So much of the work we do as public servants is incredibly serious. We can get so caught up in successfully implementing our missions and mandates that we forget to make time for a little fun, too. Teambuilding is a great way to incorporate fun and it can help us improve our implementation by creating stronger teams. The great news for govies is that many activities that foster team collaboration and communication require no material or office supplies you already have on hand.
Break the Teambuilding Ice
Start your regular team meetings with a quick icebreaker to get to know who is on your team. If you are a supervisor, this can help you really understand the individuals who report to you. Then you can focus your supervision and coach them more effectively.
Start with a question of the week (or day) and have everyone give their answer. Some of my favorites:
- Who is your hero and why?
- If you could make one of your five senses super strong, which would you choose and why?
- Tell us about your first memory ever.
- What is your favorite movie? (variations could include book, song, television show sports team)
- If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Mix it up: You could also write one question on a post-it and place them on the wall. Make sure you have enough post-it notes for everyone on your team including yourself. Each person chooses one, answers the question and then chooses one other person to answer the question, too.
Play a Game
My team of trainers loves to bring play and games into class to enhance learning. We don’t start every meeting this way, because it can be more time-consuming, but we make a point to include these kinds of activities on at least a quarterly basis. One of my team members used jigsaw puzzle pieces to foster communication with her peers and me. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Here’s how:
- Buy small, easy puzzles from the dollar store: one for each of your team plus one.
- Put the pieces for each puzzle into a separate bag and remove one piece at random.
- Divide the pieces for the extra puzzle among the bags.
- Instruct everyone to begin assembling their puzzle. Give them no additional instruction. They will assume that they are competing against one another.
- As people begin to “finish” their puzzles they will realize that something is amiss.
- Continue to avoid offering them any additional guidance. When they ask questions (and they will) simply ask them what they might be missing.
- Eventually, they will work out that they all have the pieces to another puzzle. When they come together, this puzzle will be complete.
- Debrief by asking questions about what strategy they used once they understood the problem, why cooperation was necessary, how they can apply what they learned at work.
- Remind them that no individual can do everything (the missing piece in their individual puzzle represents this). When we come together as a team, we can leverage everyone’s strengths together for success.
Building Bricks of Communication
I absolutely love using Lego bricks for teambuilding activities. I scour Facebook marketplace and my local children’s resale shops for good deals. (Hint: the best deals are rarely by the pound). This Lego Challenge is my favorite communication building exercise. Takes about 45 minutes plus additional time for discussion.
- Provide one set of building bricks to the group to build a structure.
- Give each participant a task to complete during the building phase that they may not share with anyone.
- No talking is allowed during the building phase.
- Participants must find a way to complete their task and allow their team members to complete their tasks as well.
- Debrief discussion can include questions about whether leaders emerged, what made it possible to communicate without words and what got in the way, and how the experience can apply to everyday teamwork.
Mix it up: A quicker Lego activity (about 20 minutes) that also fosters communication. Give each individual a bag of the exact same building bricks. The only instruction is that they have X amount of time to build whatever they want. Listen to the chatter during building time, and note the laments about how someone wished they had this or that additional brick. More often than not, people assume that they are allowed to use only what they were given, even though that is not an instruction.
At the end of time, have each person share what they created. Point out that they all received the same material, but because of their different experiences, perspectives and skills they all built something unique. Then ask them about why they did not share resources and how they could have been more successful if they had.
Teambuilding for Non-Supervisors
Don’t let the fact that you might not supervise the team you are on stop you. Propose one of these or another team building activity to your manager and volunteer to lead it. Explain what team skill the activity will help build and how it can help the team’s performance overall. Some of the best teambuilding activities my staff has done together weren’t my idea to begin with and I participated as the person who suggested it led the activity.
You might also like: Teambuilding with Multiple Generations
Gabrielle Wonnell is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.