Team building can be simple, as long as you’re able to strengthen bonds and develop skills. Preparing for a team building session can be easy, so long as you’re able to accomplish the goals you laid out to do for your team.
What if I don’t have the time to prepare team building activities?
It’s not always possible to organize a trip with a full itinerary that spans a couple days. Work still needs to get done, and people have responsibilities in their personal lives that require their time and attention. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have team building activities at all. Team building doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. Neither does it have to happen outside of your office. You can plan a simple, do-it-yourself team building activity with little to no props. For many team building games, all you have to do is get everyone together and facilitate.
If you have some paper, pens, tape, a deck of cards, and your enthusiastic team, then you have all you need for some quick and easy team building activities. After all, you don’t need weeks of planning and a huge budget to solve problems together, work on your communication skills, and have fun.
Team building is about camaraderie
Different team building activities develop different skills in team members, but the end goal of all team building is camaraderie. When everyone gets along, they tend to work better together, and to feel better about working together. Team building activities are necessary “commercial breaks” from the steady flow of work that the team deals with day to day. They allow coworkers to get to know each other better and create stronger, smoother, and more fulfilling relationships.
Simple DIY team building activities
Tea or coffee
Have everyone sit in a circle, or around a table, if that would be more comfortable. Start with one person sharing whether they prefer tea or coffee, and how they usually take it. Is their typical order hot or cold? Do they like cream, milk, or sugar, or all of the above, or do they take it black? Then have the next person repeat the first one’s preference, then tell the group their own. The next person must repeat the preference of both people who went before them before sharing theirs, and so on until the last participant recalls the drink orders of everybody in the room, and then states theirs.
Playing “tea or coffee” doesn’t reveal any deep, personal information about members of the team, but it does require everyone to pay attention, which enhances listening skills. Listening combined with memory will come in handy on projects assigned to your team, and when dealing with clients.
This is an excellent game for newly-formed teammates to start talking and getting to know each other for the first time. To prepare for it, print out enough copies of a table for each person who will participate. The table should be five by five squares, with each square containing characteristics that might describe team members. For example, you could write “Plays a musical instrument” in one square, and “Cat person” in another, and “Console gamer” in yet another. Make them interesting, but not overly specific.
Hand out pens and copies of the chart, then have participants go around the room and look for coworkers who fit one of the descriptions, then ask them to put their name on the appropriate box. The goal is to be the first one to fill the whole table. For a smaller team, you can make the table three by three or four by four squares, instead. Once a winner has been declared, go around the room and ask some people to give a bit of a backstory as to why the characteristics they signed apply to them.
The personality chart allows teammates to interact with many of their colleagues in a short period of time, and to discover more about each other’s lives outside of work. It’s also a platform for them to find things that they didn’t know they had in common.
House of cards
Bring out people’s competitive streak by having participants group themselves into two or three and come up with a catchy or funny group name. Give each group a deck of cards and a pair of scissors. The challenge is to build a structure using the cards that will stand as tall as they can get it. Remind participants that they can’t use glue, tape, or any kind of adhesive - only the cards and the scissors. Set a time limit - 10-15 minutes should do. By the end, whichever team builds the tallest structure that doesn’t collapse for at least ten seconds is the winner.
This trick in this game is completing the task with very limited tools. Team members will have to approach it with communication, creativity, and most of all, teamwork.
Sneak a peek
To play sneak a peek, you’ll need a random but distinctive picture or sculpture - like a figurine or a vintage photo. You’ll also need some paper and drawing or painting materials. Split participants into teams of up to four people and have them assign a leader or “peeker.” To begin, have the leaders join you in a separate area and show them the picture or sculpture. After they get a good look, have them rejoin their team and describe the secret object. The rest of the team must then try to draw or paint the object, while the leader cannot touch the art materials. When time’s up, reveal the secret object. The best, most accurate rendition wins.
This game requires crystal clear communication to get it just right. It puts participants in a situation where one “expert” must guide those with less experience in a hands-off way for all of them to succeed - a good skill to have handy no matter which side you’re on.
Planning team building activities doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. Sometimes, all you need are some supplies you can find in the office and the participation of your team. Next time you’re in a pinch in terms of time or budget or both, try putting together a quick DIY team building session that focuses on what really matters: not fabulous accommodations or expensive material things, but good relationships among team members.