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Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers

by Tony Guerra

Most contemporary management philosophies emphasize the benefits of working as a team. W. Edwards Deming, the co-creator of total quality management, believed in team processes for just about every work activity. Two popular Japanese-originated manufacturing systems and tools, "kaizen" -- incremental improvement -- and "andons" -- team help, emphasize the role of teams and quality products. Working in teams is obviously important, so managers are expected to find time to build and nurture them. Fortunately, even if you're a busy manager there really are quick and easy team-building activities available.

Managers and Team Building

As a manager, finding a way to take the people working for you and molding them into a cohesive team makes eminent sense. For one, team building can improve communication and boost morale and motivation among employees. For another, good team-building activities serve as effective ice breakers among fellow employees while also leading to productivity improvement. In team building, there are many different activities that are both quick and easy for managers to do, including communications exercises and problem-solving exercises.

Coin Logo Exercise

One team-building communications activity that takes only five to 10 minutes to do is the coin logo exercise. Have team members take all the change from their pockets and create their own personal logo using the coins in front of them in just one minute. Coin logo exercise participants can also share coins among themselves and use other materials such as pens and paper they possess. Once personal coin logos are created have team member participants explain what the logos say about them.

Classification Game Exercise

The classification game exercise is a communications icebreaker taking only 10 to 15 minutes. Before classification begins, managers should explain to their teams what "pigeonholing" or unhelpfully classifying people means, then divide their teams into small groups. Participants in each individual classification game group should introduce themselves to their fellow group members, revealing things such as likes and dislikes. After the classification game's introductions, managers then ask all team members how they'd classify the team, but using only nonjudgmental, non-negative, nondiscriminatory or nonprejudicial terms.

Sneak-a- Peek Game

The sneak-a-peek game is a problem-solving exercise requiring only 10 minutes and some children's building blocks. Taking building blocks, the team manager creates a small sculpture while also hiding it from the team. After dividing the team into groups, the manager allows one member from each group to look at the building block sculpture for 10 seconds. The team members seeing the sculpture return to their groups and have 25 seconds to tell their fellow members how to recreate it.

Using Team-Building Exercises

Most team-building exercises have a logical progression and managers should also use them in a logical sequence. In other words, to build an effective team a manager should look at first breaking down barriers to communication and then building teams up through problem solving. Once communication and problem-solving skills in a team have been improved a manager can explore planning and trust-building team activities. And though many team-building activities are brief in duration, their effectiveness and impact can last much longer.

About the Author

Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Photo Credits

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