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12 Surprisingly Effective Yet Unconventional Team-Building Exercises

Reposted article by Forbes Human Resource Council via Forbes Originally published December 30, 2019 

Our HR Leader, Patricia Sharkey and Member of the Forbes Council on Human Resources was featured in this Forbes article with some great suggestions of surprisingly effective, yet unconventional team-building exercises.

Team-building is necessary for any business or group that needs to function as a unified entity. It builds cooperation, trust and anticipation of the needs of other team members.

However, as many professionals can attest, not all team-building exercises are the same in terms of effectiveness. It depends heavily on the type of individuals that make up the team. The group’s ability to work together as a unit is also of critical importance.

Despite these limitations, there are a few practical exercises and activities that many human resources departments may overlook because of how outlandish they seem. Here, 12 associates of Forbes Human Resources Council share the strange yet effective team-building exercises they’ve actually seen work.

1. Employee Trivia Games

Twice a year, we ask employees to send us some details about themselves and we arrange that information into a Jeopardy-style game board. All employees clear their schedules to come and play a loosely-scored, super-fun round of “employee trivia.” People see they can safely open up, and the fun facts we learn help build conversations and relationships. – Gina Deciani, Association for Supply Chain Management

2. Making Your Own Job Title

I love this exercise! In a group of peers, think about your role and how it impacts your organization. Now make up your own, ideal job title given your role. Then go around and discuss. This opens up a dialogue on what people value and don’t value in their roles and how they view their role in the overall company. This can be helpful for peers and managers to understand when doing projects. – Kelly Loudermilk, BuildHR, Inc.

3. Personality Assessments

Personality and working style assessments like StrengthFinder and Myers Briggs are a great way to create empathy within a team. The discussions that arise from sharing your personal scores help develop inclusivity and collaboration. They can also help you uncover gaps or strengths within the team, allowing you to customize and improve your hiring and training strategies. – Katie Evans-ReberWonolo

4. Escape Rooms

One of the most fun and effective team-building activities I’ve been a part of was teaming up for escape rooms. Teams were chosen at random and each event had great incentives for those who did the best. The reason why escape room team building was so great was because everyone had a chance to contribute to their team’s success, assess each other’s problem-solving skills and test their equanimity. – Dr. Timothy J. Giardino, Cantata Health & Meta Healthcare IT Solutions

5. Unexpected Team Experiences

Having an interesting and unexpected team experience takes teams out of the everyday and creates a shared, memorable moment. We’ve had a professional juggler teach us how to juggle, and an artist lead us on an exploration of inspiration through creativity. Both allowed our team to share with and learn from each other and created an unforgettable memory. – Sara Whitman, Hot Paper Lantern

6. Creating A Mantra For The Year

I was attending a small intimate event for HR leaders designed to bring in the personal along with the professional for a close community experience. We were asked to think about what mantra or phrase best represented our year behind, as well as one that would represent our hope for the year ahead. We went around the group to share our mantra and the context of each. It was so insightful. – Bianca McCann, SAP SuccessFactors

7. Physical Activity Paired With Creative Thinking

A great team-building and brainstorming activity can be combined with the fresh perspective of getting outside. Take a Frisbee or a ball, bring your team outside, and whoever catches the object needs to share their idea or build upon the last idea. Physical activity combined with creative thinking is a great way to get the team to let their guard down and learn how to work together. – Cat Graham, Cheer Partners

8. Working Hard Together

A good way to build teamwork is to actually do work. Are you working hard as a team? When you work hard as a team you learn how others handle stress and pressure. Many teams who work hard at work, do not need teamwork activities. If you are working hard together and want to get closer, do an activity that causes you to think and work hard together (e.g., canoeing, serving the homeless, etc.). – Ben Martinez, Ramp Talent

9. Team Videos

We created our own “Workers Compensation Safety” video. It was good fun and silly, and since the employers were the actors, camera and sound people, they really learned to lift by using their knees. – Patricia Sharkey, IMI People

10. Leadership Simulations

Team-building activities like cooking school, obstacle course, escape room, scavenger hunt, comedy improv or mini golf can help build trust and align teams to a common goal and direction. Investment in these exercises is known to bridge differences — organizational, geographic and cultural. They also build leaders, enhance commitment and bond teams. – MJ Vigil, PEMCO Insurance

11. Volunteering As A Team

Though it’s become more conventional in recent years, volunteering provides an opportunity for employees to work together in a team-building environment, while giving back to the community or helping those less fortunate. This provides a sense of camaraderie among coworkers, demonstrates servant leadership and helps boost the employer brand, all while serving a greater good. – John Feldmann, Insperity

12. Practicing Gratitude

Practicing gratitude together as a team is an excellent team-building exercise. One great idea is to send notecards around the table and have team members take one and write what they’re grateful for and proud of as a member of the team. This builds team spirit and great energy to help create results. Opening up and talking about these “softer” topics really helps connect people within a team. – Anne Iversen, TimeXtender

Anastasia Valentine
Anastasia Valentine is the Vice President of AI Technology Commercialization at Rhonda.ai. With over 20 years of experience building and scaling companies globally, Anastasia has held executive leadership roles with startups to billion-dollar companies in the areas of innovation, commercialization, marketing and sales. She is passionate about helping companies from idea through to launch, scaling organizations and building high performing teams. Anastasia is an accomplished community leader and a passionate advocate of women in STEM, education and entrepreneurship. She is a regular keynote speaker at conferences on the topics of leveraging technology to scale, business growth and inspiration.

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