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Informal team building exercises that can make a difference

11 June, 2015

Okay, so you booked everyone into a fabulous resort for two days of team building exercises and the only thing that really built was the bar tab.

In every other respect – what with the alcohol-induced shenanigans between accounts and sales; the alcohol-induced karaoke strip show by senior management; and the alcohol-induced 'home truths' by everybody else – it was more a team demolition job. Amazingly companies the world over persist with these outrageously expensive staff swill-fests to foster 'bonding', when all they really cultivate is humiliation and hangovers.

Yet to be successful, these 'Missions of Morale' don't have to be the team building equivalent of the Great Pyramids. Tents can achieve a far better result for far less. So here are a few informal, cheap and cheerful ways to get your team ticking like a TAG Heuer.

Not communicating? Egg them on

Too often managers plan team building exercises with absolutely no idea what the exercise is supposed to build. Communication, or a lack of it, is a recurrent issue for most companies and The Great Egg Drop is a great way to break the ice, or egg as the case may be.

Divide your staff into teams of four and make each team as incompatible and volatile as it can possibly be. Each team is given a raw egg and has two hours to build a package capable of keeping their egg intact after an 8 foot drop. All you have to do is supply a cheap range of materials, then sit back and watch the mayhem. Hopefully an innate desire to win will soon have arch enemies collaborating like twins.

Survive and thrive

Another oldie but goodie for fostering better communication is the desert island survival scenario. Each group will be cast away for a month on a remote desert island (hypothetically speaking) and as a group they have to decide on the 12 things they are allowed to take with them.

It'll get passionate and personal, but in the end your groups will have to act like a jury and reach a verdict. Along the way they'll argue, laugh, learn about each other and maybe get a tiny bit closer.  

Back-to-back duelling, I mean drawing

Does your company have some real personality clashes? This is a great exercise for pairing up the staff equivalent of sulphuric acid and mercury and seeing if it explodes. You're looking for maximum incompatibility in your pairs.

Each pair sits on the floor back-to-back, one with a picture of a shape, the other with pencil and paper. The person with the picture then has to tell the drawer how to draw the shape without saying what it is. Give points for the fastest in each round and there's nothing like a grand prize for ending a cold war.

Build lots of tents

If you think a couple of quick bonding exercises every year will have your team spirit set in concrete, think again. Team building should be a regular, ongoing part of your company calendar and there's no shortage of team building websites for ideas. Avoid sports.

Yes, the more athletic will enjoy the chance to show off. The less athletic will hate the chance of being shown up. Stick to simple team games anyone can excel at, games that call for a team effort, not individual stardom.

Pinpoint areas of weakness in your company culture or performance. Communication is a recurring one, but it may be about building confidence or trust in each other to overcome micromanagement and criticism. Monitor results often and modify team building exercises to fill any new cracks in your company culture.

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