What makes a good team building game

Before starting this discussion, lets agree that games are beneficial to your team building program. Then how do you find appropriate games to use. There are lots of games available on the Internet, in books and passed on through oral traditions. But not all these games are going to be beneficial to your team building program.

Lets face it. You don’t have unlimited time to build your team. In fact you probably don’t have any time to waste. So each activity and game the team members participate in must help to achieve your goals. So what criteria should you use when selecting games? (There are extra criteria for trust games.)

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If you keep these seven criteria in mind it will help. The games should involve:

social interactions – To increase the opportunities for the team members to build relationships the games should involve communication. It is fairly hard to play any game without some form of communication. So there must be more than just that. You want the game to get them talking to each other or discovering more about each other’s skills, personality, values and reliability. How the members should be involved the game depends on the teams working arrangement. It may be that these interactions should be as a whole team, in sub groups, triads or pairs.

thinking – Games should involve a range of thinking skills. The main ones used in team building games are analytical, creative, lateral, logical and systemic thinking skills. An improvement in the use of these skills will lead to enhanced problem solving skills and innovation. These are two highly valued skills of team members.

fun – This is a given. Games should be fun. If they are not fun then why would the team members want to participate. Just remember that fun comes in various levels from hilarious fun to deep satisfaction.

movement – To take a break from formal learning a success, you need to get the body moving and doing something different. The amount of movement in games will differ by the type of game you want to use. Energisers should stress movement. Whereas, team bonding and closure games may limit the amount of physical movement but expand the amount of movement within the mind with social interactions and different thinking skills.

engagement – There are two levels of engagement – captivate their interest in achieving the goal; inclusion of all team members irrespective of physical or mental impairment, gender, cultural beliefs or language fluency. All members of the team need to be engaged in each of the games. If someone is excluded they can feel less important and loss confidence in their role in the team.

risk taking – Any games that are designed to achieve the above goals will require some risk taking behaviour on the part of the participants. It may be talking to someone you don’t know (ice breakers) or doing something silly in front of others or invasion of personal space. Your task in selecting games for your team is to determine what level of risk the team is prepared to undertake at the time that are going to use the game.

speed – The game should quick: preferably completed in 10 – 15 minutes. The team members need to have a break and refocus but you don’t want to use too much time for this. The games should have goals that are accomplished quickly so there is a feeling of achievement or success at the end of this short time.

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4 Cs of effective team building programs

When it comes to designing a team building program you need to include skills development in the specific area in which the team is working as well as skills in being an effective team member. Often the former skill set is the one that is stressed with little attention paid to the latter. It is the level of the team building skills that can often make all the difference to the outcome of the team’s endeavours.

So what skills do team members need? When exploring which components should be in the team skills program there are four Cs to consider:

  • communication
  • creativity
  • collaboration
  • credibility.

These four characteristics are required for a balanced program that will build an effective team. Each of these four Cs have particular skills that need developing before team members will be competent in those areas. Not all teams need all of these skills. Informal teams will not require training in many of these skills. But members of high functioning teams will need competency in all these skills.

Communication: Proficiency in these skills is the basis of interpersonal relationships both within the team and with everyone with whom the team interacts. There are many forms of communication so highly effective teams diversify their communication skills.

Collaboration: Without the sharing of ideas there is no team just a group of individuals. The level of collaboration sets both the mood of the working environment and the synergy of the ideas.

Creativity: Skills in this area will differentiate an ordinary team achievement from an amazing accomplishment. Creativity does not necessarily mean talent in a particular artistic endeavour although it may. It encompasses creative thinking which can lead to innovation.

Credibility: It is accomplishment in these skills that will increase the speed of the team’s accomplishments and make the journey they follow more enjoyable. It also aids in the acceptance of the team’s ideas and performance by others.

Once you know which skills you need to develop in your team, then you can select games that also are developing these skills. These games will add value to your formal learning.

Facilitating team development – 10 characteristics

The facilitator of the team can be deemed to be the most important person in the team. They may not be known by the title of facilitator. They may be called a mentor, a leader, a teacher or a coach. Whatever their title, their role is critical to the successful creation of an effective team. In some team situations they may not be visible. But they are vital.

If you are a team leader (facilitator) rethinking your role, investigating if you should become team facilitator or trying to determine who should become a team facilitator (leader), then the following list could benefit you. There are some skills and qualities that are common to all highly successful team facilitators regardless of the type of team they are facilitating (leading). This list is not exclusive but gives a summary of the main attributes.

The ten most visible characteristics of successful facilitators building teams include:

  • prior experience in being a team member (generally in the same type of team) with an understanding of the roles of team members and the skills they require
  • enthusiasm for the role of facilitator encompassing an eagerness to develop the team members into a team combined with a willingness to continue learning
  • having a relaxed and cheerful personality that may also be called optimistic
  • objectivity when dealing with all of the team members and the ability to judge behaviours not people
  • excellent verbal and non verbal communication skills plus in some situations this may extend to good digital skills
  • being a first-class role model combined with a willingness to demonstrate and join in when required
  • holding a set of values that are in alignment with the corporate and/or community structures of the team
  • having a critical eye to see both potential talent and realise where new skills development is required
  • flexibility when faced with unforeseen obstacles barring immediate progress towards an agreed goal
  • inclusivity of all team members’ rights including disabled, indigenous and migrant members.

Teams are everywhere

When we talk about teams we often are referring to sporting teams. But there are lots of other teams out there. In fact, most of us are part of at least one team – sometimes many. So what are we meaning by the label team? The common definition of team is:

a group of people linked together to accomplish a common purpose.

So if we are considering 9 – 18 years olds, what types of teams might there be for them? They exist in the community and within schools. Here are just a few examples but there are many more:

  • leadership – student representative council (SRC), peer support mentors, etc.
  • environmental – recycling, low carbon footprint, gardening, etc.
  • social – yearbook, newsletter, dance organisation, web site, etc.
  • educational – debating, literacy mentors, public speaking, projects, etc.
  • health – drug awareness, first aid, fitness, etc.
  • artistic – choir, band, dance, photography, video, lighting, sound, costumes, set designs, etc.
  • sporting teams

Some of these teams are very loosely formed. In those teams the team members are brought together based on their skills in one area required for the team’s purpose e.g. lighting team. Members of teams such as this receive support and coaching to sharpen their skills so that they can successfully achieve their goals e.g. provide spectacular lighting effects for the dramatic presentation. They may also receive some skill development in teaming.

Other teams are more high functioning and may be required to make decisions for others; e.g. SRC. These teams are generally trained primarily in their role as team members. The training will include the skills of teaming plus the unique skills to achieve their goals. Facilitation for this training is generally perceived as an adult role.

There is a wide range of team types and requirements for teaming skills. One impressive component of the team building process can be games. They can break up the formal training adding energy and excitement. For more information on this go to the Games to develop teams web site.