The key is to have a clear purpose or learning goal and high levels of commitment fr om the team members (i.e. AVOID doing team building ideas TO them, do team building WITH them by encouraging high ownership of the team building ideas used and of the planning, design, decision making and feedback / follow-up processes involved).
Having said that, here are some examples of fun team building activities that teams have generated for themselves with really valuable outcomes:
* Use of outward bound type activities and team building games in an outdoor setting (e.g. mountain area, harbour area, crewing a sailing ship, paintball exercises)
* Social fun team building games such as bowling or kart racing or sports fun teambuilding activities such as football
* Teambuilding games such as tower building or creating a paper orchestra or a TV commercial or a play or…..(the list is endless, of course)…..and often these teambuilding activities, apart from being very creative and good fun, will enhance team building through communicating and sharing together
* More formal team building ideas (e.g. in the workplace) may include the use of projects or assignments or shadowing or business-to-business / team-to-team learning including classroom team building activity
* Use of a facilitator to support team building ideas (click here for information about what is a facilitator and the facilitator role and facilitator skills)
* Classroom team building activities designed to boost the 10 key characteristics of a team (please see below). In terms of self improvement, being in a team may yield very significant and valuable learning. As ever, you have the choice to be proactive about belonging to a team and, if you do, and it is appropriate, to ensure that team building ideas are used positively.
What’s the difference between a TEAM and a group?
The aims of team building described above, and the use of team building ideas to achieve them, may be valid for a TEAM (but not necessarily for a group). WHY?
Because there are 10 key differences that distinguish a REAL team from a group of people who happen to be sharing the same time, space and environment. In the context of using different team building ideas, these are like the “10 commandments”. They are (in no order of priority, all are needed):
That is, a team will achieve more than the sum of its parts (2 + 2 = 5), wh ereas a group often achieves less than the sum of its parts (e.g. average “I.Q.” of group members = 110, displayed intelligence when acting as a group = 50). In a team, its members seek and create better outcomes as a result of the collective learning and experience and challenge etc. In a group, individual agendas (and egos) are more important than the common purpose and any efforts to challenge or improve may be resisted.
For example, you have a great idea and need to share it with the team. Let’s say the team’s reaction is to agree with everything you suggest, compliment you on the idea, and your communication skills, and you walk out with the same idea as you walked in with. Is this good teamwork? In terms of synergy, NO, it is poor teamwork. It may be good GROUP-work, but to a real team that’s not good enough. It’s a wasted opportunity. Good TEAM-work, and team building, would have resulted in high support of you and high challenge of your original idea so that communications and learning occurred and you (and the team) walked out with a better idea than you walked in with – a great win-win to achieve. Get the idea?
2. Common purpose.
For a team to exist and thrive it needs a common purpose (i.e. its reason for being) which ALL team members commit to. A group may, or may not, have a common purpose and there is often patchy commitment to it. Teams are about WE, not I and YOU. Every team member accepts and behaves so that personal agendas or egos come second to the common purpose – in groups, it is often the other way round (i.e. I first, YOU second, common purpose 3rd). Once an individual (or sub-group) becomes more important than the team, and its common purpose, that’s the end. So, in using any team building ideas, a team will make sure that its common purpose is clear and agreed and understood. A group won’t bother.
Strong relationships are at the heart of a real team. And trust is central to that (along with mutual respect and support). In this context, trust is defined as: I know that you will not take unfair advantage of me How would you KNOW that? Only through experience and sharing things and taking some risks with others and getting feedback as to the consequences.
Trust is a two-way street though and, therefore, in a team it is necessary to be trusting AND trustworthy Does this mean that you have to like everyone in the team? No, not necessarily, but it’s a nice bonus if you do. Popularity, however, is rarely a direct goal in a real team, it is an outcome of contribution. In a group, there may be high levels of trust but often it is between only sub-groups in the team (i.e. cliques). This can lead to in-fighting or politics in the team, both of which make synergy impossible and the effective use of team building ideas very difficult.
A real team has a common purpose etc. and is very keen on learning and getting feedback re how well it is doing in whatever it is doing. It does more than welcome feedback, therefore, it positively seeks it – from within the team and from outsiders who experience the team’s outputs. In particular, a team will take “a look in the mirror” every so often by sharing feedback about how it is doing and what it needs to start doing; stop doing; and change to improve (a team will often use these 10 key points as criteria for feedback and team building ideas). This self appraisal process is a key step in team building. Feedback in a group is usually very patchy, occurs only when there is a problem or conflict and is often used to score points, settle scores or dominate. It would often be seen as “too risky” for a group to follow the feedback process that a team would embrace.
5. Value differences.
Question – how can synergy occur if every one agrees with every one else? Answer – it can’t. It is only when we disagree that we have the potential to generate a new idea or learn from each other or be synergistic – if we handle it well, of course. If we’re in total agreement, all we will be able to do is replicate what we did before (stagnation). A real team, therefore, values differences (e.g. in thinking; experiences; perceptions). Often, in a group, differences are treated as threats and engender defensiveness or negative emotions or, even, aggression
Leadership is both vital and inevitable in a team, especially as all team members are informal leaders. There may be a formal leader of the team (e.g. club captain; chairman; father or mother; manager), but leadership moves around based on the team’s needs. That is, whoever the team turns to (e.g. for information or guidance or help or support), becomes the team’s informal leader at that point in time and the formal leader (if there is one) will not compete with this. In a group, leadership is often confused and confusing or maybe a strong personality attempts to dominate and direct the team. The idea of informal leadership that moves around within the team would be dismissed as chaos. Click here for some inspiring leadership quotes.
The golden triangle of communications is very evident in a real team. Members question a lot, listen a lot, and check understanding with frequent summaries. In particular, they listen very well, knowing that apart from learning this communication skill builds mutual support, respect and trust – priceless. Watch a group meeting and you are most likely to see either a few loud voices dominating the communications or much cross-talking and interrupting, going round in circles and wasting time by repeating the same thing several times.
8. Continuously improve.
A team is very motivated to improve everything (including its own team work through the use of various team building ideas). This shows itself, in particular, in how it goes about problem-solving. It will love its mistakes “to death” so that learning occurs and it can achieve higher standards in what it does. The same mistake will very rarely happen again. A group, on the other hand, may frequently repeat its errors and may often be heard asking, “what did we do last time that happened” – oh, dear.
In a group, accountability most frequently manifests as blame – e.g. who’s fault was it?; who do we “punish”? The most likely outcome of this is to encourage the “11th commandment” behaviour – i.e. thou shalt not get caught. In a team, accountability is welcomed to close-the-loop on achievements and ensure learning occurs. If someone makes a mistake, the response is to question in depth to learn so that it won’t happen again. The only exception to this is if the mistake occurred on purpose or if it is the third time the same person has made the same error.
10. Participate, learn, have fun.
This is a tricky area because belonging to a team does NOT mean that you have to become a clone or change your personality but…….
…….If you are in the team and contribute absolutely nothing (your silence is deafening), this means that the team is being denied your contribution to its synergy – a weakness that would concern the team.
Yes, but some personalities are more introvert than others, aren’t they? The team can’t or shouldn’t force them to participate and be uncomfortable, should it? NO. However, the team would value that person’s contribution and would be keen to see that she or he had every opportunity to do so (e.g. by being inclusive, asking for opinions, supporting questioning by the person).
Also, the team would keep one eye, as it were, on the learning that was going on in the team and on the fun that occurred in the team. A real team sees fun As both an indicator that relationships etc. are ok and also as an investment in strengthening those relationships for the future.
In a group, fun may often be used in a humiliating way (e.g. sarcasm or a means to score points or to put members in their place).
Learning doesn’t always figure high in a group’s priorities and as long as the dominant individuals get their voice heard, the full participation of others is seen as irrelevant.