One of the most important skills any group of employees can learn is how to function as a team. Unfortunately, even the best team players fall prey to bad habits and need a refresher on working together. There are several different activities in which employees can participate during a staff meeting to build teamwork and keep the importance of teamwork fresh in everyone's mind.
Helium stick is a simple, yet effective, team-building exercise. The supervisor arranges the team members in two rows, approximately 3 feet apart, facing each other. She asks the team members to extend their index fingers toward the centre of the lines and then places a long, light stick (such as a pointer or a dowel rod) on the outstretched fingers. The goal of the exercise is for the employees to lower the stick to the ground without ever removing their fingers.
The helium stick exercise is so named because in many instances employees will actually lift the stick upward rather than lowering it as a team. However, good communication and a little patience make the task possible, though only when everyone works together.
Blind guide exercises are a way to establish trust and focus on teamwork between two individuals with different skills. Place employees in pairs, forcing individuals who may not normally work together to be a team. One employee is blindfolded while his partner tries to guide him through a room where the furniture has been rearranged using only verbal cues.
Blind guide is easy for small groups and can be done in a short period of time, making it easy to incorporate into a busy schedule. It is also a way to let the rest of the workers watch teamwork in action as they wait their turn and witness the difficulty of the seemingly simple task.
Employee mandala is an exercise designed to strengthen existing teams and give workers a chance to express doubts and grievances. Each employee brings in a small item that they choose to represent them. Employees then take turns gathering all of the objects and casting them like dice onto a tabletop or the floor. The employee who casts the objects then discusses the arrangement in which they land, constructing a narrative or making observations about the personalities of the real people the objects represent.
An employee mandala gives workers a chance to be creative and speak freely. It's also a way for employees to learn what others think about them and what sort of an image they project in daily teamwork tasks.
Sinking ship is a traditional team building exercise that's best for small groups. Employees must physically stand or support one another on a small surface, such as a single square floor tile or a small area rug. Each round of the game adds more employees who need to be part of the strategy, or reduces the amount of floorspace.
Sinking ship requires physical teamwork, as well as good communication and an assessment of each member's strengths and abilities. It also requires leadership from someone who can take charge and oversee a single strategy for all participants.