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Team Building for the Modern Workplace

Earning an MBA can help you gain the skills and leadership abilities necessary to thrive in the corporate world. Organizational leadership involves a group of motivated individuals working toward a common goal, and team building is a critical aspect of success. Managers must have a robust understanding of personality types to ensure a productive and collaborative work environment.

Organizational Leadership & Team Building

The individual personalities of your team and how those temperaments collaborate dictate the nature of the organization. Within this type of group structure:

  • Management must ensure a solid core for the group to form and provide a basis for progression toward a common goal.
  • Organizational structure is superior to individual leadership as leaders are prone to self-serving interests.

To benefit the group and result in a more cohesive, effective, and ultimately successful unit within the organization, leaders must have the ability to carry out these activities effectively. Modern-day team-building techniques are meant to bring out the best skills in individuals and encourage a sense of unity throughout a company. Although many of these methods are updated, they stem from early training practices.

Early Team Building Approaches

Strong teams form through training, empowerment, and feedback. Team building studies began in the 1920s and 1930s and are linked to the often-referenced Hawthorne Studies. These research activities examined groups of workers exposed to various conditions and concluded that building a group identity and feelings of social support were significant among workers.

Conditions pertinent to effective team development involved managers:

  • Taking a personal interest in each individual’s achievements.
  • Taking pride in the group’s record.
  • Helping the group work collaboratively to establish its working status quo.
  • Faithfully posting performance feedback.

Critical conditions for the group were:

  • Taking pride in collaborative achievements.
  • Not feeling pressure to change.
  • Being consulted before organizational change.
  • Developing confidence.

Other often-referenced team development models include:

  • Bruce Tuckman’s Theory (1965) depicts a four-stage (forming, storming, norming, and performing and later, adjourning) model that claims that, as the group matures and grows more capable, their relationships evolve, thus necessitating a change in leadership style as well.
  • Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Continuum shows that as the leader relinquishes authority and freedom to the team, the leader’s control diminishes.
  • Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Model reveals that ideal team development transitions from a stage of immaturity to one of maturity. At this point, the team is self-managing, containing at least one potential future leader.

While all of these theories have been revised and updated, the fundamental principles are still applicable to modern team-building concepts.

Motivating Teams

Consideration for the individual is an important aspect of modern team-building. For example, knowing if the individual is an introvert or extrovert, a thinker or a feeler, or one who judges or perceives, can better enable successful team building and understanding of individual motivators within the team structure.

Motivational Team Building

Motivated individuals who initiate, create, and innovate without instruction tend to perform better than those who are not. Different personality types adapt uniquely to motivational activities within team settings. These activities are important for collaboration and increasing mutual respect and communication as people learn about one another.

Some key theories behind building and motivating teams are:

  • Gaining new knowledge builds confidence.
  • Breaking down barriers, prejudices, insecurities, and hierarchies accelerates the building of teams.
  • Conducting activities outside of the day-to-day work context highlights individual strengths and working-style preferences.
  • Game-playing develops and improves empathy and communication skills.
  • Encouraging problem-solving and decision-making skills through challenges exercises intuitive brain functions.
  • Motivational exercises involving physical activity reduce stress.
  • Expressing gratitude is encouraging.

Approaches to Team Building

Using psychological profiling instruments can help leaders understand individuals in the organization. For example, the Benziger Thinking Styles Assessment (BTSA) determines which portion of an individual brain’s four areas is dominant to understand their natural strengths and primary brain functions. Activities that activate these areas enhance creativity, self-motivation, confidence, initiative, empathy, and performance quality while reducing conflict.

Workplace Team Building Activities

Team building activities can promote teamwork, boost creativity and build confidence. The following are some examples of team-building activities that enhance:

  • Communication: A team’s plane hypothetically crashes on a desert island; the team has to choose and rank 12 items needed to survive.
  • Relationships: Teams pick a charity and work together in a volunteer situation.
  • Thinking-style: Individuals are handed a picture that is part of a story. Each person describes his or her picture, and the groups work together to figure out the story’s sequence based on the descriptions.
  • Values: Each person describes someone they respect or admire, elaborating on the traits that influence their choice.
  • Bonding: During learning lunches, each employee shares a special hobby or interest with the group.
  • Trust: An individual leads a blindfolded partner through a room full of objects (chairs, boxes, etc.).

Other examples of team building activities include:

1. Human Knot

Objective: Promote leadership, problem-solving, and communication

Players needed: 8-20 people

Time required: 30 minutes

  • Participants stand in a circle with their shoulders touching.
  • Everyone puts their right hand in the air, grabs someone’s hand across from them, and then does the same with their left hand.
  • Without anyone letting go of hands, the group must communicate with one another to untangle themselves.

2. Take What You Need

Objective: Get to know existing coworkers and welcome new ones

Players needed: 10-30 people

Time required: 30 minutes

  • Pass around a bucket of pennies and tell everyone to take as many as they need.
  • Do not provide any other details.
  • For every penny that an employee took, they must share one fact about themselves with the group.

3. Problem Tree

Objective: Identify and solve problems within the workplace

Players needed: 5-20 people

Time required: 60 minutes

  • Each employee writes down a problem they have at work. (Make sure it’s not about a specific person and instead about a process or ideology.)
  • Have each employee write down two things that they think cause that problem, connecting each of the causes to the main problem with a line that mimics a tree branch.
  • A manager collects the “branches” and puts them on a large marker board where a tree is drawn.
  • The manager identifies common problems and leads a group discussion about potential solutions.

4. Praise Jar

Objective: Recognize the great contributions of staff

Players needed: 5-20 people

Time required: 20 minutes

  • Each employee writes a recent accomplishment of a coworker on a piece of paper without naming the person.
  • The accomplishments can be simple like, “This coworker handled a particularly rude customer in a great way,” or something as big as, “This coworker doubled his sales goal for the month.”
  • Fold all of the papers and put them in a jar.
  • The manager reads each one, and the team guesses which coworker is described.

If your organization lacks a team mentality, or if you are looking to strengthen your leadership abilities, all this can be learned through experience and an advanced degree program like the Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) at Our Lady of the Lake University. Request more information or call 855-275-1082 to speak with an admissions advisor.

4 Modern Team-Building Activities for the Workplace

One way to create a cohesive, engaged staff is to implement exercises designed to foster greater teamwork. Team-building activities can improve communication, develop better problem-solving skills, and increase trust.

Here are four team-building activities that are fun, easy to implement, and adaptable to virtually any modern workplace.

1. Human Knot

Objective: Promote leadership, problem-solving, and communication.

  • 8–20 people
  • 30 minutes

How to Play:

  1. Employees stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder
  2. Employees raise their right hand, take the hand of someone across from them (repeat with left hand)
  3. Employees must communicate to untangle themselves

2. Take What You Need

Objective: Get to know seasoned coworkers and welcome new ones.

  • 10–30 people
  • 30 minutes

How to Play:

  • Pass around a bucket of pennies
  • Tell everyone to take what they need from the bucket (without further instruction)
  • For every penny taken, employees must share one fact about themselves

3. Problem Tree

Objective: Identify and solve problems within the workplace.

  • 5–20 people
  • 1 hour

How to Play:

  • Each employee writes down a problem in the office (the problem cannot be about a specific person)
  • Each employee writes two things that may cause the problem
  • Problems are added to a tree drawn on a marker board
  • Manager identifies common problems, leads discussion on solutions

4. Praise Jar

Objective: Recognize the great contributions of staff.

  • 5–20 people
  • 20 minutes

How to Play:

  • Employees write down a coworker’s accomplishment without identifying the coworker
  • Papers are folded and placed in a jar
  • Manager reads each accomplishment to the group
  • Group guesses which employee matches each accomplishment