“Team-building exercises” is a phrase that may make your eyes automatically start to roll back in your head. But even though they hearken us back to playground games, team-building exercises are actually extremely useful for motivating and energizing your team. “It’s exactly because we do feel a little silly that these exercises bond us so well,” says Scott Hirsch, CEO and founder of Media Direct. “It takes us out of our everyday comfort zones, it encourages us to use our imaginations, and it relates us to people at work we may not necessarily know that well.”
To get you started motivating your own employees, Scott O Hirsch has given us his two favorite motivational team-building exercises. While these games can serve their purpose at any time, Scott suggests setting aside a day once a quarter to check-in and hold a state of the union. The whole day shouldn’t be games, but inserting a few throughout the course of the day can help loosen people up and make them more comfortable talking openly to each other and leadership.
Start the Day off Right Advises Scott Hirsch
“At the beginning of an event, you want to make sure you’re setting the tone for the day. Don’t go with a generic icebreaker. Instead, encourage your employees to set their intentions and use an exercise like ‘Code of Conduct’,” says Scott O Hirsch.
You’ll need about ten to thirty people to conduct Code of Conduct properly. If you have more employees than that, break into small groups – just make sure it’s not by department! You want to encourage people to socialize outside of their silos when you’re team building. The objective of the exercise is to establish group values and build trust.
On a whiteboard, write down the words “Pleasant” and “Meaningful.” The goal will be for your employees to share what would make this day, event, or meeting pleasant and meaningful. You can either have your employees shout out their answers if you’re part of a smaller, more close-knit group, or you can have them write answers down on sticky notes and pass them in to offer a level of anonymity.
Take their answers and create a mind map with them. Go over each suggestion and have the employees discuss it. If everyone understands and concurs, then move on to the next idea. If some employees disagree, discuss until the thought is distilled and you can achieve consensus. As a part of the mind map, ask employees to discuss how they can make each suggestion a reality, and record those answers where they can be seen as well.
Everything that makes it through the determination processes becomes the “Code of Conduct” for the rest of the day, event, or meeting! “For teams to be successful, common values have to tie them together and bind them. When you openly name these beliefs and gain group consensus early on, your sessions will go much more smoothly,” explains Scott Hirsch.
Encourage Creativity and Diversity With The Right Exercise Says Scott Hirsch
“One of my favorite team-building and creativity-block busting exercises is called ‘Spectrum Mapping’,” says Scott Hirsch. When there is an overwhelming number of opinions or ideas about a subject, Spectrum Mapping can help organize ideas and allow the group to acknowledge creative, innovative, and out-of-the-box thinking. It also helps encourage those with an unconventional way of thinking who wouldn’t normally speak up for fear of ridicule.
This exercise works best with five to fifteen people, but you can use it with smaller or slightly larger groups. With over 20 people, Scott suggests breaking into multiple, smaller teams to foster a sense of safety and closeness.
The exercise begins with a statement of the topic or subject at hand. “Let your employees know that this is a safe place to share their ideas and there are no wrong answers,” encourages Scott Hirsch. “Especially if the topic is touchy or charged.” Write your topic on the board and ask employees to write down their perspectives and opinions on sticky notes.
Line up the sticky notes on either side of the board. Once everyone has contributed, work as a team to arrange the ideas into a “range” or spectrum. On the left, group similar ideas, and on the right, place your outlying and extreme ideas. Once you all agree that the spectrum is complete, look at your spectrum and discuss it. On the left, you have the most popular and mainstream ideas, and to the right, there are some out of the ordinary or extreme ideas.
“This exercise can tell you a lot about the diversity of ideas on your team,” says Scott Hirsch. “It can also help you identify if your team is falling into ‘group think’ and needs a shakeup. You want there to be a true spectrum. If there are no outrageous or outside of the box ideas to the right, you don’t have a real spectrum, just a shared idea.”
Scott Hirsch is the Founder and CEO of Media Direct, a globally recognized communications and digital marketing agency. Scott has been published in Time, Fortune, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Fox Business, among others.