Team building exercises are a staple of corporate life, and a powerful tool in the hands of a project manager. Trust falls, scavenger hunts, escape rooms…who hasn’t been subjected to the special torture of team building exercises at some point in the last six months. “It’ll be fun!” they say. “It’s an enjoyable day out of the office!” they say. “You’ll come home late, drained, and sore!” they don’t quite say. But before you jump on the negativity train, teams need cohesiveness, spirit, and chemistry in order to meet and exceed their tasks. From the boardroom to the football field, team building exercises are important. Choosing the right ones that will enthuse your team instead of demoralize them is the tricky part. Lucky for you, Proggio is here to help!
Our top 10 team building exercises:
1. The Perfect Question
Prepare a few different hypothetical situations where someone is recruiting somebody else for a task. One could be a team member for a project. Another could be a marriage partner. Whatever the situation is, players get one question to ask – and must decide based on this question whether the potential partner is acceptable to them or not. This activity gives participants an insight into how people think, and what they think is important. Team members will also learn problem solving skills. Lastly, it’s fun!
2. The Puzzle Market
Mix some puzzles’ pieces together. Split team members into groups, and give each group a portion of the mixed puzzle pieces. Each team is given one puzzle that they need to complete – and they must trade pieces with other groups in order to obtain their own. The first group to complete their puzzle wins. This team building exercise hones negotiating skills, problem solving skills, and strategic thinking. It’s also great way to inject some humor into the workplace.
3. Grab Bag Improv
Stick some props in bags. Divide your team members into groups, and have them select a bag at random. They must then create an improv sketch using the props provided. Every player must have a speaking role. If you want to make the results a lot more unpredictable, don’t give the teams time to prepare – just give them a scenario and send them up on stage. This game is a good ice breaker, communication builder, and an effective way to bring quieter team members out of their shell. Similar team building exercises can use a “mad libs” approach to scenario building, instead of props.
4. The Guess Your Name Game (Or, The Office Game Done Right)
Tape a celebrity’s name to each person’s forehead. Each player has to go around the room asking yes or no questions to other people in order to discover the identity of the celebrity they are supposed to be. First player to get it right wins. This team building exercise helps break the ice, promotes communication skills, and out of the box thinking. Yes, this was the game used in The Office when Michael Scott managed to offend everyone ever born.
5. Analog Social Network
Give all team members an index card, and ask them to draw an avatar for themselves. Once everyone is finished, place each card on a board. Now, ask each person to draw lines from their avatar to other people’s, with each person using a particular color, connecting themselves to the people they know. Have them also provide the reason they know the other person (“went to school together,” “watercooler talk,” “broke into the breakroom together for the Great Coffee Heist of 2009”). This activity is a great icebreaker, and is good for the beginning stages of team building. You can always reuse the materials to create the project team hierarchy afterwards.
6. Rainbow of Opinions
Prepare some topics for discussion. (Pro tip: Leave politics out of this…) Present each topic to the group, and have team members write down their opinions on the subject. When they’re finished, work with the group to organize the ideas along a spectrum. See how many cluster in the middle, and what the outliers are – and why. This team building exercise gives a chance to quieter members to have their opinions heard, and can uncover some powerful, unconventional ideas. When your project team is in some rough waters, this activity can be a very effective way to hold a brainstorming session.
7. Bound To Succeed
Split the group up into teams of 2 or 3 people. Tie their hands together, having them facing each other. With their hands bound, give them tasks to complete. It could be something simple like tying a shoe, or writing something down, or something complex like preparing a salad. Team building exercises like this build cohesion and creativity. They’re also fun, and funny, for everyone involved in the activity.
8. PowerPoint Stand Up
Create some random PowerPoint presentations, one for each team member or group. The person or group then has to give the presentation on the spot. This will inevitably lead to some hilarity, and it will encourage quick thinking and creativity. Give bonus points to the most creative, the most realistic, and the funniest presentations. And as the manager, keep an eye out for who is the best presenter on the team. You’ll have work for them later.
9. Heads Up!
Heads Up is similar to the “Guess Your Name” game above and the card game Taboo, but allows for more creativity and team input. Teams can create their own decks for forehead cards, and compete against a timer to see how many they can solve before time runs out. These types of team building exercises can be used as an icebreaker at a kickoff meeting.
10. The One Time Podcast
Divide your team into groups, give them recording equipment and a sound editing software like Audacity, and set them off to go create a one time podcast episode. You can provide topics if needed, but this isn’t necessary. The podcast episodes are then listened to by the group, and the best one wins. This will reward cohesion, creativity, and team building.
Team Building Exercises: Key Strategies
- Fun is crucial. If your team building exercises are a bore, or a drag, they’ll fail.
- Keep the activity light, but make sure it’s connected to the tasks at hand.
- No one said team building exercises can’t also be skill building exercises.
- Above all, tailor your activities to your team. You know these people. Pick activities they’ll enjoy.