Trying to get off the ground with a new team? Looking for a way to get some bonding going sooner rather than later? Want to make it fun? Developing a sense of team within your group is critical to do early on.
If you dive right into a project without building the team, you may end up experiencing growing pains the hard way, in the middle of your work. People have a need to figure out how they fit into the group. By the end of this post, you will have several ideas for how to get that bonding started, and one very fun way to get from clusters of “me” to the concept of “we” in your group.
“We Will Now Commence Team Building…”
One way to start building a sense of team is with games and exercises. There are lots of options out there. The best ones get people to play or work together to accomplish a goal. These ideas really do work, and they can be fun if presented well. Here is a link to lots of great ideas.
But it’s hard to start right out with a group of people, tell them you will now do a “team building” event, and then get them to buy in to the program. In fact, the minute you put that label on it, you might even start to get a little resistance.
But there is one way that you can use almost immediately to start building your team into a great organization. What’s the ground-breaking idea? Just go have fun.
We recently returned from a week of Scout summer camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Fully a third of our group was brand new to the troop and the camp experience. Getting the new guys to the point where they felt a part of the group was a bit of a challenge. Even by the second day, it still felt a lot more like a bunch of individuals than three teams, and the new guys tended to hang with each other instead of with their teams.
Go on an Adventure
What we needed was something that would cause the members of each team to bond. We did it by letting them take an adventure together. Here is how we approached it, and how you can put the same ideas to work for you.
Make it a Team Decision. We presented each of the three group leaders six different adventure options, carved out some time when they could go, and let the team meet to decide what they wanted to do. There were hikes to hill tops, trips to hang out at the lake, and swimming in a river near a water fall, plus several more.
We told them we needed to know by next evening what their decision was. Over the next day it was fun to watch the groups get together to discuss their choice. Some groups decided quickly, others took their time, one group asked to do three of them. This was their own special event, and it was bringing them together to define it.
Make it Exclusive. One of the goals in team building is to develop a sense of identity within the team. To help get there we made the event for that group alone. No one from outside the group could participate. They would be able to feel that they were the only ones doing what they did and could have special stories to tell and experiences to share.
Make it Inclusive. Whatever they chose, all members within the team had to be able to participate. It’s not bonding if a couple people are off doing their own thing or unable to do what everyone else is doing. What they chose to do had to be something they could enjoy together.
Make it Fun and Active. Of course this was critical. They had to want to do it in the first place. But while video games can be fun, they aren’t active, and don’t cause people to work together and relate in the same way as a more physical activity. The point is to increase supportive interaction among teammates in the real world, since that’s where we all live most of the time.
Visualize Success. Before setting out, we talked with the leaders about what success looks like and how they would know they had achieved it. Some of the measures of success they came up with were seeing lots of smiles, everyone interacting with everyone, encouraging each other, and stretching each other in a positive way. And when it was over, recounting stories with each other and others outside the team about what they did and what was great about it.
Model the Goal
It’s one thing to describe what you are looking for; much better if you can show them what you mean. So that’s what we did – I took the leaders to Fossil Rock.
The leaders had heard of this place, where you could climb a short cliff face and jump from a rock ledge into the river. I had told them that it was probably too dangerous to take the whole troop with all the younger Scouts – it would be too crowded, hard to manage. But since they were all older and more experienced and a smaller group, it would be OK to take them. Were they interested? Yes! Fun and Exclusive, yet Inclusive, all in one.
With the senior guy taking charge, we hiked to the river, ate lunch on the rocks, and spent a couple hours climbing and jumping into the river. No structure, no planned events. They did what they as a group thought would be fun to do, and had fun doing it.
Hiking back to camp, we talked about how we were feeling, and what had made it fun. Then we challenged the team leaders to try to achieve the same feeling with their adventures the next day. They were pumped up to do the same with their guys.
Why it worked
Choosing their own adventure forced the teams to work together and get input from everyone; it was what they wanted to do, not what they were being told to do. It gave the leader something he could be in charge of, and it got him away from the rest of the hierarchy that had a tendency to try and tell him what to do; it was his show, and he knew it, and so he stepped up and owned it.
Interestingly, all three groups chose the same adventure – at “Cool Dip” they got to swim in the river, jump off some rocks into the water, and slide down some rapids. To keep it exclusive, we separated the trips by time. One went at noon and took a lunch; one went in mid-afternoon, and a third went in the cool of the evening after dinner. Though the groups went to the same place, they still did things their own way and had their own unique experiences.
By the end of the day, each group had made its own decisions, organized themselves, led themselves, and successfully did what they had chosen to do. And they had fun. In just a couple hours playing in the river, these three groups of individuals had become a bit closer together as a team, the leaders had stepped forward a little more assertively, and for the rest of the week, it was fun to watch the teams grow closer and work better together.
Team Building – The Takeaway
Before trying to tackle a difficult task as a new group, it helps to build a sense of team. People work better on teams when they are comfortable with each other, understand a little bit about who they are working with, and feel that they are a welcome member of the group. This helps with communication, fosters informal interaction, and develops a sense of trust and unity among the members and with the leader.
Before your next event with a new team, try doing something fun together. If you follow the steps above, it will bring everyone closer together, and you just might have some fun in the process.
Question: What are some fun team building activities and adventures closer to home that you could do as a group to get the same effect?
Share your comments below. And be sure to sign up now for twice-monthly Leadership Updates with more tips and exclusive content not available elsewhere on the site!