Effective managers have skills in building a productive team to work toward a common purpose. However, learning to build productive teams requires practice and general understanding of how teams come together. Team members must learn to trust each other. Team building exercises help team members learn about each other while having fun. Key team skills that such exercises help establish include listening, resolving conflicts, building consensus decisions and appreciating the contribution of diversity.

Magic Word

As part of a staff or training meeting, hand a sealed envelope to a member of the group. You may increase the number of envelopes for groups with more than 10 individuals. Tell the group that each time the presenter uses the magic word – you choose the word – the person with the envelope should give it to someone else. Alert the group that whoever holds the envelope at the end of the session will get a surprise, such as a task to do or a gift card inside the envelope. Because the purpose of the exercise involves listening and interacting, the card in the envelope should not require any activity that might embarrass someone. Successful card contents include a free soda voucher or a computer gadget.

Logic Puzzle

Logic puzzles or brainteasers provide problem-solving tasks that group members work on as a team. Dividing groups into multiple teams stimulates competition and camaraderie. Solving puzzles as a team requires listening to alternate points of view and developing appreciation for individual skills. Team building activities that include logic puzzles or brainteasers should have time limits, and winners should present their process to the group.

Best and Worst

Using best and worst lists can be a quick team building exercise that helps teammates learn about each another’s preferences and interests. As the facilitator, you present everyone in the group with a few topics, for which they generate a list of three best or worst examples. Examples of topics include Italian restaurant, colors to paint a room or names for a large dog. Having group members share their lists with others teaches everyone more about the individuals with whom they work on the team.

Scavenger Hunt

A typical scavenger hunt uses small teams – usually two or three people – that attempt to collect items specified on a retrieval list. Facilitators create a list of items found in the office or in a circumscribed area and give a copy to each team. The teams work together to retrieve all of the items within a set time.