In Part 1 of this series we focused on communication exercises, problem solving and other team building activities. Part 2 of this series will focus on 10 more team building exercises, and each will focus on project planning skills and building trust amongst a team of peers. As most managers already know, team building exercises can have a great effect on productivity and overall teamwork at the office. These simple and quick exercises each take less than an hour of time to complete, and you’d probably be surprised by the many benefits they can bring to your office environment.
Team building exercises:
Tag Team Game
Time Required: 20-30 minutes
This adapting exercise requires just a few simple tools, which include large sheets of paper, writing paper, pens, and markers. In this exercise, participants are broken up into groups of 4-8 people and instructed to share with their group their individual strengths and the positive attributes they feel would lend to the success of their group. They are to write these strengths and attributes down on a piece of paper. After their group discussion, each team will be given one large sheet of paper, writing paper, markers, and a pen. The groups should then be instructed to make the “ultimate team member” by combining each team member’s strengths and positive attributes into one imaginary person. This “person” should also receive a name, have a picture drawn of them, and have their different attributes labeled. The group should also write a story about this person, highlighting all of the things their imaginary person can do with all of their amazing characteristics. At the end of the exercise, each group should share their person with the group and read the accompanying story. This exercise will help coworkers adapt to weakness they feel they or a team member may have by understanding that as a group, they are capable of having more strengths and positive attributes then they would have working solo.
The Take Away Game
Time Required: 5-10 minutes
This planning game only requires 15 coins of any time, including pennies. To play, the instructor can create multiple teams of two or have on group play another, with one representative from each team participating in each game until everyone has had a turn. The set up is simple: a coin is tossed to decide who goes first. Each side may remove two coins every time they call the it (heads or tails) correctly. The winner is the person/team removing that removes the last coin. The game can be made more complex by upping the number of coins a team can take when it’s their turn or by allowing coins to be put back. With increased complexity, the activity allows the teams a strategic planning stage. The goal is to have the players realize that simpler versions of the game can easily be planned and controlled by the team/person playing first.
The Paper Tower
Time Required: 5 minutes
This planning exercise is very simplistic in its approach, but it teaches participants the importance of planning, timing, and thinking on their feet. Each participant is given a single sheet of paper and told that it’s absolutely necessary that they construct the tallest free-standing structure in just five minutes using no other materials. After the five minutes and a review of the structures, a discussion can be had concerning who planned out their structure, who ran out of time, and what could be done differently next time.
Road Map Game
Time Required: 30 minutes
The participants need to be split into two groups with an equal about of players in each group. This planning exercise also requires that the participants have paper, pens, and a map. The map can be of the state the participants are in, of the whole country, or of a specific area. The area the map covers doesn’t matter as much as the fact that each group needs a copy of the same map. Instruct the teams to plan a vacation, which must be planned within certain parameters. Each group should be given a list of what they have for their trip, how much money they can use, what kind of car they will have, the size of its gas tank, m.p.g., the price of gas, the beginning and ending destination, and anything else you can think of. Each group should write down their travel plans and any group that runs out of money or gas will be disqualified. Awards can be given to the team that saw and did the most with what they had or for the most exhausting trip, the most relaxing, etc. The goal of team building exercises like this is to get coworkers working together as team with the common purpose of planning this trip in 30 minutes.
Paper and Straws Game
Time Required: 15 minutes
This planning game is ideal for small groups and only requires drinking straws and some paper. The group leader needs to draw a large circle on a large piece of paper with concentric circles within it. Then, each circle must be assigned a score, with the biggest score being saved for the smallest, middle circle. This paper is taped onto the middle of a large desk. Then, each participant must gather around the table and be given a drinking straw. The group leader will make dime-sized balls by wadding up bits of paper. It is up to the group leader how many balls will be in play. The participants must blow into their drinking straws to push the balls around. It sounds easy, but as more balls come into play, the participants must plan with their coworkers how they will push balls into high-scoring sections without moving balls that are already in place. This may require re-positioning themselves in different locations around the table or having different players blow in different directions; it’s up to the participants to create their plan of attack. The group leader can end the game once they’ve reached a specific score or once each ball is in the middle. These simple team building exercises helps coworkers work together to create and follow through with a plan and it also encourages them to communicate.
Time Required: 20-30 minutes
This trust exercise requires some setting up before it can be executed. It also requires a large, open area such as a room without furniture or an empty parking lot. The leader must distribute “mines,” which they place haphazardly around the area. These “mines” can be balls, bowling pins, cones, etc. This exercise gives coworkers a chance to work on their relationships and trust issues, which is why they are paired into teams of two. One team member will be blindfolded and cannot talk and the other can see and talk, but cannot enter the field or touch their blindfolded teammate. The challenge requires each blind-folded person to walk from one side of the field to the other, avoiding the mines by listening to the verbal instructions of their partners. Penalties can be put in place for each time a blindfolded person hits a mine, but the real idea behind the game is to get the team members to trust their partner’s directions and to teach them to communicate in a more effective way.
Time Required: 20 minutes
This trust building exercise requires nothing more than a few blindfolds and a large, flat area- preferably with grass. The group leader can either team people up or allow them to pick their own partners. Once everyone is in teams of two, one team member will be designated as the leader and the other as the follower. The follower must wear a blindfold. The group leader will instruct the leaders in each team to hold the hand of their blindfolded partner and take them on a slow walk around the area for at least 3 minutes. This will allow the partners to get accustomed to the process and their partner. After three minutes, instruct the teams to take a normal-paced walk for three minutes. After those three minutes are up, instruct the leaders to take their blindfolded partners on a fast walk for thirty seconds. After each turn, the blindfolded partner is developing more and more trust in their seeing partner. Instruct the leaders to take their blindfolded partner on a 30 second jog, then a 15 second run, and lastly, a very fast 15 second run- with breaks in between. After the last run, the follower can take off their blind fold and rest for a bit with their partner before the process begins over again and the followers become the leaders and vice versa. After the last run, a discussion can be had about the process, whether or not it was difficult for participants to trust their partners and if so/not, why?
Slice ‘n Dice
Time Required: 15 minutes
This trust building exercise should take place outside and preferably, should be done with a large group of 20 or more. Participants should be instructed to form two equal lines facing each other (creating a corridor) and to put their arms straight out in front of them. Their arms should intersect, overlapping by about a hand with the arms of the people opposite of them. The person at the end of the corridor will walk down the corridor of arms. In order to let the person pass, the other participants will have to raise and lower their arms. That person will then join the corridor again and then the next person in line will walk through. This process will continue until everyone has had a turn. Now that the group is more confident, participants should be instructed to walk quickly, run, or sprint down the corridor, trusting that the other participants will let them pass without making them pause. For the last turn, the participants making the corridor should be instructed to chop their arms up and down as people run through. This exercise allows participants to build trust in their teammates while also having fun.
Time Required: 5 minutes
This trust exercise requires no special equipment, just an even number of participants. Making eye contact is sometimes difficult for people, as it requires a certain amount of trust and respect. Some people avoid it, while others simply aren’t very good at it; they make look away often or appear awkward or uncomfortable, sometimes fidgeting with other objects. This exercise, though simple, can help coworkers become more comfortable and trusting of each other through the practicing of eye contact. For this activity, have people group into pairs and stand facing each other. The idea is to have them stare into their partner’s eyes for at least 60 seconds. Neither participant should be wearing glasses or sunglasses of any kind. There may be some giggles at first, as it can feel somewhat awkward during the first try, but as participants get the hang of it, it should become easier for them to make eye contact for prolonged amounts of time.
Willow in the Wind
Time Required: 20 minutes
This particular trust building exercise goes by different names, but usually illustrates the same idea. This exercise is best suited for coworkers who already know each other fairly well. One participant must volunteer or be chosen to be the “willow.” The willow must stand in the middle of a group with their eyes closed, their feet together, and body upright. They will perform a series of “trust leans” against the other participants, whose job is to hold up the willow and pass them around without allowing them to fall or feel frightened as if they’re going to fall. Before beginning, the instructor should discuss “spotting” techniques to all participants. Those who are not the willow must have one foot in front of the other, have their arms outstretched, elbows locked, and fingers loose, as well as be ready and alert. This will ensure that they will successfully pass the willow around without any troubles. Various co-workers can take turns being the willow. This technique helps coworkers establish and build trust with each other in an open, fun environment.
Learn more about team building, including what to avoid, in our new blog post about collaborative working.
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