Not all team-building exercises are created equal. An icebreaker game could be viewed as interesting fun or extremely awkward based on the different personalities within a group. Instead of helping your team bond, the wrong exercise risks creating an atmosphere you don’t want or simply wasting time.
A truly savvy manager will pick an activity that has a clear objective. An exercise can be enjoyable while still having structure (this means maybe happy hour at a loud bar might not the best choice). Ideally what you’re doing ties in directly to something about your organization or industry, and is inclusive to everyone on the team. With these parameters in mind, let’s take a look at the 5 best team building exercises used by successful companies:
1. Volunteer outings
Volunteering is a great way to give back and help your team feel truly rooted in the community. Have the members discuss what organization they’d like to support and decide on the activity together. Everyone will get to share causes they are passionate about and have an insightful discussion. It can be as simple as volunteering an hour at a soup kitchen to as involved as a monthly mentoring program. Either way it will serve as a meaningful break from the everyday grind.
2. Show and tell
It’s grade school level, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Show and tell is an easy to way to have members tangibly learn about one another. It’s free for everyone, and only takes up a few minutes of time at the beginning of a meeting. Simply have employees bring in an item that they feel represents them and be able to explain why. This gives your team a chance to be creative and always avoid sharing anything personal if they feel uncomfortable by keeping it as light as they want.
3. Office trivia
This activity is going to be great for a mix of a new and current team members, because it gives new hires a chance to work together and learn about your office culture. Pick questions specific to your office. They can range from as silly to “How many windows are in the office?” to items relating items from the company’s history, such as the year you were founded or when a specific branch opened. Make up small teams of new and long time employees and give them the chance to share institutional knowledge.
4. Two truths and a lie
Another activity more suited for newcomers would be the classic two truths and a lie game. It might be helpful to give people a theme to work around, such as two truths and a lie about their favorite foods or time in college to make sure it doesn’t get off track.
This is going to help your team work on using open ended questions to come to the right conclusion, since the answers aren’t going to be obviously yes or no. Keep track of points on who is correctly guessing lies as an extra incentive. And be sure to take part so that you can humanize yourself to the team and make them more comfortable with you.
5. Back to back drawing
Divide people into pairs and give one a simple picture, such as perhaps a house or a dog. Give the other person a blank piece of paper and writing utensils and have them place the paper on the first team member’s back. The individual with the drawing then explains to the second person how to draw it, without actually saying what the item is. This will cause the pair to have to think outside of the box to communicate. At the end, compare the two pictures and tie it into discussing how communication can be improved.
No two teams are the same. Two truths and lie might stir a few good laughs one year, but the next group of new hires struggles through it. Back to back drawing could be easy and fun for your creatives but frustrating to the more analytical individuals on your team. Don’t be afraid to do some trial and error as your company grows. Find out what works for your culture and creates an atmosphere people can truly be proud to be apart of.