Team building activities are designed to help build relationships and understanding within a group of individuals so that they can work more effectively together.

Summary by The World of Work Project


Team Building Activities

Team building activities are any activity that is designed to bring a group of people together so that they can work more effectively as a team.

They often involve improving understanding of each other, aligning purpose, creating shared identity and common history, revealing strengths and building motivation.

The result of these types of activities are more cohesive, supportive, effective and motivated teams.

People placing hands on top of each other - something that might happen in Team Building Activities
Team-building can be a bit cheesy if you’re not careful.

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When are they Useful

Team building activities are essential for newly formed or merged teams. They’re also useful within established teams as a way to maintain effective working relationships. Cross-team activities are also useful for any broader working relationships.

How do they Work?

These activities work by strengthening the relationships between a group of people, as well as by revealing skills and building pride and common purpose.

A project planning whiteboard - it's good to do some Team Building Activities before working on a project together
Many team building activities create a shared history of collaborative achievement.

Generally speaking, the more people know each other and have common experiences and a sense of aligned purpose, the more effective they are at communicating with each other and the more they want to work with and support each other.

Team building activities often create actions or environments that accelerate building shared histories and overcoming challenges while ensuring everyone can contribute.

What Groups do they Work in?

Team building activities can work in large groups, but are more generally suited to smaller or medium sized teams (say 3-12). With larger numbers it is usually difficult for everyone to contribute, though some exercises exist that work for larger groups.

Activities like this are most important for newly formed groups, but can be used for all groups to re-affirm relationships and ensure effective working.

What Types of Activities do they Include?

Team building activities fall into several categories that have slightly different purposes including:

  • Communication and getting to know you (building knowledge improves future communication),
  • Overcoming a challenge / problem solving (collective accomplishment builds warmth, identity and loyalty),
  • Physical activities (shared exercise helps build bonds), and
  • Trust building (focuses specifically on trust).

A set of sails - sailing could lead to some great Team Building Activities
Sailing could be a good team building activity for some groups.

Learning More

Team building and ice-breaking activities are very important. They help build trust in teams and help progress team maturity. They can also reduce the risks of social threat and improve interpersonal awareness.

Being able to deliver them is a helpful facilitation and meeting skill. A few specific activities we’ve written about include: The Disassociated Word Game, Participant Bingo, Find Your Partner, Vegetable Introductions, and the Questions Cocktail Party.

Laughter and play are also great ways to help build a team. You can learn more about how playfulness helps teams in our podcast on the subject:

The World of Work Project View

Everyone is unique. Each of us has our own history, personality and way of doing things. Everyone has their own “in-group” and perceptions of others around them. And most people start their relationships with others from a position of doubt and uncertainty.

The purpose of team building is to break down all the challenges that come with this uniqueness and the positions of doubt. The purpose is to build trust, to build a common history, to build connections and understanding. With these connection, trust and understanding comes an increased ability to work well together and to care for each other.

In our view, though it takes time to build a team, it’s worth the effort.

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This post is based on general experience and there are no specific references for it.

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