Team building is something that almost everyone has taken part in at some point in their life. Whether it’s been an organised work event, something you did as part of an academic group or just an icebreaker at a class or gathering, team development activities are a very popular way to improve how people work together and break the ice away from a corporate or educational environment.
But what actually is team building, and what does it involve?
This article covers an introduction to team building, why it is so important and what activities and methods are commonly used to bring people together and build trust and rapport.
The purpose of team building is to strengthen the bonds of individuals in a group and improve their trust, communication and understanding of each other. This improves how effectively a group works together and can highlight common goals and interests which builds stronger relationships and leads to a more positive working environment.
Team building at work is often organised by employers to bridge the gaps between employees who might not interact, improve existing working relationships and remove the usual pressures and expectations of the workplace so that new ideas and ways of working can emerge. It’s also a key method of building company culture and providing an opportunity for staff to offer ideas and showcase skills that may not otherwise have come up.
A team that knows one another well, trusts each other and feels comfortable collaborating is an essential part of a successful business. By organising and facilitating team building activities, leaders or employers can increase a group’s skillset and increase the productivity and efficiency of every department or project team.
In a corporate sense, there are numerous benefits to running office team building activities. The most significant is that it improves teamwork and boosts the performance of teams and employee groups, which increases success, creativity and productivity. This, in turn, means that the company will perform better overall and increases business growth.
Another key benefit of team building at work is that it creates an opportunity for employees to network, socialise and build positive relationships with one another. If you work as part of a particularly large company then you may not have actually met everyone who works there, and team building events provide an opportunity for everyone to mix and establish new connections which improve overall company cohesion.
Team building helps organisations to provide opportunities where employees can work on valuable skills such as leadership, communication and creativity. This improves individual employee performance which has a positive impact on the business overall, giving everyone the skills they need to take charge, collaborate and make a difference.
A key element of many team-building weekends or events is fun. Games, challenges and competitive activities all create a more relaxed environment where everyone works together more effectively and present the opportunity to step out of the ‘persona’ that you might adopt whilst at work or in a professional or academic environment. This is also a beneficial element of team building because it lets stronger and more meaningful relationships develop.
Finally, team development activities and events are beneficial because they can greatly improve communication between individuals. Whether this is just breaking the ice so that people feel more comfortable speaking to each other or actually providing opportunities to establish the best ways to communicate ideas and tasks, a team that communicates effectively is a team that succeeds, and team building is a fantastic way to improve this.
A team-building exercise is a task or activity that brings people closer together, encourages collaboration to solve a problem or complete an exercise, or just presents a new opportunity for individuals to interact.
When you think of a classic team-building activity, the first things that come to mind might be competitive challenges, trust-fall exercises or away-days doing outdoor activities or volunteer work. But actually, a team-building exercise can be anything that works to improve a group’s camaraderie or involves collaboration outside of what is normally expected.
Particularly with smaller groups, team-building could just involve a meal out or a trip to do or watch something that means everyone can interact and get to know each other better. It could also be an opportunity at work where everyone sits down and talks about personal and professional goals, ideas for the business and any suggestions to improve collaboration.
Team building exercises can also be facilitated by an external organiser or company, which is a popular choice for larger organisations. In these situations, there is usually a structured set of activities over a day or a series of days that focus on developing certain skills or achieving specific goals.
There is a huge range of different team-building tasks that you can choose from if you’re organising a session with a group. Some require no resources at all and others will need a little more planning, but all work to bring individuals closer together and develop skills and collaboration.
Before you begin planning a team-building activity, you should first identify what your team’s needs are and what goals you are trying to reach with the exercises.
This first consideration is particularly important as the kind of people you are working with will dictate which kind of activities work best. It’s okay to push people out of their comfort zone a little, but you’ll lose engagement if you’re organising activities that nobody has any interest in at all.
Your team-building goals will also influence what tasks you choose. Certain activities focus on communication, creativity, collaboration and trust, so make sure that your choices align with your intentions.
Here are four of the most popular team building activities and an explanation of what they aim to achieve.
A scavenger hunt is a classic team-building activity that helps group members get to know each other, presents a range of opportunities for collaboration and communication and can test and improve a range of skills. The scale of this can vary depending on how much time you’d like to spend on the activity and how many people are involved.
The activity begins by breaking everyone up into small teams. Individuals can choose their teams or everyone can get mixed up to encourage new relationships to form.
Then, they will follow a set of instructions to complete a series of different activities that are located in various different places. This can just be inside a workplace or scattered around a wider location if suitable.
The rules of a scavenger hunt can be adapted, but usually completing one task will lead you to another, and only after finishing them all can a team receive a prize or be crowned the winner. Having a range of tasks allows different skills to be used and presents a lot of different situations where a group will have to work together.
The great egg drop is one of the best-known team-building activities out there. It is designed to encourage collaboration between individuals and present the opportunity for creative thinking and problem-solving.
It works by splitting up a group into smaller teams and giving each of them an egg. They will also have access to a range of different materials such as plastic bags, paper, string and bubble wrap.
Every team has a set period of time in which to come up with a way to protect the egg when it is dropped from a height. They can use any of the materials they have been given, but nothing else. Whoever manages to protect their egg so that it doesn’t break wins the challenge.
This is a classic icebreaker game that is great for beginning a team-building session and helping individuals to learn more about each other.
Every member of the group has to come up with three facts about themselves; two are true and one is a lie. Everyone then reveals these facts to the rest of the group and the others have to guess which is the lie.
This is a really fun way of helping a team get to know unusual things about each other and can be a very humorous activity that diffuses any awkwardness at the start of an activity.
The desert island game presents small teams with a problem and allows them to communicate, consider each other’s opinions and work together to present a solution.
A group is split up into smaller teams and presented with the scenario that they have been washed up on a desert island. They are then given a collection of different items, whether these are real items or just a list of things.
Every team has to make a list of these items in order of importance, deciding which would be the most useful to have when on the island. You can also give them a limit on items they can use, forcing some to be discarded.
This activity is a creative way to facilitate problem-solving and test everyone’s critical thinking skills as they weigh up the pros and cons of what they have been given. It also helps team members to talk to each other and consider different points of view, as well as being a good exercise in decision making and collaboration.
Corporate team building is just another name for team building that happens in a workplace or office environment. It also has more of an emphasis on improving employee cohesion and developing valuable skills in the participants that will benefit the company, such as leadership, confidence and creativity.
Team building is an important part of building rapport between individuals in a group, encouraging collaboration and introducing new ways of working that can lead to improved productivity and creativity. It helps to break the ice between team members who might not know each other very well, improves communication, provides valuable opportunities to learn from other people and can have a positive impact on the way a team works.
A key part of creating a team, business or company that works effectively is ensuring that everyone feels comfortable at work, trusts one another and understands each other’s strengths and skills. Team building exercises create opportunities where all of these aspects can be established and developed and are an important part of building company culture.
A team-building event is an organised occasion that focuses on building trust and collaboration within a group of people through different activities and learning opportunities. Often, businesses use team-building events as a way to get everyone in their company together, mix up employees to create new opportunities for teamwork, and provide a day away from the workplace where usual roles and hierarchies are forgotten.
Sometimes the idea of a team-building activity is met with trepidation and worry that nobody will have any fun, but it doesn’t have to be this way at all. When chosen correctly and organised properly, team building can become a highly anticipated event that brings countless individual benefits and wider gains to an organisation, whether it’s an informal gathering or a structured weekend of exercises.
We have a wide variety of different online courses available that focus on various aspects of leading, managing and developing the performance of a team as part of our collection of Leadership and Management or Personal and Professional Development resources.