Practical Team Building – Really!

 Anyone can be a leader and contribute to team building – that means you! And, team building can happen at any time. (Well, coffee first, then team building.) If you think your group is in need of a little boost and strengthening, you’re probably right. When you’re ready, it’s important to move forward with a spirit of optimism and positivity. Your initiative might just make you the MVP!

Here are three easy to do and actually useful team building tools and exercises. I’ll pass on the marshmallow rocket ships and dorky alliterative nicknames this time around; functionality is the underlying theme here.

Fun Facts

One of my favorite exercises with new teams or team members is the “Things to Know About Me” conversation. Each team member thinks of three (or less) things that are helpful for others to know about when it comes to working with them. This should be a combination of fun and functional. As an example, one of my things:

“If possible, I like to have the first hour of the day to myself.”

This uninterrupted time helps me to effectively prioritize and plan for the day. My teammates should know this about me. My intention behind sharing this information with members of my team is the hope that if they know this about me, they will be less likely to interrupt me or ask me non-urgent questions first thing when I arrive at the office. And I will make the same sort of allowance for them, so that we can all do our best work.

Make sure everyone understands the intentional and functional purpose behind this exercise, and you will learn a ton of helpful information about your co-workers that will allow you to function better as a team. Feel free to revisit this exercise every 6 months or so, to account for shifting priorities and projects.

Anonymous Strengths Assessment

Sometimes, your team could use a pep talk. I’m not the only big proponent of positive reinforcement. Check out this article on how it impacts team performance. One simple but effective team building exercise is the Anonymous Strengths Assessment exercise. I suggest that you do this the way we used to do it during Catholic School retreats. Tape a piece of paper to everyone’s back, and then walk around the room, stopping to write something nice on each person’s back. It’s like the opposite of a “kick me” sign. Keep your compliments brief but sincere. Avoid the yearbook-y “you’re nice” or “you wear cool shirts” and shoot for comments like:

“I love that you stand up for our team.”

The anonymity built into this activity allows for you to pay meaningful compliments to people without the emotional risk of getting all mushy with someone you don’t know well. I particularly like this exercise because it’s always beneficial  to challenge yourself to say positive things about people – even ones that bug you sometimes. Everyone has something to offer, and it helps the group as a whole  when we focus on strengths. Positive reinforcement helps to replicate successes instead of dwell on (inevitable) failures, in personal and professional settings.

First Job

Everyone has had a first job. Maybe it was great, and maybe it was the absolute worst. We all learned from the experience, though. Take some time to talk about it with your team. What practical skills did you learn as the receptionist at that mom and pop gym? What was the defining moment? What lesson are you most grateful to have gotten out of the way?

At my first job, I learned that it’s okay to say “I don’t know”, as long as you follow up with “but I want to help you figure it out!”

Not only will you get a chance to reflect, think of how far you’ve all come, and put your first gig into a broader context, you’ll get to know your teammates better, and learn from their experiences as well. Hopefully, you’ll even discover that little extra secret skill that they picked up so long ago, which could help you out on your next big challenge!

Best of luck to you and your team as you learn and grow together! Do you have any fun and useful team building activities or conversation starters? I’d love to hear about them. Let’s chat on Twitter.

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