One of the core objectives of any project manager is bringing the, often disparate, talents of their team together and getting them working together and collaborating like a well-oiled machine. That’s the “what” but the “how” of actually making that happen is a whole other ballgame. As will be quite clear to anyone who has worked in a team, especially if they have managed one, personalities, egos and work-styles all too rarely fit together perfectly like so many jigsaw pieces.
To get a team pulling in the same direction, working harmoniously together and trusting each other, a project manager needs to be able to engage in effective team building. One of the best ways of doing this is through taking part in team building exercises.
These can sometimes seem corny and get significant push-back from employees, so to avoid that and give you an idea of what you should be doing, we’ve gathered some of the most effective and well-researched team building exercises used by managers around the world.
What activities should include
- They involve everyone (even those who might be reluctant)
- Are not just one-off events
- Have continuity over time
- Have a definable purpose
- Boost skills that are useful for your project (i.e. collaboration, communication)
With that in mind here are some ideas for effective team building:
- Organize volunteering opportunities for your team
Doing something good for your community and building a shared sense of achievement make volunteering an excellent activity for building team bonds. Potential activities have a wide scope, though it’s generally better to steer clear of anything too political or religious that might cause division. Some possibilities include:
- Helping out at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen
- Cleaning up a nearby park
- Hosting a charity hackathon
- Having members raise money through a sponsored run or bike-ride
- Have shared break times
The Harvard Business Review discovered that increasing a team’s potential to socialize with each other beyond their work setting can have positive effects on their productivity. By coordinating break times to give teams more opportunities to engage with each other improved the lowest performing teams at a call center’s productivity by over 20% with an average improvement of 8%.
- Friendly competitive games
While team sports can be a natural situation for building teamwork, they won’t necessarily suit the different fitness or age profiles of your team. Look to engage in something less physically dependent but still competitive and fun, such as crazy golf or bowling. The mutual encouragement of fellow team members and celebration of shared victories can be carried into a more formal work setting.
- Back-to-Back Drawing
This is a simple team building activity that encourages simple co-operation between individual team members. In a team setting, a blindfolded team member is given a marker and placed in front of a whiteboard. Another team member stands looking away from the drawer and the whiteboard and describes to them an image which has been given to them. It is up to the rest of the team to guess what the image being drawn is.
Trust is a vital feature of successful teams and how better to build that than having team members lead each other away from theoretical harm in a “minefield”. The “field” is outlined using rope or ribbon with the “mines” represented by cones or other objects. Those inside the minefield must be blindfolded and guided verbally from start to finish by their team members outside, all the while avoiding becoming frozen by touching one of the mines.
No matter how hard you try to build trust among your team, the key part is hiring the right team members from the beginning. Here are Four Tips for Hiring the Right Person for Your Project.