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If you are a new leader on an established team or building a team from scratch, the synergy of the talent is what makes it successful. That doesn’t just happen. You must actively foster camaraderie with your talent, so you all end up on the same page. It’s not about liking everyone (which helps). It’s about respecting and understanding each team member and how they approach their job, relationships, and adversity. Enter team building activities, a term saddled with corny stereotypes like Trust Falls or Corn Circles (I made that one up).
Team building activities
The truth is, I have used team-building activities as a design leader to great effect. It gave me insight into the individuals on my team and ultimately helped me help them grow and thrive at work. Here are some of the things we did as a team.
Hot Sauce Challenges
You learn a lot about a person when you watch them ingest hot pepper sauce on their lunch. Hot Sauce Challenges are a great team-building activity as you and your reports bond over shared misery. In my case, I leaned on the Hot Ones branded sauces from Heatonist. The monthly subscription plan allowed me to hold these lunch activities consistently, then torture my family at home with spicy marinades. The team building only worked in the office. Home life became spicy in more ways than one.
Show and Tell
Get to know your direct reports by holding Show and Tell meetings. Take a break from the work day and allow your team to share things they enjoy, what inspires them, and even what they don’t like. Knowing what makes the members of your team tick will help you delegate assignments more effectively, manage their career growth, and get the best work out of them. Also, in my personal experience, you learn something with each Show and Tell. I’ve been introduced to new art forms and cultural activities I would never have known about if my amazing team members didn’t bring them to my attention. Think of it as an empathy-focused group learning activity that brings everyone a little closer together.
I think this one is pretty popular, but the list wouldn’t be complete without it. Game nights! The switch to all virtual nights hasn’t hampered the game night format at all. Jackbox is a great go-to, exposing team members’ thinking processes. The things people tend to write in Quiplash will better enlighten you about their thoughts and feelings than any 1-on-1. A host of online games will facilitate upwards of ten folks. If you are looking for more in-person games, Board games like Ticket To Ride, 5-Minute Dungeon, Uno, or classic rounds of Rock’ Em Sock’ Em, Robots can facilitate god, old-fashion team joy.
This goes back to my college days, sitting in Advertising class as all of our work got decimated by the professor. There’s no more humbling experience than getting your ad torn off the wall without a second glance. Every student was in completion to have our ad featured during the critique, but we also fostered a bond through a shared trauma. We shared our ideas before class and helped each other to push the concepts further before our inevitable failure in the course. I brought this idea to the workplace, sans our professor’s bluntness. Every Friday, my team and I would present what they worked on during the week. It gave everyone insight into the different projects and, more importantly, design problems across the organization. We gave design feedback and insights from multiple perspectives and assisted each project as a team, establishing design consistency and inevitably building a design system we could all reference.
This one wasn’t my idea. It was my boss. Her team building consisted of us attacking each other with lasers in a knockdown, drag-out brawl. It was some of the most fun I had with co-workers. The event made us work together in a fast-paced environment and develop quick communication tactics to achieve our goal of decimating the competition. The teams were constantly swapping, so we could work with members of our team who we probably didn’t speak with often. These moments translated into better relationships in the office, giving everyone a story with each team member. Ultimately we all grew closer, and that made working together much smoother.
Also, I won.
What team building activities do you emply to boost morale and improve commuication? Let me know!