Category Archives: Organizational Development

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

4 Quick and Easy Ways to Make Someone’s Day. #3 is so important!

simple ways to make someone's day

Have you ever had someone tell you that you made their day? I did, in fact, just today. It wasn’t that hard, and it didn’t take that much time. Here are just a few simple ways to make someone’s day that are quick and easy, but will be sure to leave both you and those around you feeling special.  Read more

There’s No “I” in Team (But there is “me”)

No I in Team but there's me

You’ve probably heard the saying.  You may have even said it.  I think it’s quite funny.  It’s probably just my weird sense of humor, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I know what the saying means, and what people who say it are referring to.  There’s no room for selfishness when it comes to being a part of a team, just as there’s no space for egotistical and narcissistic behavior.  I’m sure you’ve worked with people like that, as I have, and it makes for a very tough work environment.

All teams are made up of individuals, and there is an individual responsibility to make the team work. What, then is an individual’s obligation to the team, and where does individual effort come into play?  Here are several things that make a team player effective.

Team Players Buy into the Vision

A leader needs to set a clear and compelling vision, but the team members must buy into that vision, and know that the success of the team is dependent on their commitment to it and their work towards it.  Team members buy into the vision and dedicate themselves to knowing their role in the vision and doing their part to accomplish it.

Team Players Serve Others

Part of what makes a great team is a willingness on the part of team members to really serve each other.  It’s amazing to be a part of a group that serves each other – not out of selfish motives or a “payback” attitude, but just out of a desire to see the team function well.

Teams who have members that function like this grow an atmosphere of trust that yells, “I’ve got your back!”  It is evident not only to the members of the team, but to everyone this team comes into contact with.

Team Players Help Others Succeed

This is similar to the characteristic above, but goes a step further.  You can serve someone without helping them succeed.  I believe team members should be each other’s biggest cheerleaders.  Often, we get into this competitive mode (which can serve its purpose), but more often than not it keeps people from collaborating effectively.

Seek others success, and you will be a success.  Find ways you can really help others succeed.  Go the extra mile to assist your team mates.

Team Players Know Their Strengths

I’m a big proponent of strength-based work theory.  There’s too much to go into in this blog post, but the main premise is that people do better when they work in their areas of strength and minimize their work in weak areas.  (As opposed to focusing on improving weak areas).

There are plenty of personality and strength assessment tools to use. One of my favorites is the StrengthsFinder 2.0.  It’s a very quick assessment that shows you your top 5 strengths out of 34.  Based on the results, a leader can shift team members around to work in their area(s) of giftedness.

Check out the Team Building Resources page for more personality assessments and strength assessment resources I recommend.

Team Players Ask for Help

Everyone needs help at some point.  No one person can do it or know it all.  When I was working with students at a high school, we would talk about their grades and if they needed tutoring, I would tell them, “Don’t suffer in silence.”  Meaning, there are plenty of resources for help.  There’s no need to suffer.

The same is true for a team.  Even if you’re not part of a team where everyone willingly helps each other out, you probably know someone who has the answer or resource you need to be more effective.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

Team Players are Constant Learners

The strongest team players that I’ve worked with do not need to be told to learn.  They are constant learners and are self-directed in this area.  You can tell the “hungry” team mates from those just wanting a pay check or recognition.  Typically, they are quick to take the credit and last to do the work.  Interesting, yes?

The hungry learners ask you what they can read and do and the best way to grow.  They see you as a mentor and are also hard-workers.  They know their strengths and also know where they need to grow.  They might now always know how to do something or how to improve, but you can tell that they want to and that they are loyal to the team and to you.  These are the ones to pour yourself into and invest in.  It will pay off huge dividends!

If you work on these, then you will be an effective “I” in the team, or “me”, whichever you prefer!  🙂 And, hopefully, we can change that saying together!

What else do you see as an effective characteristic of a team player?  What area does your team need to work on?  Let me know in the comments below.  

Photo credit: Big Stock Photo by muzsy, Stock Photo 40606411

Developing a Compelling Vision Statement for Your Team

developing team vision statement

Creating and defining a vision statement for your team can be tough.  What do you include?  What do you exclude?  How long or short do you make it?  There are a lot of thoughts that go into defining the vision for your team or business.

Here are some tried-and-true methods for not only defining your vision, but for developing a compelling vision statement for your team that will get them motivated, empower them to work, and engage them and your organization for success.

The Vision Statement Must Be Clear.

Clarity around a vision and goal is one of the things that separates high-performing teams from ineffectively functioning teams, according to the authors of Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong. A sense of mission is a characteristic of both top-performing teams and leaders.

Mission can be defined as a vision of a future state that inspires action.  The vision has to be clear.  People want to know where they are going, what they need to do to get there, and what’s in it for them.  Beyond money, bonuses, or tangible rewards, people will get behind a challenging goal that is bigger than themselves

Think about the teams you’ve either led or been on.  When there was a clear vision, were you more or less productive?  More or less stressed?  When a clear vision is defined, it is much easier to know when you’re on and off course and know what you need to do to adjust.

The Vision Statement Must Be Compelling.

In additional to clarity, a vision must also be compelling.  It must drive production and goals. Each project and every goal work to further the vision of the organization.

A compelling vision encourages risk.

This kind of vision encourages risk, not perfection.  Teams are encourage to develop risky goals to meet risky objectives.  (This is not risk for the sake of risk, but a mission that drives teams and people to risk more than they would otherwise.)

A compelling vision inspires ownership.

A vision like this assumes people are capable of not only working toward the mission, but also contributing ways to achieve the vision.  People want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves.  A compelling vision produces the idea that the person’s work is meaningful beyond just the paycheck.

A compelling vision empowers teams to action.

Have you ever been so engrossed in completing a project that you totally lost track of time?  A compelling vision can do that, especially if it makes a difference.  People love to rally around a cause.  It creates a sense of urgency, moving people to take action.

The Vision Statement Must Be Communicated.

You might think that since you created a clear and compelling vision statement that everyone would think about it and obsess over it as much as you do.  You would be wrong.  For most people, the vision statement must be communicated on a consistent basis.

In order to communicate your vision statement effectively, it must be short enough to memorize, but long enough to include key components. For example, a local school district’s vision statement is: “To graduate every student prepared for success beyond high school.” This is a very compelling mission statement.  It is short enough to memorize.  It is also not too specific regarding “success”.  Will success look the same for every student graduating high school?  Of course not; however, this district desires to achieve success with every student, regardless of how that looks.

Vision statements are great if they are communicated.  They are fairly useless if they are not.  People forget.  They get busy.  Team members get distracted with the day to day tasks and tend to lose sight of the overall vision.  Team leaders need to keep the vision in front of people.  Remind them why they are doing the day-to-day tasks.  Leaders remind people of their purpose in the grand scheme of things and why each person is important to the overall vision.

Ways to communicate your vision:

– Talk about it.

– Celebrate team members who embody it.

– Display it everywhere.

– Invite dialogue around it.

– Get feedback from others.

– Create “calls to action” around it.

The Vision Statement Must Be a Commitment.

To have a vision statement is one thing.  To be committed to it is altogether quite different.  Most companies these days have a mission or vision statement.  How many in the company know what it is?  Or seek to work by it on a daily basis?

The best teams and leaders know the vision statement and are committed to seeing it lived out day by day.  It’s part of the DNA of the organization and each team and team member strive to work towards the vision.  Every goal that is set and every project undertaken is driven to fulfill the vision.

How else do you create a clear and compelling vision statement for your team?  What ways do you communicate and commit to it?

A 4-Step Plan for Effective Communication

4 step plan for effective communication

Communication is tough.  It is one of the hardest things to consistently do so that everyone feels a part of the team and no one gets left behind.  It is also one of the most important characteristics of a healthy and thriving team.

Here’s a simple, 4-step plan to develop an effective communication plan for your team. Read more

How to Become a Team Building Jedi Master, Saga II

Welcome back to Team Building Tuesday, young master!  Last week you learned some of what it takes to become a team building Jedi master.  We will continue your training today – are you ready?  You must not lose focus.  You must continue to press on and complete your training.  Don’t turn back now!  Let’s begin. Read more

5 Simple Relationship Building Exercises that Your Team Needs Now. #5 is Powerful!

Relationship building team exercises

Whether you have a new team, new team members, or an established team, trust is one of the most critical and fundamental issues you need to establish within the group.  It is one of the critical skills that top teams possess. Relationship building exercises can help to establish trust by helping your team get to know one another and build on the relationships that are already there.

These 5 simple exercises can be used by themselves or you can imbed these exercises in part of a larger event or team building day to work on building trust or increasing trust with your team.

1.  The Question Ball

Take a medium-sized beach ball and write 10-12 questions on it.  Form a circle with your team and the leader will pass the ball to someone.  When the person catches it, they must answer the question closest to their right thumb (no pivoting the ball if you don’t like the question!)  Pass the ball around the circle until everyone has answered at least one question.  Feel free to repeat!

Sample questions:

  • What is your favorite place to eat?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • Where do you like to go for vacation?
  • What is your favorite book/author?
  • What’s the most unique thing in your office

Here’s a list of 25 Questions from a recent article in Inc. Magazine that I saw recently you can use for this game.

2. M&M Game

Divide your team into groups of 4-5.  Pass a bag of M&M’s around each group and tell each person to “take as much as you need.”  That’s all you will tell them.  If they ask, just repeat the instruction.

Once everyone has gotten some M&M’s, tell them they will go around the circle and tell the other members of the group one unique thing about themselves for every M&M they took.

Have group members continue until all M&M’s are gone.  Switch up the groups and do it again.

3.  Passing Trains

This activity requires a little bit of preparation.  You need to prepare envelopes that have the following questions in them, and the number of envelopes should equal half of your group size.  (i.e., if you have a group of 20 people, you need 10 envelopes that include all of the questions.)

  • What’s the strangest talent you have?
  • What is your strangest fear or phobia?
  • What are 3 things still left on your bucket list? OR
  • What are 2 things that you have crossed off your bucket list?
  • Choose a movie title for the story of your life.
  • If there was a movie about your life, what actor would you want to play you?

Here’s a post that has a list of 45 Questions from LifeHack that you can use to pull more or different questions in to this exercise.

Set up 2 rows of chairs.  The rows of chairs should be side by side facing in opposite directions so that when people sit in the they will be sitting in rows – half of the team all facing one direction (one behind the other – not side by side) in a row and the other half facing the opposite way in a row (picture trains passing by each other with the caboose of one at the engine of the other.)

Give one row a set of envelopes.  This group will stay put and ask the questions.  The other group will move forward one chair (the person in the very first chair will move to the back at the end of each round.)

Each round lasts 2 minutes and the group with the questions can ask as many questions as possible in the allotted time.  Once the round is over, the row of moving people move forward one and time starts over.

The activity is over when the people who are moving end up at the same spot that they started.  Now, have the group share interesting facts that they learned about each other during the activity.  If you have time, you can switch and have the people who moved asked the questions and get the other side to move.

4.  Pair-Share

Pair your group members up and have them sit face-to-face.  Have them pick a Person “A” and a Person “B”.  When you tell them to begin, Person A will start and have 60 seconds to answer a question.  During the 60 seconds, Person B should just sit and listen.

At the end of the 60 seconds, Person B will summarize what they heard Person A share.  Then, Person B will spend 60 seconds answering the same question and Person A will just listen.  At the end, Person A will spend 30 seconds reflecting back what they heard Person b share.

Have the pairs switch and go another round.  Do as many rounds as you have time for.

Potential questions:

What is one of your most significant accomplishments?

Who is someone who has made a big impact on your life?

if you could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be?

Here’s another list of 50 Questions that you could choose from for this activity.

5.  The Greatness I See in You…

This is an incredibly powerful activity; however, I wouldn’t just jump into this one without at least doing 2 or 3 other activities beforehand.  It can be a highly emotional activity and can also be a barrier-breaker in teams.

Have your group form a “U” with their chairs and leave space for someone to stand at the end.  Team members will take turns standing in the open part of the U and allow team members to compliment them using one word to complete the sentence, “The greatness I see in you is boldness.”

Participants go as they think of an encouraging word.  Team members can go more than once in complimenting their team mates.  Give each team member ample time to be encouraged in the circle.  Usually 1-2 minutes is enough.  Just be sure that you allow equitable time for all team members.

(A great thing to do for people is to have someone write down all the responses on a piece of paper and save it for a rainy day.)

What other activities have you done to get to know your team mates?  What’s worked for you?  Let me know in the comments below and share if this has been helpful to you!  Thanks!

Image credit Bigstock Photo, Wavebreak Media Ltd

« Older Entries Recent Entries »