Let’s start with what teambuilding is not. It does not involve blindfolds, ladders or rope courses. You don’t have to toss water balloons, carry eggs on spoons or pass oranges with your chin. And making everyone wear the same t-shirt does not make a team either. Those are all things you can do while you are teambuilding but they are not going to actually help you create a cohesive team.
Real teambuilding involves people actually speaking to each other about who they are as people to develop trust. Think about the people you trust. Who are they? Why do you trust them? I would bet you know them really well. You know the kind of person they are, what their talents are and that they will have your back. How can you create that kind of personal knowledge within a group? Those conversations can take place during activities like rock climbing. But wouldn’t it be better if the point of what you were doing was to actually team build rather than get to the top of a rock and hope the teambuilding happens along the way?
When we don’t know someone we tend to categorize them by their position. “He is from legal.” “She plays defense.” “That’s the new pitcher.” Not very personal. So start your teambuilding by having the group get to know more about each other. Here are a few examples of conversation starters I have used with teams: (Remember as the facilitator you have to be engaged too. Share your answers first and the rest of the team will be more comfortable sharing theirs!)
- What is something about you or important to you that no one on the team knows? (My first paid job was on a horse ranch.)
- What kinds of things really stress you out? (It makes me crazy when people don’t do things they promised to do.)
- What is your default response to conflict with someone? (I am most comfortable with ignoring it until it explodes. It is absolutely a learned behavior for me to follow my own advice to address it head-on, deal with it, and move past it.)
- Most people are leaders or followers depending on the situation. When do you want to lead and when do you prefer to follow? (I am happy to lead or to follow as long as I understand and believe in where we are going and the plan to get there.)
- How do you respond to stress? (I get really focused and start making lists.)
- What is something you are really good at? (I am very compassionate when someone is hurting.)
- What skill do you have that might surprise people? (I can juggle – Thanks Elizabeth!)
- What skills do you bring to this team? (My answer to this one depends on the team.)
Of course there are lots more but those will certainly get you started. The point is, people don’t trust people they don’t know. So help them get to know each other. As each person responds to the question, encourage dialogue about the answer. It is my experience that there are lots of good laughs.
If you want to have pizza or brownies or whatever while you do this – great! Go for it. As long as you don’t believe it is the food that is creating your team.
Have you ever had to engage in a “teambuilding” exercise that was more task than team? Come on, everybody has a horrible teambuilding experience. Share it with us! I have a great one that landed me in the HR hot seat. If we can get 10 comments this week I will add my story. It’s a real doozy!!
Have a great week everybody!
Did you miss When is Good, Good Enough last week? Read it here.