Author: Chris Gill
Everybody wants effective team building, but making it happen can be a considerable challenge. How do you account for different levels of ability? How do you make team development fun, yet focused? What do you do? How do you sustain the energy that creates successful teams? In downtown Toronto, the Xpeerience Group has found that team building exercises in the five following fields have some innate advantages when it comes to turning a group into a focused team, as long as you guide participants so that they cooperate, share strengths and maintain a positive attitude. The right tactics for accomplishing this depends on the activity, as we'll see below.
Team Building with Art: The arts provide an incredible opportunity for team development, but also impose some special challenges – but these very obstacles can be converted into fantastic learning opportunities. Many people feel self-conscious about drawing, painting, and acting (music is its own category, below) because they haven't done it since childhood. This is actually an advantage, however, if you set the expectation that an art-focused team building exercise isn't about artistic quality, but devotion to the task. In fact, it's better if the exercise gets back to primal, childlike experiences. Finger painting is better than portraits. Skits are better than serious dramatic scenes. Keeping it basic and bringing up childhood associations keeps things relaxed and fun. The important thing is that the team collaborates on a piece of art – not that it's fit to hang on a wall or show on TV.
Team Building with Cooking: Team building with cooking has a number of advantages. First of all, cooking is easy to explain procedurally, so organizers can pass along specific instructions (recipes) for each team. Some people are more comfortable in the kitchen than others, so you can encourage ad hoc mentoring, as long as you ensure than the mentor actually steps into the role – the danger is that he or she will be given the bulk of the work. Cooking can be integrated into a competition (a cook off) or it can be done in the spirit of cooperation, where small groups each create one part of a larger meal. Best of all, eating together promotes team spirit because it harnesses deep-seated feelings of togetherness.
Team Building with Games: You can adapt a number of classic party games for team development purposes. To adapt a game into a team building exercise, increase the role of cooperation. For example, you can easily adapt charades by requiring multiple people to cooperate on the hints (give the hint-givers time to confer out of earshot). In its Toronto team building activities centre, the Xpeerience Group often uses the strategy of "upsizing" popular games so that they require cooperation, with human chess or life-size Jenga. Games are ideal when you want to work with even numbers of small groups, as they can compete one on one in a round robin format.
Team Building with Music: Like art, music can be a challenging team development activity because many people haven't played music since they were in school. Music is also a field where you may encounter many different levels of ability, from non-musicians to people who are extremely talented with one or more instruments or their voices. You can convert ability differences into opportunities for in-group mentoring as long as you make it clear that the goal isn't performance quality music but a process where everyone feels more comfortable and invites participation from every member. You can also level the playing field by introducing unusual types of music where even experienced musicians will be hard-pressed to maintain an advantage.
Team Building with Sports: Sports-based team building is an Xpeerience Group specialty. Most sports naturally involve teamwork. Like other fields, turn differences in ability into mentoring opportunities. You may have to modify the rules to ensure everyone gets a turn – no strikes in softball, for instance, or a rotating list for free kicks in soccer.
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