Team Building Made Easy
First, let us define for the reader, the exact composition of a team. A team is a small number of people usually ten or less who are chosen because they have complimentary skill sets, share common goals and are willing to hold themselves accountable for their results Katzenbach & Smith, (1999). For the purpose of this paper we will assume the writer has just been tasked to lead a ten person team. Several members of the newly formed group have worked together with some difficulty in the past. In order to achieve optimal results, everyone will be put through a series of team building exercises designed to create a common commitment amongst its members to achieve project goals Katzenbach & Smith, (1993).
Team building begins when you share information about the purpose of the exercise Miller, (2004). The goals of the exercise are to build and maintain trust, foster collaboration and enhance competence Zemke, (2004); Harvard Business Essentials, (2004). Let us now examine the impact three team building exercises have on group performance.
The first exercise involves the members of a group sitting around a table each with a pen and one piece of paper. The instructions to the group are as follows: Look at the person on your left and write down two things you believe that person does extremely well while at work. When everyone is done, each member is asked to hand their paper to the member on their left. The member on the left reads aloud what their peer has just written about them. A revelation occurs for almost all the members and it is, “The people I work with must really think I am good.” The morale of the individual and the group improves significantly. I have used this strategy successfully in the past to promote trust and collaboration between my charge nurses. The second exercise centers around building communication competence. The instructions to the group are as follows: Everyone must close their eyes and no questions may be asked until the exercise is over. First, fold your paper in half and then in half again. Next, fold it in half one more time. Now rip off the right corner of the paper. Then turn your paper over and rip off the upper right corner. Please open your eyes and compare your paper to everyone else’s. What’s the take away? Communication on a good day is an imprecise art and the only dumb question ends up being the one you don’t ask Miller, (2004). This exercise fosters collaboration and better communication between group members. In addition it serves to create an atmosphere of trust as you have to trust the other person is going to give you good information when you ask them a question. The third activity focuses on cooperation and collaboration between individual members of a group and between groups. Divide the group into two teams of five. Give each a bag of puzzle pieces and let each group begin to assemble their puzzles. What you haven’t told anyone is that each group has pieces the other needs to complete their puzzle.
When it is discovered each cannot solve their puzzle without help from the other group, negotiation ensues. Here is the $64,000 dollar question: will they ask the manger to intervene if they reach an impasse or will they be able to reach a creative solution by working together? In this scenario, everyone not only has to play well with each other but with another group who may or not share their same goals or values. It could become the ultimate test of collaboration between individuals and groups and should reveal the strengths and weaknesses of individual members and also of each group Miller, (2004).
In conclusion, the success or failure of team building activities seems to center around pairing the correct goals and selecting the right activity to support the makeup of each group Olsen, (2012); Miller, (2004). This requires validation i.e. is the exercise related to the goal Ridley, (2011) and also feedback to the group with respect to their progress Leigh, (2009). The one question that every manager should ask and few ever do is, “What is the return on my investment,” Can I relate successful team building efforts to gains in productivity or increased revenues?” Ridley, (2011). With ROI as the measuring stick, you may stay the course or have to consider additional options.
A Leigh, “Prove It! Making Sense of the ROI from Developing People,” Training & Management
Development Methods, 2009, pp 1–7.
Harvard Business Essentials: Creating Teams with an Edge, February 19, 2004.
J R Katzenbach and D K Smith, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance
Organization (New York: HarperBusiness, 1999), p 45.
J R Katzenbach and D K Smith, “The Discipline of Teams,” Harvard Business Review, March–April
1993, p 112.
Miller, B., (2004), “Quick Teambuilding Activities for Busy Managers: 50 Exercises That Get
Results in Just 15 Minutes,” N.Y., New York: Amacom.
M Ridley, “Are You Wasting Money on L&D?,” Training Journal, February 2011.
Olsen, L. (2012, June 28) Do Corporate Team-Building Events Really Work? Retrieved from:
R Hastings, “Broken Trust Is Bad for Business,” Society of Human Resource Management, March 7, 2011.
R Zemke, “Little Lies,” Training, February 2004, p 8.