Workplace Team-Building Exercises

by Laura Barten ; Updated September 26, 2017
With the right approach, team-building exercises need not be painful.

By definition, a team is a group of individuals with different skills working together toward a common goal. But without trust and camaraderie, team success is anything but guaranteed. Team-building exercises, done right, improve cohesion and lead to better work results. The best team-building exercises directly correlate to the work and social skills required to achieve the larger workplace mission. Solid team-building also enhances employee engagement and improves morale.

Problem-Solving Exercises

On-the-spot problem-solving strengthens team integration while simultaneously addressing a real-world business issue. Generally, small group teams work side-by-side to develop a cohesive, innovative solution to a pre-identified problem. Teams are formed based on functional areas and known strengths. An impartial, experienced facilitator manages the process. Illustrating how each team member's skill set is valuable and contributes to the whole, problem-solving exercises build confidence by providing an immediate, tangible success.

Physical Engagement Exercises

Physical activities that challenge individual confidence or collegial trust are perhaps the most well-known of all team-building activities. From outdoor rope courses to supported backward falls and blindfolded walks, physical team-building exercises connect body and mind to speed learning. Today, creative exercises like building balloon towers held together with simple cellophane tape add a communication element to the mix, encouraging participants to work together verbally to achieve the physical goal.

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Cooperation Exercises

Cooperation is critical to any group endeavor. Cooperation team-building activities demonstrate how team members work together. Puzzle games are both metaphorical and effective. The University of Kentucky recommends the "Perfect Square" exercise, where individuals receive paper cutouts designed to fit together to form a square. Speaking is not allowed. Other organizations create a simple, contrived work situation participants must solve cooperatively within a set time frame. By mimicking work roles in a staged setting, individuals identify potential conflict areas in a safe environment that supports positive change.

Relationship-Building Exercises

When individuals must work closely together, relationship-building exercises help colleagues better understand others' motivations. Designed to build intimacy and encourage sharing, relationship-building exercises are one of the most tricky team-building activities to implement. Professional facilitators encourage sharing without making any individual feel uncomfortable or too exposed. Using approved question lists, team members interview one another privately, sharing life experiences and observations. Organizations also achieve informal relationship-building through company-sponsored retreats and other off-site activities in a relaxed environment.

About the Author

Since 1990, Laura Barten has been writing about health care, marketing, finance, work life, travel and the arts for industry-leading companies, nonprofits, newspapers and websites, including USAToday.com and Chron.com. As president of a marketing consulting firm, she's developed business/marketing plans, books, magazines, press kits and more. Barten holds a BA in journalism and an MBA in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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