Team building activities are simple, easy ways to get your employees involved in honing their capacity to work together more productively. Typically these activities are viewed as “fun” events but they are loaded with powerful lessons about problem solving, communications, trust and respect. And the participants aren’t the only ones who benefit from these lessons. Team building activities give management an opportunity to see the dynamics at play among their group giving them a better idea of how to lead and communicate with them.
Team building exercises can run the gamut of a simple kid’s game to more complex problem solving challenges. They can be done indoors or out, daytime or night. The props used in these exercises are inexpensive. The one element of these exercises that you have to invest some money in is a qualified facilitator. Experienced facilitators are essential to organizing, monitoring and evaluating the activities. A poorly trained facilitator can easily turn what should be a productive experience into a Search and Rescue Professionals complete waste of time. The importance of the facilitator’s role will become evident as you review the exercises listed below.
1. The Mine Field
This is a simple exercise designed to build trust and communication skills. It can be performed inside or outside and doesn’t require any special equipment. First prepare the mine field. This is simply a matter of placing objects on the ground like balls or Styrofoam cups or plates within a designated “field”. Next randomly pair up members of the team. You can draw names out of a hat if that works for you. The idea is for one member to negotiate the mine field with their eyes closed based on the guidance of the second member. So basically you have one team member who cannot see or talk being led by another who can both see and talk but who must not touch or physically guide the other.
Before starting the actual trip through the field, allow 2 or 3 minutes for the couple to work out communication methods. After the first walk through, the members swap places and try it again. You can make this exercise as simple or complex as your team can handle.
2. Group Juggle
This is an exercise in team problem solving and cooperation. Ideally your team would consist of six to eight people but you can make it larger or smaller to meet your needs. Have the team form a circle and then introduce a ball. Explain that the ball has to be tossed to every person in the circle but no person can handle it twice. Give them the ball and let them have at it. Time their first effort. When they’ve completed the task tell them how long it took and challenge them to do it faster. Give them 2 minutes to communicate. After the second attempt ask them if they can do it faster yet and ask them to tell you just how fast they can get it done. Allow 3 minutes for planning. This gives the group opportunities to not only solve a problem but to predict how fast a team can perform it.
3. Improvisation Circle
This is a simple ice breaker and an excellent exercise for newly formed teams. Have the entire team form a circle facing in. The facilitator explains that they are about to tell a story about a subject and the team is responsible for creating it one word at a time. When given the subject, the person selected to start the story will turn to the person to his or her right, make eye contact, and say the first word. That second person will turn to the right, make eye contact and say the second word and so on. So if the subject was “birthday cake” the story could start like today..is..my..birthday..and. Where it gets interesting is when a team member changes the drift of the story using a single word and the response of the others either getting back on track or having fun with the new tangent. At the end of the story they not only have created something together, but the eye contact has made strangers a much more cohesive group.