercises that require some planning.

Marshmallows & Knives

Using the large marshmallows and knives (like you would find in your school cafeteria), teams must figure out a way to keep the knives off the table using only the materials given (just those 2 items). This is another great problem-solving and brainstorming challenge!

Tallest Tower

Using strands of dry spaghetti, small marshmallow, and a roll of tape, teams must create the tallest free-standing tower possible in 10 minutes. For an extra challenge, give all the teams less time. {You can also do this with a roll of aluminum foil and see how high they can go).

Hula Hoop Hut Relay

Teams use 6 hula hoops to create a “hut” and then all team members must pass through the hoops without letting the hut fall down. Want to make it more challenging? Require each team member to start through a different opening or have the team member passing through be blindfolded!

team building exercises for students

 

(photo courtesty of Flickr, Create-Learning, no changes made)

Helium stick

Teams figure out how to lower a lightweight dowel rod with just their forefingers. The crazy thing is – it wants to go up instead of down! Great for communication and leadership!

Icebreaker and Team Building Resources

Teampedia is a collection of team building activities and icebreaker ideas.  It’s a great collection that is searchable by activity name and category.  You can also add team building activities here if you know one that’s not in the database.

www.teampedia.net 

Playmeo is also a collection of team building activities, icebreakers, group games, and more.  The difference is that many of the activities also have a video to accompany them, and they also offer a monthly or yearly subscription that allows you to access ALL of their activities, videos, and awesomeness!

www.playmeo.com (affiliate link)

 

What team building activity will you use with your students?  What other team building activities have you used?  Let me know in the comments below. 

7 Team Building Lessons I Learned from White Water Rafting

Group retreat events - river rafting

Last week, while on vacation, I went on a whitewater rafting adventure with some of my family.  We were on a Class IV (advanced) section of the Clear Creek river outside of Idaho Springs, Colorado.  The company we went with was Liquid Descent, and our guide was Alan (he was awesome!)

It was a great thrill and a rush of adrenaline.  We got through the whole half-day without anyone falling out and having a blast. Here are the team building lessons I learned from our experience.

Read more

5 Reasons You Should Be Using Experiential Learning Activities with Your Team

team communication

I have used experiential learning activities with groups for a long time, and they are some of my favorite activities to use with groups.  These do not necessarily have to be done on a ropes course; although, they can be.  They can be done indoors or outdoors, with no equipment or some equipment, and are very effective at getting groups to collaborate, communicate, problem-solve, and get motivated.

These are just a few reasons why you should begin to incorporate experiential learning activities in your team meetings, events, conferences, and just about any other place you can fit them in.  Besides being fun, they provide a necessary break from the mundane meetings and information-overload conferences that so many people tend to put on.  Put a little spice in your team by trying some experiential learning activities.

Reason #1: Boost your team’s motivation

Get out of the hum drum lecture-style leadership trainings and give your team something to get excited about.  Experiential learning involves students in the process of discovering more about themselves and their teammates by participating in high-touch exercises.  These activities can be fun and high energy, but can also be very intense.

I’ve seen a lot of excitement, laughs, and appreciation of team members who have been able to learn more about leadership, communication, and much more.  This kind of training can get your team that extra boost of motivation it needs.

Reason #2:  Accelerate your group’s trust

Most people have heard of trust falls and other activities that can give the heeby-jeebies to anyone with trust or boundary issues.  However, there are ways to increase trust without having to fall off a park bench into the waiting arms of your hopefully-attentive team mates.

Experiential activities can be adjusted to address just about any team issue and work to resolve it through highly participatory activities.  Trust is one of those.  There are numerous challenges and activities that can help increase a group’s trust.  Also, as teams engage together and work towards a common solution (even if the activity isn’t specifically a trust-oriented activity) the group’s trust will increase.

Reason #3: Hone your group’s communication skills

Team building activities and experiential learning exercises are great to work on team communication skills.  Many of the challenges require an efficient style of communication (planning, preparing, engaging, and problem-solving) to complete successfully.

There are also ways to modify challenges to make your team work even harder at refining their communication skills.  You can give certain team members special challenges (i.e., losing the ability to speak) to make other members of the group take on those communication roles.

Reason #4: Create “a-ha” moments for your team members

One of the things I love most about experiential activities is that it can create moments of revelation for your team.  Sometimes those moments happen during the activity.  More often, those moments occur after the activity is over – either during the debriefing time or even after the event or activity is over and the person is back in their everyday routine.

These types of activities allow for these “a-ha” moments as team members work together to accomplish challenges in an environment that allows for and encourages creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to relate it back to everyday life.

Reason #5:  Increase your team performance

If you’ve accomplished reasons one through four, then chances are your team will be able to increase their performance.  If a team trusts each other, communicates more effectively, is more motivated, and knows certain issues that they need to work on, their performance will continue to improve.

Experiential learning activities can do all of this and more.  There are numerous other benefits that are not mentioned here.  They are an effective way to get your team engaged beyond normal trainings and conferences.  If you’d like to learn more about these kinds of activities, and how Lead by Adventure can work with you, contact us here.

What experiential learning activities has your team used?  What have you seen that is effective?  Talk to me, Goose!  Share in the comments below. 

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