If you want your startup to succeed, your team needs a sense of motivation and morale. There are many small, individual steps you can take to improve motivation and morale. For example, you can promote from within so employees feel like they have a future at your company. You can issue salary increases, raises, and bonuses to incentivize hard work. And you can create a healthy work culture, where your employees feel safe and feel a sense of belonging every day.
But if you want to reinforce that sense of belonging and make your team feel even more motivated, you’ll need the help of occasional team building exercises.
Hallmarks of Effective Team Building Exercises
Team building exercises could refer to any kind of meetup, event, or exercise where your employees are encouraged to work together—or at least, experience the same kind of event simultaneously. These events work by giving employees something fun or interesting to do (other than typical work), giving them an opportunity to relieve stress. They also have the effect of bringing employees closer together, creating bonds that can ease collaboration in the future.
Accordingly, some of the best team building exercises have the following in common:
- Something fun. The best team building exercises are fun. They’re not supposed to be stressful, and they shouldn’t feel like work.
- Something unusual. If you do the same thing every week, it’s eventually going to become stale and start to feel like a natural routine.
- A collective goal. One of the best perks of team building exercises is that you’re all working together on the same shared goal. This aligns your motivations and forces you to find new ways to collaborate.
- An opportunity for individual interaction. Good team building exercises also offer an opportunity for individual interaction. Your team members can engage with each other to solve a problem and discuss the issue.
- Regularity. It’s also a great idea to host team building events on a regular basis. For example, you could have a team building event on the third Friday of each month. This gives employees something to look forward to.
Team Building Exercises to Consider
Here are several examples of effective team building exercises to consider:
- Kayaking (or other outdoor events). Kayaking allows your employees to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors (assuming the weather is good enough to support it). Plus, if you pair off your employees in teams of two, you’ll force them to work together to propel and steer their individual kayaks. You can substitute kayaking with a variety of other outdoor events as well, such as hiking or biking.
- An escape room. One popular option is to take your team to an escape room (with everyone wearing masks of course). These businesses provide a room, or sometimes an entire building, that locks people indoors. Together, the people locked inside must find clues, solve puzzles, and work together to figure out how to escape. It’s a fun way to encourage your employees to collaboratively problem solve, and you’ll have something to talk about later.
- A shooting range. You could also try out a variety of different firearms at a local shooting range. Shooting firearms is a cathartic feeling, and one at least some of your employees have never experienced before. Together, you’ll be able to refine your accuracy and get a feel for how different weapons aim and shoot. Depending on the shooting range you attend, you may be able to shoot weapons indoors or outdoors, engaging with a variety of different targets.
- Solving a murder. If you’re interested in the clue-gathering and problem-solving elements of these team building exercises, consider hosting a murder mystery party. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could put together a storyline and a series of clues for your own creative murder mystery; if not, you could always buy a murder mystery “kit,” with speaking roles and background information pre-written. Either way, your team will have to work together to solve a fictional crime.
- Playing board games. Board games are a great mix of collaborative and competitive, so consider hosting a board game night to facilitate bonds between team members. Classic options like Monopoly or Scrabble are passable, but you should also consider delving into modern games, which tend to be more engaging and complex. For example, you could experiment with social deduction games like Mafia or Werewolf, wherein players must bluff and deceive each other to win.
- Low-stakes competitions. Consider hosting some kind of low-stakes competition amongst individual employees. For example, you could encourage employees to come up with the best business plan within an hour, then present those business plans in the style of Shark Tank. You could also try less conventional forms of competition, like encouraging teams to build the tallest skyscraper out of marshmallows and toothpicks.
- Personal sharing. If you’re into something less intensive, you could try a simple personal sharing exercise. For example, you could have employees sit in a circle and play “two truths and a lie,” a game that requires each person to provide two unexpected truths about themselves and a plausible lie; each other employee must guess which anecdote or “fact” is not true.
How to Make Your Team building Exercises Even More Effective
If you’re looking for ways to make your team building exercises even more effective, consider these approaches:
- Mix up a variety of different events. Try many of these events, and some of your own choosing.
- Break up your teams. Make sure your employees get the chance to interact with lots of different people.
- Start slow, and scale in intensity. Don’t rush into complex or intimidating team building events right away.
- Get feedback and ideas. Listen to what employees have to say about your events, and ask them if they have any ideas for the future.
With the right team building exercises, you can make all your team members closer to each other and keep your employees motivated—and you’ll get to have some fun yourself along the way. Keep trying new angles and new events, and find what works best for your team.