Though you might wish it weren’t the case, you can’t force people to get along. Team building isn’t something you can mandate or impose through rules and frameworks alone. What you need to do instead is focus on doing things organically - on devising activities that people will not only want to do but which will bring everyone closer together.
Team building. The phrase itself can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. After all, we’ve all heard about managers whose understanding of human relationships seems tenuous at best. Some of us have even been faced with mandatory ‘team-building’ exercises that do little aside from distract, frustrate, and waste time.
In my experience, the problem with team-building exercises isn’t that their goal is ignoble. Promoting communication, cooperation, and fellowship within one’s organization is good. You should endeavor to help your staff work better together - to help them build positive relationships with one another. Where things fall apart is that people assume they can force it to happen. Rather than allowing such interactions to occur naturally and organically, they devise baffling corporate-mandated events. They peddle buzzwords like ‘synergy’ and ‘silos’ and ‘interactivity’ without fully grasping what they mean.
End result? A laundry list of HR horror stories that run the gamut from absurd to jaw-droppingly terrible. You need to rise above that - you need to be better. The good news is that you’re already one step ahead. You understand that collaboration isn’t something you can pull out of thin air. But that isn’t to say you can’t take measures to foster its growth. Here are a few places you can start. Team-building exercises that can help build communication, cooperation, and positivity in your workplace. Feel free to adopt or adapt them however you see fit. Just remember that making them mandatory is a surefire way to fail before you even begin.
The best way to get people interested in an exercise is to make it fun - and there are a lot of fun board games on the market that can help you promote fellowship within your workplace. That said, I’d avoid anything too competitive here. Titles like Risk and Monopoly might be entertaining, but their capacity to destroy friendships is rather well-documented. Instead, stick to team-based games like some of the list below. Benefits of opting for this type of game are that they are typically low-cost and can be done in-house at your organization
- Codenames (card game)
- Pandemic (cooperative board game)
- The Resistance (game of social deduction)
- Red November (cooperative board game)
- Betrayal at the House on the Hill (tile game)
- Arkham Horror (adventure board game)
- Forbidden Island (cooperative board game)
- Last Night on Earth (survival board game)
- Legendary (deck building game)
The one thing all of these titles have in common is that they don’t generally pit players against one another. You’re working together against some force in the game itself, whether that’s supernatural monstrosities, cosmic horrors, or supervillains. It’s a ton of fun, and a great way to naturally build trust and communication between employees.
Escape rooms have become incredibly popular of late, and it’s not difficult to see why. They’re fun and immersive. They encourage and reward creativity, collaboration, and outside-the-box thinking. And as far as team-building is concerned, they’re next to perfect as an exercise. They help team members learn more about one another, and encourage them to work together towards a common goal. Moreover, they help leadership assess the strengths and weaknesses of each employee, and test both their capabilities and conflict resolution skills.
Have a look around your city to see what sort of venues are available, and talk with your team to see which ones they’re most excited about. As an example, some people might be more interested in a Game of Thrones themed escape room, while others might lean more towards science fiction or zombie apocalypse themes.
Human beings love stories; hearing them, telling them, and participating in them. That’s been true since before we even formed the concept of civilization. As a leader, you can tap into that natural tendency.
An improv workshop hosted by a local acting school can help your staff improve both their creative thinking and communication skills. It can open the door to a ton of other entertaining, improv-focused workplace activities. And most importantly of all, it’s fun. Collaborative storytelling of any kind is a great way to both nudge people out of their comfort zone and encourage them to open up to one another.
Build a Better Team and Encourage Team Pride
Again, team-building isn’t something you can force. To enhance communication and collaboration amongst your staff, the best thing you can do is create an environment that encourages communication, cooperation, and personal growth. Offer people the chance to participate in team-building exercises, but don’t force the issue. Your exercises should be entertaining on their own - fun activities that just happen to help your team connect with each other.
Similar to team building, team spirit has to be elective. Gift the team with high-quality custom t-shirts to practice their pride and show your appreciation.