High-performing, cohesive teams rarely form out of the ether. They are deliberately built, fostered and nurtured. Camaraderie and collaboration are building blocks of a functional, productive, engaged team - one where people want to work together, help their colleagues and see group success as the imperative.
To create such team dynamics as a leader or manager, you need to pave the way. Below are the top team-building exercises to encourage camaraderie and collaboration.
To build a solid, cohesive team a manager needs to be deliberate in his or her approach. Team members need to be given opportunities to get to know one another on a personal level, understand the varying strengths and weaknesses on the team, understand what it is their coworkers do and what various roles entail, and experience working towards shared goals and through shared hardships to collaborate and work effectively and productively.
Sharing resumes is a good idea any time a team member is brought on board because it gives people instant insight into the skills and competencies of their new coworker. This includes what they excel at, what unique talents they might have that can be leveraged and relied on, as well as their educational and professional background.
If a person has a dedicated personal section on their resume for things like hobbies, interests and volunteer experiences, those can also function as jump-off points for conversations and bonding between new and established team members. If you are in the process of or thinking about applying for a position, make sure your resume presentation is attractive to both employers and potential new colleagues.
Escape rooms were all the rage before the pandemic hit. Groups of friends and coworkers would meet at one of the buildings or warehouses where these escape room businesses were located and, working together, would attempt to “escape” from a locked room by solving puzzles, looking for clues and using their collective brainpower and problem-solving skills.
Escape rooms are great team-building exercises because they simulate a shared hardship while still being safe and enjoyable. They often include an element of stress, including prizes that can be won if a room is “solved” within a given time limit, as well as various jarring and unpleasant sensory experiences.
After a group of people have successfully worked together, relying on each other’s knowledge, expertise and unique perspectives, they usually leave with a newfound respect for one another’s capabilities and input. Escape rooms are also great opportunities to see where the natural leaders on your team might be, as well as which team members are easily dismayed or demoralized by roadblocks and setbacks.
Rock Climbing is fun while also incorporating an element of controlled danger. It is a great team-building exercise because it involves trust, encouragement and a feeling of shared triumph at the end. This is especially true for new rock climbers (as most people are) because it requires one person to be on the ground spotting and securing the line while the other person scales the wall.
Trust is the glue that holds relationships and teams together. Without trust, it is almost impossible for people to develop the kind of healthy and genuine working relationships needed to have each other’s backs, pick up slack when need be and offer assistance and knowledge sharing. Most urban areas have at least one rock climbing gym with multiple walls and either drop-in or scheduled group classes with group rates and discounts.
Another great way to promote teamwork and provide an opportunity for team members to combine their shared wisdom, knowledge and experience to accomplish a goal is through trivia games and competitions. Games like Family Feud and team Jeopardy pit two groups of people against each other in a mental battle to see who knows more and who can produce that knowledge faster.
Trivia games and competitions can be scheduled for after work or, depending on what kind of autonomy you, as a manager, have to schedule breaks and downtime during a workday, even organized in lieu of a team meeting. Many cities also have bars and restaurants that host trivia nights where friends and coworkers can meet, have a beer and something to eat and spend a few hours competing against other tables and groups.
Many offices organize intramural sports. Sometimes the matches are between different teams and departments, other times different companies in the same industry, and sometimes as part of a much larger city-wide intramural league that plays a wide range of teams and organizations. Intramural co-ed sports that are inclusive and non-contact are amazing team-builders.
Team sports are widely recognized as one of the fundamental building blocks for young children and adolescents for learning to work collaboratively later in life, but they impart valuable teamwork skills to adults as well.
This is one of those team-building exercises that is probably best played among an already tight-knit team, given the game’s propensity to turn vulgar and, if you aren’t playing with people you are already comfortable with and trust, potentially awkward. With that in mind, shared jokes and laughter are another fundamental part of relationship-building.
Most important is a shared sense of humor, which it stands to reason would be common on highly specialized teams of people with similar qualifications, work and educational history, and employed in the same industry.
Depending on the makeup of a specific team, one or the other of the above activities will probably be more suitable. Paintball involves a certain amount of actual pain and risk of (controlled) physical harm, while laser tag is completely benign. That being said, both activities are essentially war simulations, and bonds forged in battle are uniquely strong.
With respect to paintball, however, the momentary (and sometimes lingering) pain of being hit with a flying plastic ball full of paint creates a special kind of camaraderie. A lot of psychological research backs up the assertion that shared pain has a number of positive social consequences and acts as a social glue that is conducive to solidarity in groups.
Afterwork food and drinks at a local restaurant or watering hole is a time-tested way to help colleagues bond and get to know one another. It is important for coworkers to be able to mix and mingle outside of a formal work setting, especially if an office environment is very structured with high expectations for formal dress, behavior and relationships.
When people sit down at a table, over drinks and food, they tend to let their “guard” down and it is easy for them to be personable and show others they are three-dimensional human beings with outside lives, interests and personalities. It tends to be easier, though not always, to work with people you feel like you know on more of a human, personal level.
Camaraderie, and certainly collaboration, don’t only rely on interpersonal interactions and relationships, but professional and technical ones as well. If you want your team members to be able to collaborate, don’t just facilitate relationship-building, but exchanges of knowledge and skills as well.
A good way to do this is to schedule “cross-training days,” where team members pair up or rotate around shadowing one another, learning about different roles and responsibilities. This not only enables a better macro understanding of how a team functions as a whole, but also better equips team members to provide input, insight and assistance to colleagues whose jobs they now have a fuller understanding of.
A productive, cohesive team is built through strategy and diligence. People need opportunities to work with and learn from one another, and often gentle nudges to get to know each other on a more personal, human level before they feel comfortable collaborating and sharing freely. A good manager recognizes this and goes out of their way to make it happen. Keep the above camaraderie and team-building exercises in mind and make your team strong, helpful, and full of mutual respect and understanding.
1. Has camaraderie and team-building suffered a setback during the pandemic from which it is capable of recovering?
2. Could Forcing Intimate Experiences on Dissimilar People Eventually Have a Counterproductive effect?
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