How to use free team building activities and team building exercises

Before I share with you some great free team building activities let’s consider what a team is?

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skilss who are committed to a common purpose set of performance goals, and shared approach for which they hold themselves accountable."(Kazenbach and Smith (1993)

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There are 3 sources of learning in team development situations. Social learning about relationships, process learning about team norms and processes and lastly purpose learning about vision and goals.

8 Step Leaders Guide to eam Activities
Check out our 8 team work activities steps for leaders to go about building a high performing team?

Characteristics of an effective team:

  • Common vision and purpose
  • The right talent with specific roles each member assumes to accomplish the group objectives
  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Distributed participation and leadership
  • Appropriate and effective team decision-making
  • Trust, acceptance, and support among members
  • Members who feel significant and are motivated
  • Good Team Leader fit
  • The right organisational support and resources

    Team Building" is the process of aligning and engaging diverse individuals into a Team. Team building takes many forms and shapes. Having a drink at the bar with colleagues after work can be as an effective piece of (almost) free team building activities as any. The key thing about effective teams is that they have good processes for establishing compromise agreement.

    There is definitely a place for doing team building for a bit of fun, after all that might just be what the team needs to lift their engagement. There is also a place for team building that focus on team processes, helping the team reflect and practice behaviours to make the team more effective overall.

    But if you want a high performing team, you have no choice but to clarify and get into the purpose of the team and what is expected of it by the organisation.

    More on team development and learning

    More information about free team building activities here
    More information on team work activities here

    Nine Steps in Developing a Team Plan


    1. Prepare the Team Planning Session
      - prior to the session participants will need to have an understanding strategic 
        directions discussions to date, financial and other targets

    2. Agree why this team exists and what it delivers
      - consensus on the team objectives needs to happen along with identification of
        measurable outcomes and the strategic direction

    3. Identify key result areas (KRA’s)
      There should be agreement in the focus areas of:
      - strategic positioning and competitiveness
      - customer/consumer management
      - world class operational performance
      - organisational, team and employee capability

    4. Develop measures against KRA’s
      - agree financial and non-financial measures

    5. Develop action plans
      - for each KRA

    6. Identify who is accountable
      - document specific responsibilities and accountabilities

    7. Specify timeframes and documents

    8. Cascade plans to the next level of teams
      - a similar process should then be undertaken for functional teams at the next 
        level down in the organisation

    9. Develop employee plans based on team plans
      - the team plan forms the basis of the individual plan for each employee.
    10. Click here for more information on team building for Executive and Senior Teams

      What are the usual phases of a team's development?


      A team is a dynamic and changing entity. It is helpful to think about where your team is at before you start implementing free team building activities. Many team s progress in their effectiveness as they mature, however many teams  get stuck and never become high performing teams. Tuckman's model proposed the following typical phases in team development:


      4.1 Forming: This is the initial orientation period. The team is unsure about what it is supposed to do, members do not know each other well or are not yet familiar with the way the team leader and the other members function. This stage is complete when the members begin to see themselves as a part of the group.


      CA use most types of free team building activities: trust, team purpose, relationship building, problem solving,


      4.2 Storming: This is a sorting out period where members begin to find their place as team members. The team members now feel more comfortable giving their opinion and challenging the team leader's authority and recommendations. Some members may become dissatisfied and challenge not only the tasks of the team and how these will be carried out, but also the leader's role and style of leadership. This is the start of intragroup conflicts.

      Focus is on team purpose, relationship building,


      4.3 Norming: Team members begin to use their past experiences to solve their problems and pull together as a cohesive group. This process should result in the team establishing procedures for handling conflicts, decisions, and methods to accomplish the team projects. Focus is on relationship building, problem solving,


      4.4 Performing: In this phase the team has achieved harmony, defined its tasks, worked out its relationships, and has started producing results. Leadership is provided by the team members best suited for the task at hand. Members have learned how to work together, manage conflict and contribute their resources to meet the team's purposes. Focus is on refining team purpose, enhancing relationship building, more complex problem solving,


      4.5 Dissolving or reorientating: The team dissolves when the team has completed the project. It may be reoriented to continue on a next phase of the project.



      When to Use a Team Building Process:


      While team building is essential to newly formed groups or an organization with a large number of new members, there are other times it can be effective as well. You might find it helpful to use team building techniques when:

      ·         Team is not performing at a high level

      ·         Team members seem bored or irritable

      ·         Individuals are drifting away from the group or going off in different directions

      ·         There is a great deal of conflict or "infighting"

      ·         The team has been apart for a while (i.e., separate working, breaks, vacations, etc.)

      ·         You want to lift team spirit or take a break from the normal routine



      Free Team Building Activities:


      For ease I Have categorised these free team building activities into these categories:

      ·         Relationship Building

      ·         Trust Exercises

      ·         Physical Exercises

      ·         Problem Solving

      ·         Purpose Exercises

      Relationship Building Exercises

    11. These free team building activities help breakdown barriers in new and disrupted teams and are appropriate for teams that are required to work closely together.
      Shield Exercise Team members make a personal coat of arms in which they express important aspects about themselves through drawings. You can divide the shield into 4 or 6 sections on a piece of flipchart paper. Possible topics/questions to include in the shield : how you feel now, pet hates, most prized possessions, career, best holiday, goal for the year etc...10 to 15 minutes to create and 2 minutes to publically feedback.
      Introduction Interviews: Team members pair off and interview one another for 5 minutes each. Partners introduce each other to the group speaking in the first person (using "I") as if s/he were the person being introduced. They should be sure to include everything s/he can remember about their partner.
      Two Truths and a Lie Time Required: 15-30 minutes Each team member secretly writes down two truths about themselves and one lie on a small piece of paper. This is not revealed to anyone. Once each person has done this, allow 10-15 minutes for open conversation – much like a cocktail party – where everyone quizzes each other on their three questions. The idea is to convince others that your lie is actually a truth, while on the other hand, you try to guess other people’s truths/lies by asking them questions. After the conversational period, gather in a circle and one by one repeat each one of your three statements and have the group vote on which one they think is the lie. This icebreaker encourages mixing and helps the team get to know each other.

      Trust Exercises : Thease free team building exercises generally rely on some form of physical contact and have the added component of requiring team participants to trust one another in order to complete the activity. These trust exercises are generally appropriate for most groups, but they can be physically dangerous if not handled properly. Special care needs to be given to those participants who are nervous about participating.
      • Trust Walks: members take turns being blindfolded and led by another on a short walk.
      • Trust Falls: members fall backwards into each others arms feet together. A scaled up version is where participants stand on a raised platform (a chair will suffice) and fall backwards in the arms of the other members.

      Physical Exercises : These free team building activities help eliminate tension and distance between people, makes them more relaxed and comfortable with one another. These exercises are appropriate for most groups, but beware of individual reactions to touching/ being touched.

      Human Knot: members stand in a circle and extend their right hands into the middle and clasp the hand of another. Repeat process using the left hand. (Do not hold the hand of the person standing next to you) Untangle the knot without unclasping hands.

      Human Circle: team members form a circle by holding hands with the persons next to them. Without letting go of each other's hands try to turn the circle inside out.

      Click here for more information on team building for Executive and Senior Teams

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