Your team won’t stay together just because they work together. If you don’t give your team a chance to bond, you’ll spend more time handling workplace drama and politics instead of getting work done. You can use team bonding activities to encourage cooperation outside of the office and strengthen workplace bonds.
Team building helps everyone get to know and trust their fellow coworkers, but you don’t build trust overnight. Your team goes through gradual stages as they grow from a collection of strangers to efficient collaborators. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s team building model describes three stages — forming, norming, and performing—to show how teams can become more united over time.
During the performing stage, everyone is working together at their highest potential. If your team reaches this stage, they’ve built the highest level of commitment, trust, and support for one another. It means that they’re at their most productive and are highly motivated to achieve team goals.
Here we’ll break down each of the stages and suggest team bonding activities that you can use outside of the office to both inspire and increase trust on your team.
Stage 1: Host a team picnic for forming
Forming happens when your team first comes together. Team members learn about each other, project requirements, and the leadership structure. This is also the information gathering stage. They’re beginning to form impressions of how well they’re going to work together.
You might be at this stage if you’re a brand new company, hired a bunch of new people, or if your employees are just not getting along.
With this in mind, you can use a team picnic to help everyone get to know each other better. Your team can share a meal outdoors and chat with their coworkers to get those first impressions out of the way. Here are three examples that you could use at your next company picnic to spark discussions.
- Find 10 Things in Common: Tell every team member to try to find ten things they have in common with everyone else in the group. This will encourage them to discuss and discover similarities between themselves and their coworkers. After they’re done, then randomly choose one team member to read their list aloud.
- Balloon Pop: Have everyone write an interesting fact about themselves on a small piece of paper, fold it, and put it in a blown up balloon. Then, have each person take turns popping a balloon, reading the facts, and trying to guess who wrote it.
- One Word: Choose a question that you want everyone on your team to answer, such as: What’s one word you would use to describe what you like about your work? After everyone shares their one word, then let everyone discuss why they chose that word for their answer.
You can order a variety of gourmet food truck catering services, such as Roaming Hunger or PDX Sliders, so no one has to worry about preparing food at your company picnic. Your team can enjoy a quick tasty meal outdoors and have more time to enjoy the ice breaker activities you planned.
We naturally bond over food — eating the same food increases people’s trust and cooperation. But team picnics outside of the office will help everyone have fun and get acquainted with each other in an informal setting.
Stage 2: Organize a problem-solving exercises for norming
In the norming phase, teams become more cooperative. Team members start to understand and appreciate each other’s work habits, ethics, and roles. This helps them respect team leaders and compromise with their coworkers.
They acknowledge the talents, skills, and experience that each team member brings to the table. They’re more willing to trust and depend on one other to get work done.
Try a Scavenger Hunt
Once your team has learned how to get along and function together, this is the ideal time to have your team collaborate on a team building exercise like a group scavenger hunt. Your team will strengthen the social bonds they’ve already started to form, and they’ll get to practice cooperation and communication in a more relaxed setting.
Consider organizing a high-tech interactive scavenger hunt with an app like Scavify. With this app, you can build a list of challenges for your team members to complete as they explore a town. For example, if they’re in New York, you could have them take a group picture from the castle in Central Park. You can reward them for correct answers to trivia questions or include GPS challenges to encourage them to explore a specific location together.
With a scavenger hunt activity, your team is actually developing work skills like communication and collaborative problem-solving. But it seems more fun and relaxed when you’re doing it outside of a project deadline. You learn who the natural leaders, creative types, and methodical problem solvers are on your team.
Give an Escape Room a Shot
Escape rooms challenge a group of people to work together to solve a bundle of puzzles and logic problems to free themselves from a themed chamber. When it comes to team building, escape rooms are perfect for revealing the personalities and stress-handling abilities of all involved.
Plus, escape rooms are timed — the team has to come together and mesh their wits, guts, and creativity if they want to escape “alive.” Companies like Breakout Games, Escape The Room, and Mastermind all have escape room locations spread far and wide (and offer deals for corporate team-building), not to mention smaller companies that have seemingly popped up in every mall.
You don’t even have to all leave the office (or the home, for remote teams) to participate in an escape room. BreakoutGames and others offer online digital escape rooms, while companies like LockPaperScissors allow you download “escape kits” to play in your office or home.
Stage 3: Participate in volunteer work for performing
In the performing stage, your team really starts shining and working together harmoniously. They’re motivated to work towards the team’s goals with efficiency and enthusiasm. Team leaders can delegate much of their work and focus on boosting team morale rather than constantly supervising their employees.
But even once you’ve achieved this goal of performing as a team, you want to keep the momentum going. Charity work is a way to reinforce those bonds while encouraging teams to give back to the community. Here are some ways you can encourage your team to participate together in charitable activities.
- Choosing a Charity: You can choose to support an organization that is personally important to team members. For example, you may have an employee who recently lost a relative to breast cancer. In that case, you might encourage your team to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Do you have dog and cat lovers in your organization? Suggest volunteering at local animal shelters or for the Animal Rescue Team.
- Sponsorships: You can use charitable activities as a part of your annual marketing campaign. For instance, you could sponsor and participate in a 5K walk with your team. The day of the event, your team can show up wearing company T-shirts to advertise your participation.
- Designate time for Volunteering: If charity work requires your team to give up one day on the weekend, then consider rewarding them with a day off. Alternatively, you could give your team paid time off to pursue volunteer activities together. There are plenty of ways to incentive your workers to volunteer like gift certificates, donuts, bonus pay, or even better parking.
Prosocial behavior like charity work encourages employees to feel more empowered and inspired to give back to their team. It promotes personal growth and self-esteem, which will boost employee morale and engagement and keep those team bonds strong.
Corporate volunteer programs are on the rise specifically because they benefit employees and organizations in so many ways. Bank of America, SalesForce, and StateFarm (just to name a few) have all built successful employee volunteer programs that all have helped their communities and their employees sense of accomplishment and well-being.
Team building for transforming
Each team building activity can bring everyone closer together, whether they’re just starting out in the forming stage or at their highest potential in the performing phase. But your team can return to any phase within this team building model, such as when old members leave or new hires join your company. So you need to be flexible in your team building approach as the team’s life cycle changes.
As your team grows and evolves, it will go through another stage known as transforming. Transforming is when your team moves onto other goals and projects cohesively. Your adaptable team-building approach will propel your team to be more united and productive as they tackle new goals.
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