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Team building: 20 ideas and exercises for better teams

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Companies expect real miracles from team building: a good working atmosphere, higher productivity, better results and rapid progress are just some of the arguments. The feeling of togetherness in the team strengthens cohesion and prevents misunderstandings and scuffles. But how does the structure of the team work? We show what is important and provide you with numerous team building ideas and exercises ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is team building?

Team building refers to all measures and activities that are suitable for improving and strengthening interpersonal relationships within a team. The aim behind team building ideas and methods is to strengthen the bond between employees. This should increase job satisfaction and also have a positive effect on performance.

At the same time, team building is a term for the precise composition of the individual people in the team. These should be coordinated so that you not only get along well, but above all to be able to achieve the set goals. The Belbin team roles provide the ideal for this.

Difference to team bonding

Some also use the term team bonding as a synonym for team building. The goals are identical, but you should look at the terms differently. In team building, ideas focus on achieving goals or solving tasks together. It's about positive experiences of success in the team that weld together. Team bonding, on the other hand, works through shared leisure time and relaxation.

The 5 phases in team building

A real team doesn't come into being in a day. It takes a process that turns a group of people into a team. The American psychologist Bruce Tuckman has developed a phase model with five successive steps. In Germany the model is also known as the team watch. Accordingly, the team grows together within the following phases:

  • Forming (Orientation phase)
  • Storming (Confrontation phase)
  • Norming (Cooperation phase)
  • Performing (Growth phase)
  • Adjourning (Dissolution phase)

That means: Ideas and exercises for successful team building should be based on the various phases and be tailored to them. We explain what happens in the individual team building phases and which measures are suitable in each case to strengthen the team and the team spirit:

1. Forming (orientation phase)

In this first team building phase, the team comes together and gets to know each other informally. Everyone is polite and nice to others, everyone is smiling and carefully feeling their way around. Nevertheless, everyone also observes each other very closely: who can with whom? Who is competent? There is still a lack of trust.

The main thing here is that the team members get to know and smell each other. Name games are particularly recommended at the beginning. Solving simple tasks in a team also makes initial contacts.

  • Name beating
    The players stand in a circle, one player stands in the middle of the circle. In turn, everyone says his name. Now a player begins and says aloud the name of another player. He has to react and quickly say the next name. In the meantime, the player in the middle tries to touch the player whose name is currently named. If he succeeds, these two swap places and the game continues.
  • Ball throw chain
    The players stand in a circle and the game master receives a ball. He names a teammate and throws the ball to him. This person names another name and passes the ball to the associated person. This continues until everyone has the ball and it is the game master's turn again. Now a new round is started, whereby the ball must be played by the players in the same order. With each round, new balls are added, increasing the difficulty.
  • Thread net
    The players sit on the floor. The game master holds the end of a thread of wool and throws the ball to another player. This continues until a network is stretched over all players. In addition, the names or properties can be mentioned when it is your turn.

2. Storming (confrontation phase)

The team members find their role in the group - voluntarily or involuntarily. They have to weigh up their perspective, interests, and those of the group. This leads to conflicts and power struggles. Many teams fail and disintegrate. The group leader has the main responsibility. He has to provide orientation and find a consensus.

Group dynamic games and exercises help in this phase. These are intended to accelerate the team building process, strengthen cohesion and help overcome friction.

  • Floating rod
    The players line up in two rows facing each other. Each one raises an arm roughly at chest level and extends their index finger. A broomstick is placed on the surface created in this way. Each player must touch the bar with his finger the entire time. The task is to put the bar on the ground.
  • Spider web
    The game master prepares a spider web, for example between two trees, with the help of ropes or ribbons. The holes in the net must be large enough for the players to fit through. Now the team is given the task of bringing all members to the other side of the network without touching the network. The players have to help each other and, for example, lift through the holes.
  • Turn the carpet over
    The task is easy to explain, but much more difficult to implement. The team is standing on a carpet. Now it has to turn it around without a player touching the ground. Other aids are also prohibited.

3. Norming (cooperation phase)

Ideally, by now all of their interests and ideas have been integrated into the common goal or have become subordinate to it. The group cooperates on a solid basis and has its own rules. Everyone knows what it's about and what part they can contribute to success. The team leader gives everyone the feeling of working on something bigger - the self-esteem of the team and the motivation of each individual increase.

The team is already on the way to becoming a cooperating entity. Trust games in team building can help to strengthen the bond.

  • Lead blind
    The group is divided into pairs, one of which is blindfolded. Now the sighted leads the blind across the area. Difficulties and obstacles can be built in that have to be overcome.
  • baking bread
    The players stand facing each other in two rows and hold hands. These represent the bakers. A player (the bread) now lies down on his hands and is thrown lightly into the air by the bakers. Of course, you have to pay attention to safety.
  • Stand up man
    The players stood in a tight circle, one player in the middle. He has to prove his trust and let himself fall in one direction with his eyes closed. The players in the circle are responsible for gently (!) Pushing the falling back and guiding them in a different direction.

4. Performing (growth phase)

Few teams reach this stage - if it works, success comes. The team building is finished, now there is real added value: The team creates more than the sum of its parts or members. The entire team energy flows into the joint project, it grows and flourishes. The team leader is hardly required at this point and should at best intervene in a protective manner if the group threatens to overheat due to sheer enthusiasm and ideas.

The team is now well-rehearsed. Relaxing games can be used to maintain a good mood. More difficult group dynamic games are also possible.

  • Counting
    The principle is simple. The players should count from 1 upwards until the number of participants present is reached. Each player is allowed to say a number out loud exactly once. Further agreements between the players are not allowed. However, as soon as two players call the next number at the same time, the round ends and you have to start over.
  • Yes-no-black-and-white
    The group is divided into teams of two. These are now divided into moderator and respondent and conduct a dialogue. The moderator is free to think of questions that the respondent must answer correctly in terms of grammar and content. However, he is not allowed to use the words yes, no, black and white.
  • Brute brute
    Each player receives a number. The player with the number 1 is the first to act and says: “I am Rüppel-Tüppel number 1 with no trumpet. Booby Booby number X, how many boobies do you have? X is the number of the next player. The addressee must react and accept the same text (with his number). If you make a mistake, you get a stick and from now on you have to say: "I am Rüppel-Tüppel number X with a stick."

5. Adjourning

The last section is the adjourning, the dissolution phase. Ideally, this is a natural process: the project is complete, the group has done its job - hopefully with flying colors. In fact, some groups have long been in this phase without realizing it. They disintegrate before the end of the project. Reasons are divergent opinions, but also a lack of know-how or a lack of budget.

There are no more specific exercises and measures for this last phase. The team is already in the process of dissolution. If the cooperation has failed, the only thing that can help is often a replacement of the group members.

More popular team building ideas

Regardless of the individual phases, there are of course numerous other ideas and possibilities to promote team building. Events and activities that the team conducts together are popular. Some examples are:

  • Scavenger hunt or geocaching
  • Cooking class
  • Crime dinner
  • Escape room
  • Bowling or skittles
  • ArtNight
  • Laser tag or paintball
  • Quizzes and puzzle evenings
  • Soapbox Race

For many of these team building events there are providers and agencies who help with the implementation.

Team building online: measures and games

Due to the corona pandemic, some typical team building activities are currently not possible. Even without Corona, team building for virtual teams is always a special challenge: Team members do not usually see each other on a regular basis. Team building has to look different for home office and remote work.

activities

  • planning
    Prepare the online event well by determining participants, time frames and actions such as ice breakers for meetings in advance.
  • friendliness
    All participants should be friendly to one another. If part of the communication takes place in writing, this can lead to misunderstandings. If anything is unclear, questions are welcome. In any case, employees should have a positive, open approach.
  • routine
    Routine is important for real team building. The effect of one-off events fizzles out very quickly. Common habits such as fixed times for team meetings or meditating together online can help.

Games

  • Online variant
    Some games and events can be transferred from reality to virtual reality relatively easily: board games such as karaoke or scavenger hunts are part of them. To do this, you form two teams that compete against each other. At karaoke, the team with the better interpretation of the songs wins. For the scavenger hunt, the teams have to solve different tasks - the faster team wins.
  • Speed ​​dating
    This can be particularly helpful as an onboarding measure for newcomers to a company. For this purpose, two team members exchange ideas on given questions for one minute in different chat rooms. For example: "What was your first job?" Or "What steps did you take to overcome obstacles?" Such questions can be generated, for example, with the online tool tscheck.in (in English). Then the participants change.
  • Culinary events
    Cooking and baking together or digital wine tasting are also possible: the participants can either agree in advance on a certain recipe that they can cook or have a cooking box delivered to their home. The wine tasting could have a certain motto: for example, wines from the region or certain grape varieties. Such events are also conceivable with certain foods such as chocolate specialties or cheese.

Requirements for good teams

It is not easy to form a team from a collection of individuals. In order for a team to be able to develop in the literal sense of the word, certain requirements are required, which are essential for team building:

  • Clear goal
    So that everyone pulls together, a direction, a specific goal is required. What should be achieved together? - that has to be clear to everyone in the team. It is even best if the team members are passionate about this goal themselves.
  • Right size
    The team has to be big enough to be able to tackle the task together, but it can't be too big either, because then it is more difficult to lead.
  • Different personalities
    In homogeneous teams there are fewer points of friction, but no new ideas arise either. Only very different characters can complement and support each other.
  • Accepted leadership
    It takes a person who takes responsibility, keeps an eye on the big picture and leads the team. But that can only work if the team leader is accepted as such by the entire team.
  • Working communication
    An efficient team must be in constant contact with one another and exchange information. One hand has to know what the other is doing.

Team building: who belongs in a functioning team?

An efficient and well-functioning team is a heterogeneous group of people (see: Diversity). Homogeneity ensures harmony, not performance, creativity and success. Nevertheless, the compilation is often based on other selection criteria:

  • Who do I like?
  • Who must not be passed over?
  • Who is most likely to agree?
  • Who is easy to care for?

With such an approach, the easy route is chosen. The decision is also made against the know-how and expertise of colleagues who do not always agree. However, it is precisely these different approaches that bring about the best result. You can find out which types each team needs in our free PDF on team building, which you can download here:

8 important team types

Team building: why do perfect teams fail?

A perfect team is the big goal behind every team building. Unfortunately, however, a good working atmosphere and a good mood among employees are no guarantee of success. Even seemingly perfect teams can fail and deliver poor results. This is mainly due to the following causes:

  • The team has been working together for years
    A long time together has its advantages, but it can lead to stagnation. The fresh wind, the new impulses are missing. Many teams that work together for a long time tire each other out.
  • No mistakes are made
    Teams are often proud of a flawless record. On the one hand desirable, but at the same time a sign of a lack of development. We learn from mistakes, find better approaches and make optimizations.
  • Everyone always agrees
    No exhausting discussions, no compromises, no hesitation? Sounds like perfect collaboration, but leads to worse results. Everyone thinks they are and their own work is great, no one questions critically or takes the opposite position.
  • Decisions are made too quickly
    Speed ​​is not always the best choice. Sometimes it takes more information and the time to look at all of the options. When teams commit too quickly, it can be a hasty decision.
  • The members do not share any information
    Knowledge of domination is called when individuals - sometimes for highly selfish reasons - keep their knowledge to themselves. So in the end, the results are rather mediocre. On the other hand, it can help to encourage teams to have a say in companies.

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