Team Building Activities for Following Directions

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When you look up ideas for a following directions game online, you might be surprised to find that most of the articles are directed towards teachers and parents working with children.

While it's true that kids might sometimes need a little help remembering to listen to their caregivers, this is still an important skill for many adults to practice – especially in the business world, where employees often need to follow their boss's directives even when they disagree with the commands.

Following directions games for adults can be a fun way to remind your team of the importance of doing what they are told.

Play Simon Says

Yes, this is a kids' game, but this classic game is one of the best activities for making people practice following directions while using active listening.

Start out by using "(your name) says" and trying to slip people up by periodically using another name, especially "Simon" and occasionally not saying any name.

Remind your team that they can be disqualified by either doing something that you didn't tell them to do, or by not doing something you told them to do.

Remember that you're not playing with children, so it needs to be a little more fast-paced and challenging in order for people to actually drop out of the game.

That means coming up with more difficult activities, such as saying the alphabet backward or reciting the company's mission statement. It also means doing things to trick participants into doing what you're doing rather than just what you're saying. For example, say, "OK now, rub your stomach," while you hop up and down.

While physical activities can tire out your team members and make them more likely to slip up, keep the physical limitations of your staff in mind while playing. A person who is handicapped shouldn't be disqualified because she couldn't run to the window just like an overweight person shouldn't be disqualified because he can't do a pushup.

Make a Team With...

This fun game is great as both an icebreaker and as a way to encourage following directions quickly.

Get your team together in a room and then tell them that they're going to need to form teams as quickly as possible based on the criteria you shout out. Then, tell your employees to get in teams of "people who have the same number of pets as you," "people who like the same types of TV shows as you," "people who have the same favorite color as you," etc.

Tell them to sit down once they've sorted themselves into groups so you know when they're all sorted.

You can repeat this game with different instructions as many times as you want, hopefully moving on to more in-depth team building activities once your group gets to know each other a little better.

Jenga Block Challenges

Jenga is a fun game of strategy, but it's made even more fun when you write "dares" on each of the blocks and require the person who draws the blocks to follow the directions on it.

This game not only encourages people to follow orders without thinking too much, but also can help make people feel less self-conscious, making it a great icebreaker for people just meeting one another or a fun intro for a longer team building session.

To play, be sure to write your dares on the top of the blocks before starting, keeping in mind any physical limitations of your team members or of the location where you'll be playing. Don't feel like you need to come up with new ideas for each block, you can repeat the dares. Examples may include:

  • Sing a Disney song for 15 seconds
  • Dance for 15 seconds
  • Tell a joke
  • Do your best impression of a celebrity
  • Run around the room as fast as you can

You can also make the game more challenging with blocks that require players to do things on their next turn. For example:

  • Play the next turn with your eyes closed
  • Play the next round with one foot up in the air
  • Spin in circles for 10 seconds before taking out your next block

The Workplace Minefield

This is one of the most famous of all team building activities, which makes sense because it works on so many important skills:

  • communication
  • leadership ability
  • active listening
  • following directions
  • trust
  • teamwork

To play this game, find an empty conference room, a parking lot or a field where your employees have a decent amount of room to stumble around blindfolded. Then, set up traffic cones, paper plates or other small objects to be used as "mines." Break your group into teams of two and then have each team pick a leader.

Going one team at a time, have the leader tie a blindfold over the eyes of the other player before asking her to spin in circles five times so she loses her sense of direction and forgets where the mines are. The leader can only use five words (forward, backward, left, right and stop) to guide the blindfolded person across the minefield, hopefully avoiding all the mines.

After all teams have gone once, switch the leaders so the person who was blindfolded now navigates his former leader across the minefield.

Following Directions Activity for Adults

While the workplace might not be a place for religion, many employees would find a lot of comfort through the famous Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr.

The most famous lines of the prayer say, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." Since employees often find themselves doing something they don't particularly want to do, it can be useful to try this following directions activity for adults that asks participants to recognize whether they should Control, Influence or Accept a situation.

This game is always a little more serious than many other team building activities, but it can be very serious or a bit more lighthearted depending on what kind of situations you ask about.

Generally, real situations that have come up in your office can make the game more intense, whereas hypothetical scenarios won't be as difficult to deal with. That being said, using real situations may help your employees more effectively grasp the concept of this activity and work through some emotional issues.

It's important to recognize that some topics used in this activity might be difficult to talk about and it is important for the facilitator to emphasize that you are in a safe, trusting environment and if anyone does feel particularly uncomfortable, they are welcome to not participate.

For this exercise, first decide on the scenarios you'd like to work with; you can also ask employees to pick scenarios once you explain how the game works.

Ideas include a co-worker telling inappropriate jokes, a manager retiring, a wasteful company procedure, etc. Once you've picked topics, discuss them one at a time, determining if the employees in the situation can exert control over it, influence (but not control it) or if they just have to accept the way things are.

If the employees can control or influence the issue, discuss the best way for them to do so.

Picture Pieces Game

While this game doesn't actually involve listening or following commands as much as many other following directions activities, it helps illustrate why your workers should follow their boss's commands even if they don't immediately see the point.

That's because this activity emphasizes that while your employees may not be able to always see the bigger picture, by doing what their bosses say, they're working towards the company's larger goals.

For this activity, you'll need to choose a famous well-known image like the Mona Lisa, the Starbucks logo or a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Then, print it on a letter-sized sheet of paper (the more people you have, the larger it should be).

Finally, cut the image into same-sized pieces equal to the number of employees in your group. Ideally, no piece should give away the subject and each piece should have the same level of detail.

When you assemble your group, hand everyone a piece of the picture, a sheet of paper and art supplies like crayons, markers, pencils with erasers and/or colored pencils.

Then tell your employees they need to recreate their piece of the image so it fills up the entire piece of paper they were given. When everyone has finished, ask them to put their pieces together so it recreates the original on a much larger scale.

The new creation can proudly be displayed in your office as a reminder of what happens when people work together towards the bigger picture.

Back-to-Back Drawings

Here's another fun, artistic team building activity. This one directly involves listening carefully and following directions. Start by printing a variety of simple abstract images (things like a group of circles, lines, etc.), making sure you have one for each employee.

Then, break your group into teams of two and ask them to sit back to back.

Give one employee art supplies and give the other employee one of the images you printed out. Tell your employees that the person who has the picture must carefully describe it to the other person. Once the drawing is complete, the person who was drawing should come get a new image and give the art supplies to the person who previously described their image.

Once everyone has finished their drawings, you can bring the whole group together to compare their masterpieces, which can be displayed in the office if you want.

Plane Crash Survival

In this game, the actual manager of your group serves as the leader of plane crash survivors in the Arctic and helps guide them to create shelter so they can survive the freezing temperatures. Start by laying out parts to put together a folding tent in an area large enough to assemble it. Set up the scenario by telling your group to imagine that they were in a plane crash in the Arctic.

The manager has been injured and can't move, but the rest of the team was blinded by snow and smoke.

Sit the manager in a chair, give her the instructions for the tent and tell the rest of the team to put on blindfolds. The manager must then guide his team to help construct the tent in under 15 minutes. If you have two or more different departments, you can instead have them work competitively to see who can assemble their tent the fastest.

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About the Author

Jill Harness is a blogger with experience researching and writing on all types of subjects including business topics. She specializes in writing SEO content for private clients, particularly attorneys. You can find out more about Jill's experience and learn how to contact her through her website, www.jillharness.com.