3 Cost-free Team-Building Exercises

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What’s a team without trust?

Mary Scannell, author of “The Big Book of Low-Cost Training Games” and several other team-building books, says a lack of trust among team members is a major concern for many managers she consults. “Everybody’s just clamoring for ‘How do we build more trust on our team?'” she says. “Well, you need to create spaces for people to get to know each other.”

Building a stronger team can be a lot more fun than you think. Image credit: www.dialysistechniciansalary.org.

Building a stronger team can be a lot more fun than you think. Image credit: www.dialysistechniciansalary.org.

The 30-second “howsitgoin-and-nod” in the hallways or minute of small talk before meetings doesn’t cut it. “Real teams are people who know each other well, and you’ve got to spend time on the get-to-know-you,” says Leslie Yerkes, president of Catalyst Consulting Group in Cleveland and author of “Fun Works: Creating Places Where People Love to Work.”

Here’s the good news: establishing trust among team members can actually be a cost-free endeavor. In fact, the three exercises below, which will help your team members get to know and trust each other, are free. But here’s the catch: you have to facilitate these exercises with enthusiasm.

1. The name game. Here’s a quick game from Scannell: In a group of four to 10 people, each person takes about 90 seconds to discuss the story of his or her first name. Why did Ellen’s parents choose that name? Does it mean something? Was she named after someone? When did Charles decide to go by Chaz, and why?

Scannell calls this kind of activity a “climate setter” because “it creates the right tone and climate for the work you’re going to do,” she says. So if you’re going to launch into a three-hour collaborative meeting, consider spending the first 10 minutes using this exercise to relate to each other, connect, and nurture a safe space for teamwork.

2. Thumb ball. Take a cheap soccer ball or beach ball and write a number on each of its panels. Then write a corresponding question for each number. Scannell shares a few ideas: Who is someone you admire, and why? What are two office tools you can’t live without? What’s your favorite stress-buster? What are two valuable traits in a co-worker? What advice would you give to someone just starting his or her career?

Toss the ball among your team members popcorn-style and have them answer whichever question corresponds with the number their thumb lands on. For example, if Ellen catches the ball, and her thumbs land on 7 and 12, she chooses one of the two numbers. The leader then reads the question assigned to that number.

Use this game as an alternative to the everyone-go-around-and-tell-us-about-yourself icebreaker, which sets up participants for one of two fates: spending the whole exercise thinking about what they’re going to say instead of listening to everyone’s answers or becoming bored.

There’s also room to adapt the game to fit your needs. Instead of personal queries, each number could correspond with a quiz question to test team members’ knowledge on a prospective client.

3. Song selecting. This exercise from Yerkes requires some fun homework. Give about 10 days for each participant – or, if it’s a big team, each small group – to decide on a song that “embodies the spirit of the kind of team they’d like to become.”

Then meet, listen to the songs, and have folks explain their choices, “which tells you a little bit about their philosophies,” Yerkes says. (A few songs team members have chosen in her recent workshops include James Brown’s “I Feel Good” and Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”)

Finding ways to strengthen the team dynamic sometimes requires a dependable outside opinion. If you’re looking for ways to build trust among team members, call Williams & Kunkel in Flower Mound at 972-446-1040 today.

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Source: US News and World Report


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