30+ Tips for Effective Team Building
Getting a team to work efficiently requires focus on team building. But what are the best tricks for getting a team to bond and succeed? We’ll provide you over thirty science-backed tips for making the most of your team.
#1 Define the team’s goal
Studies have shown that teams work better when each member is aware of the end objective. A 2008 study stated “a well set goal will facilitate individuals to focus their efforts in a specified direction to achieve the expected outcomes”. Furthermore, the study outlined the importance of defining the team’s goals together with the team. You therefore want to pool ideas for the objectives.
Before the team sets up, have a meeting to create a list of the objectives that can help reach the end goal. This can guarantee everyone is aware of the team’s vision and members feel more involved, as they’ve been part of the whole process.
#2 Have clear roles and responsibilities for each member
As well as improving teamwork through well-defined goals, you also want to have clear roles and responsibilities for each member. Research published by Harvard Business Review Blog highlighted how clear roles can improve team collaboration, as it removes the “turf wars” element from team building. Everyone will be aware of their own job and the importance of this role for the success of the team.
The roles should also avoid overlapping, as this guarantees people don’t feel someone is ‘stepping on their toes’. It’s important to define these roles and responsibilities from the beginning and have the team influence their creation. The key is to ensure there’s clarity and accountability in setting the roles, as well as in fulfilling them.
#3 Give everyone a say
Organize team meetings in a way that inspires people to have a say. Speaking out doesn’t always need to involve giving an insightful opinion. Having a person simply read out participant names or outlining the minutes of the meeting from previous week can act as a catalyst for further conversation.
#4 Define rules together
Team building is more effective when the management doesn’t simply bring out a rulebook and enforce the rules from top down. You want the rules to be decided by the team.
Allowing the team to define the rules means everyone is more aware of them and it improves compliance. Since team members have been involved in setting out the rules, members are all accountable of the rules.
#5 Create a social contract
Create a social contract, which team members must sign before they start working. The social contract is a document outlining the rules set above, as well as describing the accepted and non-accepted behavior of team members. Furthermore, the social contract should include a section indicating the accountability process in case team members breach the contract.
#6 Review progress together
Since you’ve set out goals together as a team, you should also review progress together. You want the whole team to be aware of how close you are to achieving the objectives, as it can boost morale and provide feedback.
The focus should not be on negative feedback. If the team is lacking behind, the review shouldn’t be simply about the problems. You want to highlight the positive steps the team has taken and what has been working. Nonetheless, everyone should focus on things they can learn from the steps, whether they’ve been successful or not.
It’s a good idea to enhance team building by having team members provide positive feedback on each other.
#7 Have a “problem box”
Create an environment where people can highlight problems without the fear of immediate reaction and punishment. Having a ‘problem box’ set out can be an option for achieving this.
The box allows everyone to voice opinions and issues relating to team performance without an immediate reaction. Furthermore, it can allow anonymity, which can make it easier for people to speak out.
The management can review the feedback and then raise the issues at team meetings. This can be done without letting the team know who brought up the specific point and it can help reach a more calm and composed solution, as reaction isn’t immediate.
#8 Solve issues immediately
Effective team building requires an environment where issues are swiftly dealt with. If you allow resentment to build up, it can quickly grow into something much bigger.
It’s auspicious to assign a management team for solving problems and creating a system for solving problems. The steps the team take should remain consistent in all situations.
Furthermore, according to one social experiment a ‘bad apple’ can ruin a whole team. If team building is lacking, it might be important to ensure one team member isn’t ruining the effort. What’s the solution if this is the case? Unfortunately, rejecting the person out of the team can be the only option in certain cases.
#9 Celebrate achievements
When the team reaches a goal – small or big – it’s time to celebrate. Reveling in positive achievements can boost team morale and effectiveness. Celebrations also release feel good hormones and this can improve the way the team bonds.
Get your team to do high-fives, have a celebratory box of biscuits shared between the team or give everyone a 15-minute break after lunch. The little ‘treat’ doesn’t need to be impressive, you just want to recognize everyone for the hard work and effort.
#10 Get outside of the office
Getting outside of the office has been shown to improve team building and collaboration. It’s useful to get the team from everyday surroundings and into somewhere unexpected. This can boost innovation, but also drive communal mood within the team.
There are different ideas for getting out of the ideas. You could hold team meetings at a café or at the company lawn. Team building events can be organized for bigger impact. These could be events at museums or amusement parks, or just trips to experience how other organizations operate.
#11 Build unity with escape rooms
Escape rooms are a great team building activity. These involve the team being placed in a situation, such as a room, with limited resources, quizzes and puzzles, and the team’s objective is to find a way out of the room by using the resources and solving the problems.
Escape rooms enhance team innovation, as it calls for problem solving and thinking outside of the box. But more importantly, it can boost communal mood as the team tries to escape tricky situations together.
Watch the fun clip of CBS2 team try ‘escaping the room’:
#12 Build with legos
It might sound unbelievable, but the children’s toy can be a great tool for teaching the team strategy, communication and problem solving.
The premise is to create a Lego sculpture in secret from the rest of the team and the objective for the team is to replicate it. According to the rules, only one person can come up and view the sculpture, returning to teach the team about the structure.
#13 Instil humour to team work
The saying “Laughter is the best medicine” definitely holds true in team building. Humor is a great way to provide perspective and it can relax team members, enhancing bonding between people.
Instill humor to teamwork through fun cartoons, little jokes and even sessions of laughter therapy. You want to find a balance, as too much humor can take the focus away from the real work. A good idea would be to have something fun added to the team’s everyday work environment. For example, start the day with a humorous message on the white board and organize something ‘bigger’, such as viewing of a fun clip, every two to three weeks.
The key to using humor is to go for the ‘easy’ and accessible humor. You don’t want the fun things to offend or be difficult to enjoy. For instance, practical jokes can easily backfire and shouldn’t be used in a teamwork environment.
#14 Have small teams take a break
The occasional break from work is important for all of us. Breaks can, in fact, ensure you find new ideas and ways of solving things. This can be especially useful for teams working in the creative field where innovation is the key.
Every once in a while, break the team into smaller teams of two or three people. Have one of these groups spend a few hours away from their actual work, instead doing something fun. For example, they could come up with a fun team activity for the whole group.
They would still be “working”, meaning that they are using creativity and problem solving. But they can step back from the daily grind. Going away for a meal, to a spa, or just to sit outside in the park and play Frisbee can spark new ways of thinking and refresh the workers’ minds.
#15 Create a feedback scheme
Feedback shouldn’t be something the management provides only when things go wrong. Irregular feedback can easily become too focused on the negatives and it can keep employees stressed about receiving it. If the employee can’t prepare for receiving feedback, the sudden announcement of it can cause a lot of racing hearts.
Create a culture of regular feedback, a situation where people are prepared for it and ensure you focus on the positives. Don’t avoid negative criticism, but ensure it’s constructive and followed by the positives to take away from it.
#16 Map out personalities
Understanding the different personality types within the team can help make management easier and improve the way the team works together. Not to mention, the process of finding out a bit more about yourself can be extremely fun.
Mapping out your team’s personalities will help them understand each other and the best ways to approach different personalities. It can also provide information about your own behavior. The more you understand why people behave the way they do, the easier it can be to collaborate with them.
Check out personality tests such as P4 personality mapping and Meyers-Briggs.
#17 Embrace diversity
Try to ensure your team isn’t just a bunch of white males who like the exact same things in life. The more diverse your team, the more you receive ideas and different angles to solving things. Diversity adds more depth to your team and helps create an environment where all voices are equally valid.
Embrace diversity by celebrating the differences. Allow everyone to add their own flavor to meetings and respect each opinion. If people are negative within the group, the voices should be responded to and the negativity resolved. You should also ensure people share experiences to proper allow bonding to occur.
#18 Regularly check the “pulse”
The team’s pulse refers to the functioning of the team and how people view it. Regularly check the pulse by using questionnaires that explain how team members view things such as commitment, trust, communication and conflict resolution. If you find something new and different, or even alarming, adjust things in the team or in the processes the team uses.
#19 Provide more resources
Enhance effectiveness by ensuring the team has enough resources at its disposal. Resources aren’t important just for getting their job done, but also for improving team building.
Have books available on leadership and successful teams and allow team members to borrow them or read them during lunch breaks.
Hand out powerful quotes and exercises in team building and communication.
Organize a guest speaker to come and inspire the team with occasional talks.
#20 Allow informal team building
You don’t want hierarchy to get in the way of effectiveness and this can mean allowing more informal team building to take place. You don’t want to be too strict with the composition or prevent organic smaller teams from being born.
If the team seems able to solve issues informally in smaller groups or the teams ‘breath’ with different people joining other teams for, don’t stop it from happening.
#21 Cross-train employees
While team members should remain focused on their own tasks and use their specific skills to their and the team’s advantage, effectiveness can be improved through cross-training. A wider skill set and understanding of different elements of the team can guarantee team’s success isn’t reliant on a single person.
For example, if someone falls ill or even leaves the team, other members are able to step up and ensure the job gets done. Furthermore, cross-training improves team bonding, as it improves understanding and empathy. If you’ve been in another person’s shoes, you can feel more compassion towards them.
#22 Focus on result not process
Don’t let the team get too hung up on the process of achieving things. The aim is to reach goals and it doesn’t always matter what route you use to reach them. Ideally, the team only needs to focus on Objectives & Key Results (OKR).
Having clearly defined goals and measuring the performance can guarantee the vision remains clear to team members and the simplicity ensures you don’t burden anyone with unnecessary bureaucracy.
Only offer critique towards the process if the results have not been adequately achieved or the goal was delivered well out of schedule.
#23 Organize a playful competition
It is possible to improve co-operation and team bonding through competition. A playful competition can encourage passion, focus and the winning mentality across the team.
You just need to ensure the competition is playful enough to guarantee the team doesn’t start taking it too seriously, hindering co-operation and mood. Playful ideas include competitions such as: who takes the most steps during a workday, who spots the most animals outside of work (photos included), or who writes the most inspirational poem.
#24 Start a book/movie/article/play club
Improve team bonding through a monthly club of your choice. The aim is to have everyone in the team participate in the same thing within a specific time frame and then to have the team discuss their experience. The activity can be reading a book, seeing a movie or watching a play. Just ensure the activity is accessible to all.
There are plenty of benefits to this. It can improve team’s togetherness, as they are all experiencing the same thing. But also, the different activities can be another tool for increasing creativity and problem solving.
#25 Challenge everyone to try a new thing
Occasionally, you want the team to break the mould and try something new. New experiences are a powerful ‘food for thought’. Personal challenges can also inspire the team – seeing someone else conquer a new experience can make you feel more motivated to do the same.
Create a system where every six months, everyone has to do something new. This can be anything from eating a new cuisine, trying a new sport or activity, to travelling to a new city and so on. Afterwards, people need to report to the team and explain what they did, why they did it and what they learned from the experience.
#26 Encourage the use of technology
Teams should take advantage of technology for virtual team building and collaboration. Social media, for instance, is fantastic for bringing the team together and ensuring there’s a personal connection between the members outside of work.
#27 Allow flexibility
Flexibility has been found to improve effectiveness, as it improves job satisfaction. The more satisfied the team members, the better the team will co-operate. Furthermore, data has shown companies with flexibility programs don’t just have happier employees, but they are also more engaged.
Allow the team to pick their work hours and provide them the opportunity to work from home once a week, for example.
#28 Set daily priorities
Focus is important as it helps to have a more effective resource allocation. Therefore, have three to six daily priorities, either for the team as a whole or for each team member. The day’s focus is always on getting these done, after which everything else is extra – which can make everyone feel a lot better!
#29 Create interdependencies
A team cannot succeed without each member adding value. Therefore, the team must understand and foster interconnectedness. You should ensure everyone is prepared to step up when someone else needs help.
Encourage support structures by creating a peer or a buddy system, where everyone has a go-to person. Reward helpful behavior and ensure free riders are dealt with.
#30 Aim for serendipity
The so-called ‘shower thoughts’ are often the moments when the best ideas come. Not necessarily always the most easiest ideas to achieve, but the most innovative and out-of-the-box ways of solving issues.
But instead of pushing for serendipity, foster it by changing things around. Work in a different location, take a moment to do un-related exercises and tasks, have breaks together at the local café or even drinks at the bar after work; all of these are situations that can increase serendipity.
#31 Get the team involved with new hires
If you are including new members to the team through hiring, it can be beneficial to include the whole team in the process. This is especially crucial for smaller teams, where everyone is closely associated with each other.
You don’t need to have the team make the final decision, as this is ultimately up to the company to decide. Nonetheless, you can have them be part of the selection process. The team could select the final three candidates to interview or be part of deciding the important questions you should ask or the qualities you should be looking for.
#32 Create a collaborative atmosphere
Studies have shown the physical environment to have an impact on team building and effectiveness. People are influenced by colors and different structural choices are shown to impact how people interact with others.
Consider using an open plan office model and at least organize a gathering area with comfortable seating and plenty of tables. Having these kinds of areas available can mean team members feel more able to find flexibility in terms of collaboration.
You should also enhance team unity by having a wall for collaboration and communication. This can be a chalkboard to display the team’s goals and manifesto, along with photos of the team working together.
#33 Give a quirky gift for team members
You can further increase team morale with additional bonus surprises, such as gifts. Gifts are not only a way to thank the team for hard work; they also can act as a challenge.
You could hand out bonus gifts after the team achieves a goal. But instead of a financial bonus or a cookie, challenge the team to be more innovative with the gift. Give them a crossword puzzle, a cheese-making kit or a book about famous teams, whether business or sport.
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