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Finding the Meaning Behind Team-Building

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Much is said about the benefits of team-building, but how do we do it in a way that doesn’t just feel like adult games at work? First, it is important to have a “why” behind the games—a larger learning point or goal that adults can get behind.

Here’s an example. There are many team-building activities designed to build an appreciation for diversity. Activities and exercises might reveal differences between participants, or create an environment that puts people in specific roles to highlight what it feels like to be a minority. These activities may lead to personal insights or interpersonal connections—but how does it build the team overall?

These exercises will have more power if they are placed in a larger context. With our diversity example, perhaps we are trying to recruit a more diverse staff to benefit from different histories and perspectives.  Or, perhaps we want a better succession planning program that gives more people a chance to compete for management positions.

Sharing these goals, and designing activities that specifically explore them, will lead to more meaningful experiences and tactical outcomes. Team-building games can be integrated within a problem-solving session, while achieving results that will last.

Adult games can also be built into annual reporting or strategic planning. For example, one program we worked with had each project team create a skit that communicated their successes over the past year. As each team performed their skit, the audience had to describe the successes on paper—their work directly fed into an annual report.

Later, the teams used a card sort game to identify and prioritize goals for the upcoming strategic plan. This collaborative approach with notecards and markers was definitely a team building experience, but also resulted in tangible work products.

So, to start a team-building effort, list some corporate or organizational goals, and then design activities that will directly support those goals. Your adult learners will enjoy the experience you create and the outcomes that that experiences achieve.

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