This morning, I experienced the annual ritual that reminds me it’s the beginning of a new year: I had trouble finding a parking spot at my gym.
With the holidays behind us and the clean slate of the new year laid out in front of us, fitness is on the minds of many. But this doesn’t have to be just about physical well-being. Now’s the perfect time to redouble your focus on building the health and fitness of your team at work.
Sure, team building exercises get a bad rap. But that’s because too many of them don’t have a clear enough connection to—or impact on—business results. People may leave those activities with some positive feelings (if we’re lucky), but little changes back at work.
We’re all busy. Everyone wants to make sure their time is being well spent. That doesn't mean you can’t inject a little fun into the team building process, but to make the most of the opportunity and get your team aligned, healthy and strong for the next twelve months, you need to put some intention behind your team building exercise plan.
One of the most important factors in building that plan is knowing what your baseline is: What’s our team like today? Where do we need to tone up? What are the weak spots? Understanding how your team thinks, makes decisions, solves problems and tackles the work will give you a running start in this process.
You also need to know what you’re aiming for: What does the ideal look like? What might get in our way as we go for it? What are our strong suits, and how can we build those up to overcome the potential obstacles?
Once you have some clarity around these questions, you can be more targeted about how you use your team building time.
3 Quick Team Building Exercises to Energize Your Team for the New Year
Ready for the new year reset? Try some of these quick team building exercises, adapted from the activity guides in our Whole Brain® Content Libraries, to get things off on the right foot:
1. Create a Whole Brain® Team Autobiography: Looking for a great trust-builder and a way to reveal all the talent within the team? Have team members share their stories—including personal highlights, likes/dislikes, work priorities, fun facts, etc.—using the Whole Brain® Model as their guide and organizing principle. This activity will help people see beyond the roles and responsibilities they’ve been hired to perform, reflect on what they’ve learned about each other, and begin to have healthy conversations about how they can work best together.
Try it when you’re prepping the team for an offsite or other event or when you need to increase cohesion and understanding between team members.
2. Map a Project: Have some big projects on the horizon? Do the heavy lifting first. The Mapping a Project activity is designed to help the team organize and line up the tasks and processes of the project with the talent on the team. It allows your team members to practice using Whole Brain® methodology in a very practical sense—planning a project—and it gives them a framework they can use over and over again to ensure they’re going about their projects in the most effective, productive way.
In a nutshell, this team building exercise is about breaking down a project into its specific activities, categorizing the activities according to the mental demands they’ll place on the person doing them, and then sequencing the activities out in a visual, Whole Brain® timeline that represents the “demand map” of the project.
Use this exercise as a practical framework for organizing the team’s thinking on a specific project. Once the work is done, team members will have a clear picture of the project’s demands, how to best align their talent to manage the work, and what other actions they might need to take to ensure project success.
3. Get Smarter About Stress Under Pressure: Stress and pressure-filled situations abound in today’s work environment. Your team won’t be able to avoid them all, but it can learn how to manage the challenges more productively and even find some benefits in the thinking shifts that occur in stressful times.
In the Stress Under Pressure activity, team members take a few minutes to explore how their thinking shifts under stress or pressure, including the positives as well as the ways this may cause more stress for others. After identifying some areas they want to remember or take action on, they meet with one or two peers to discuss. Together, they then think of ways to turn these conversations and insights into action steps—stop, start or modify—that can improve the individual’s role or how the team works together.
This is both a reflective and an action-focused exercise that any team today will benefit from.
There’s no fluff or flab in these team building exercises! These are all about results. Use them to build your team’s mental fitness to power through all year long.
Use that mental fitness to your team's advantage with better meetings. Get the Meetings That Actually Work toolkit: