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This is a fun way to start a meeting and an effective tool to start building a team. It allows people to find out what they have in common. When the exercise is over, often people will continue conversations about the shared experiences and interests that have been revealed.
   Here's how it works. Everyone stands in a circle. One person is selected to start talking about him or herself. The person can talk about their job, where they grew up, went to school, etc. All the other people are instructed to jump into the "conversation" by raising their hand --as soon as the speaker says something that they have in common. The speaker will point to someone (who has raised their hand)--to continue the talk, using the subject that they have in common as a starting point for talking about themselves.
   Try it! It is a great way to encourage "bonding." 

Whenever we ask teams to choose a "leader," that person inadvertently believes that s/he must tell people what to do and how to do it. This is not the role of a good team leader. A team leader is someone who
1. Facilitates discussion among the entire team. Insures that all members have a chance to share their ideas.
2. Is able to summarize the wide variety of ideas from team members.
3. Helps the team to focus in the strategy session and not get side-tracked.
4. Facilitates the group problem solving process and brings the team to a decision on a plan of action.
5. Keeps track of time and deadlines and helps the team move forward accordingly.
6. May make some decisions if appropriate. In some cases, it will be a group decision, in others, the team leader will take stock of all ideas and make a decision. It depends upon the situation.
7. Insures that every person on the team understands the project and the plan in exactly the same way. This will avoid error, confusion and duplicated efforts.
8. Treats all team members with respect and makes sure to value each person's contribution.
9. Operates as a member of the team.
Great team leaders are people that others will want to follow.

If you are truly interested in fostering a great team, you need to have a starting point. This is especially true if you have "inherited" someone else's team, which is quite common in business today. Where do you begin?
     Whatever you do, please do not just sit back and "observe." That may have some merit, but the best and easiest way to find out about how a team is doing is to ask them. This can be in the form of one-on-one or group "interviews" as well as team meetings. However, one of the best tools that we have developed at Corporate Games is our Team Assessment. It is easy to administer and it will provide loads of valuable information. Here is a streamlined summary of how to do it:
1. Explain to your team that you are meeting to take stock of how the group is functioning as a team, and to ask them to assist in creating ways to improve the team.
2. Divide your team into small discussion groups (3- 10 people each, depending on the size of your total team) and ask each group to come up with a list of adjectives that describe a successful team. Each discussion group will have its own list of 10- 20 descriptors-- such as "Trust," "Clear Goals," "Openness," etc., etc.
3. Ask the first group to read their list as you write down the words on a flip chart. "Post-It" flipchart paper is best. Then, ask the other groups what they have --and add any new words that have not already been mentioned.
4. Next, ask each group to take a look at the whole list of words and based on their own experience with the team, to rate the entire team against each of the adjectives-- on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 is the best, with 1 being dismal. This means that each discussion group will have its own set of ratings-- though they are scoring the entire team.
5. Give each discussion group a colored marker (each must have a different color), and have one person from each group post their scores, using their colored marker, on the flipchart list of words. So, for example, if you have 3 discussion groupss, next to each one of the words on the flipchart, there will eventually be 3 different scores-- one from each of your 3 groups.
6. Everyone will be very interested in how all the scores compare. Some will be close or similar, and others will vary widely. Facilitate a discussion on how the groups came up with some of the scores. Focus particularly on scores that are widely divergent.
7. Finally have each group decide what ONE area could use improvement immediately-- and how they would go about it. 
8. You need to follow up on their ideas. Hopefully these are suggestions that you can all agree upon and act on fairly easily and rapidly.
9. The "Assessment" scores that you collect will now serve as a benchmark for the future, and help you determine how your team is doing. You will ask them to score these items again in 6 months to a year. 
    The "Team Assessment" is the perfect way to determine your teams strengths and weaknesses --and provide direction as to how to improve.

When we ask our prospective clients what their group did for a team building exercise in years past, we sometimes hear "We went to a baseball game." or "We went wine tasting." or " We did a jazz aerobics, but some people couldn't keep up." or "We wanted to do paintball, but some of the team members did not like that idea."
    A corporate team building activity must be something that EVERYONE on your team can participate in and enjoy. Yes, they may feel uncomfortable at first, but it should never be an activity where someone is downright scared or negatively singled out because of their lack of athleticism or daring. The people on your team were presumably hired, because they bring value and expertise to the team. Real team building should build on those skills and increase the ability of team members to interact and solve problems together. You do not need to belittle people or force them into something that goes against their nature in order to build a good business team.
   So-- consider that not everyone likes to drink wine, not everyone is physically fit, not everyone feels comfortable with ropes courses or war games like paintball. These have their place, and small "homogeneous teams" with members that are very similar and have the same tastes can get a tremendous amount of enjoyment from them. However, 99% of the time, teams are very diverse.
   Additionally, a good team building activity requires communication and interaction among the team members. Going to see a baseball game or on some excursion does not require people to talk to each other. Typically, people will sit with their friends and talk to them. They will not go out of their way to be with team members they really don't know well (which is the point of team building).
   The best team building events, therefore, must have broad appeal, be an activity that every team member can participate in, require communication, interaction, encourage getting people to know others they are not familiar with, be fun and engaging, and ultimately perceived as being a good and valuable use of time. If the event or activity you select does not meet these criteria, you should rethink your choice.