An Overview of How Team Building Questions Can Help Your Team
How well does teamwork work? And, why is teamwork so much work? These sound like tongue twisters, but they are relevant questions in today’s workplace.
We hear a lot about how important teamwork is, and many organizations spend a great deal of time and resources seeking to foster it. However, the reality is that we’re not very good at it, and we don’t like it very much.
According to a 2013 survey by the University of Phoenix, only about a quarter of American workers who have worked on teams say they prefer teamwork to working on their own — even though almost all of them say that teams serve an important function in the workplace. Put simply, only one in four people who say teamwork is important actually prefers working on a team to working on their own.
That’s a pretty dramatic discrepancy. However, it’s not surprising, given that seven in 10 workers who have taken part in teams have experienced a dysfunctional team at least once. (See the aforementioned survey.) Moreover, dysfunctional doesn’t simply mean unproductive - it can mean downright ugly. Forty percent say they’ve seen a verbal confrontation between teammates, and 15 percent say they’ve actually seen arguments escalate into physical confrontations. In addition, about a third say they’ve seen teammates start rumors about each other.
These numbers make clear that many teams struggle with maintaining good relationships. Consequently, they struggle to create synergy. (Synergy refers to an interaction producing a sum greater than the parts, and is what differentiates a team from a group of people simply working together mainly to meet individual goals.) Teams use specialization, complementation, and coordination of efforts to achieve a common goal. A team without synergy isn’t really a team at all.
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Team Building Questions Boost Team Cohesiveness
Of course, just because teammates get along doesn’t mean the team will succeed in its objectives. Teamwork entails lots of moving parts. Team cohesiveness is vital, but ineffective leadership, a lack of direction or motivation, resource cuts, competing responsibilities, or any number of other hurdles can undermine this cohesion.
Picking members for a team may be an inexact science, but there’s a method to choosing teammates who occupy different, complementary roles. If they don’t, you could end up with a group of people who think similarly and get along but don’t have much synergy.
Furthermore, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, business consultant Patrick M. Lencioni writes that people with close personal relationships may hesitate to hold each other accountable because they’re afraid of damaging these relationships. So, some types of personal relationships may actually not benefit the team’s performance.
While that’s an important caveat, a team’s cohesiveness and ability to get along remain critical to its performance. This is because a team that lacks cohesion and chemistry is likely to underperform - even if it has everything else going for it. For one, we know that workplace team relationships are associated both with employee well-being (unsurprising given that half of American employees spend more time at work than by themselves and with family) and with employee engagement. Employee engagement, in turn, is associated with a number of performance outcomes. At a time when, according to Gallup data from 2016 and 2017, only about one in three American employees is engaged at work, people with friends among their coworkers find work much more satisfying. Those who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be fully engaged at work.
In a Harvard Business Review article “We All Need Friends at Work”,leadership author Christine M. Rierdan writes that camaraderie creates a shared sense of purpose and a we’re-all-in-this-together mentality. In effect, this camaraderie increases the extent to which people identify with the group. As people identify more with a group, they expend more effort to meet the group’s goals, a psychological phenomenon called social laboring. Also, allowing people to relate to each other by building positive relationships decreases hostility and the likelihood of damaging conflict.
Team Building Questions Help Teams Break Through Relationship and Technology Barriers
Teams maximize their potential when positive relationships span 360 degrees, rather than just form horizontally between teammates. Key relationships extend vertically to one’s boss and direct reports. That doesn’t mean everyone should be buddies with their boss and subordinates (they probably shouldn’t). However, there’s strong evidence that building a relationship of trust and respect with your boss, as well as perceiving yourself to be part of your boss’ inner circle, leads to improved performance. Also, on an emotional level, an employee’s relationship with a boss is one of the most important determinants of their job happiness. We’ve all heard the adage about people quitting their bosses, not their jobs. A 2016 study shows that the vast majority of respondents (93 percent) believe trust in their direct manager is essential to workplace satisfaction.
So, we know that building relationships of mutual trust, respect, and even friendship between teammates and bosses improves the quality of the team experience as well as the level of job satisfaction and performance. Why, then, do so many teams struggle with building these relationships?
The answer is simple: You can’t force relationships. Instead, you must foster them by giving teammates the opportunity to build, grow, and maintain bonds.
This is where team building becomes relevant. Team builders seek to enhance interpersonal relationships and communication, team spirit, and team identity. All of these factors contribute to synergy.
Creating synergy through team building has never been more relevant than in this technology-dominated era. The drive for more efficient and instantaneous business communication means that coworkers today are more likely to communicate by email, app, text message, mobile device, or online platform than by in-person interaction. One survey finds that 95 percent of managers and senior executives plan to use these tools over in-person meetings.
This trend has created a desire to “disconnect to connect,” i.e., take a step away from technology to nurture relationships. While a status update shares critical information, it doesn’t do much to strengthen the bonds among team members. A face-to-face team builder activity like asking thought-provoking and revealing questions will foster those connections.
The History of Workplace Team Building Activities
We can trace the history of organizational team building in the United States back to the late 1920s. The Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago conducted research now known as the Hawthorne Experiments. Harvard University Professor Elton Mayo began experimenting with how physical conditions at the workplace affected productivity. He then grew interested in how psychological and social phenomena impacted productivity. His eventual findings included the following observation: positive group identity, a sense of group and individual achievement, good individual relationships with the manager, and a more democratic approach to decision making all improve productivity.
Team building went mainstream in the 1970s and 1980s when the focus of American organizational practice shifted from individual performance to team performance. As Dr. Marilyn S. Wesner of George Washington University’s Executive Leadership Doctoral Program in Human and Organizational Learning describes in her history of organizational team building, organizations began offering team-based reward systems. As assigning work to teams became more common at companies and other organizations, interest in team building among personnel training practitioners skyrocketed. Team building expanded to emphasize frontline workers rather than just managerial staff (as had been the case before the 1970s), and the field turned toward finding solutions to real workplace problems.
By the 1990s, consulting firms were offering team builder methods and activities as part of their approach to improving organizational performance, a practice that continues today. With the arrival of the Millennial workforce, team building activities have grown to embrace the element of fun by incorporating competition and gameplay. You can find an exhaustive resource for team building activities and games here and here.
The simplest team building exercises in use today involve team builder questions. These provide a platform for conversation, relieving interpersonal tensions, and a non-threatening opportunity to talk about themselves, therefore allowing participants to build positive relationships.
Team Building Question Categories and How to Use Them
Team building questions can be broadly categorized by what they aim to do. Icebreakers get new people comfortable with each other and can also “break the ice” at the start of a meeting, conference, workshop, seminar, or retreat to set the tone for group work.
Questions about personal tastes, hobbies, and pastimes help people discover what they have in common, and provide food for conversation and perhaps even suggestions on how to make workplaces more employee friendly. Humorous questions bond people through laughter, which de-stresses everyone a little. Problem-solving questions allow people to exercise teamwork skills while promoting friendly competition. Questions relating to values and a sense of purpose allow people to learn about what drives them, which fosters motivation and team spirit.
We’ll discuss each of these categories in more detail later, but all of them share some broad aims. First, they encourage communication by creating an opportunity that inspires everyone (even shy people) to participate. Second, these questions give people the chance to share personal details about themselves that they otherwise might not, and an opportunity to open up, empathize with each other, and build trust with both peers and supervisors. In workplaces dominated by digital interactions, these moments would otherwise be hard to come by.
In case you need to get buy-in for a team building questions event, here is a recap of all the benefits of and purposes for using questions with teams:
- Breaking the ice
- Fostering communication
- Encouraging “disconnect to connect”
- Learning each other’s values
- Increasing trust in the boss and each other
- Increasing participation, even that of shy people
- Relieving stress
- Generating laughter, happy feelings
- Promoting healthy competition
- Getting to know one another
- Revealing more about the personal side of people
- Strengthening bonds
- Discovering what drives other people
Types of Team Builder Questions for Every Occasion
You can use team building questions almost any time, provided, of course, that they don’t get in the way of important work.
Icebreakers are a good idea when convening new groups of people, whether teams or simply groups attending workshops, conferences, or seminars. Humorous questions can be a welcome break during periods of stress or when people simply need to recharge. Problem-solving questions work best when your group is away from the regular workplace, especially at retreats or picnics. Questions about values and a sense of purpose can set the tone for recognizing and appreciating colleagues’ efforts. Finally, you can use questions about tastes, hobbies, and pastimes to learn about each other when your colleagues have a few minutes to spare, such as during commutes or over lunch.
Team building questions work best when used in face-to-face interactions. Managers may use them to open sessions or incorporate them into games, such as Icebreaker Bingo or Circle of Questions. If getting everyone together in the same place at the same time is too difficult, you might post a daily question on a wall where everyone can see it, or, if all else fails, email questions to colleagues once a week, and give incentives for replies. You can circulate the answers to keep the cycle going.
Unfortunately, we sometimes view team building questions as a fun, but forgettable activity. To counter this tendency, try using questions that encourage people to talk about intellectual or skill-based interests (these interactions will have more staying power). Good discussion topics include favorite books, hobbies, and talents (e.g., playing an instrument, dancing, running long distance, etc.).
Occasionally, team builder questions reveal things about teams that a manager can use to make long-term improvements to the workspace or the team dynamic. For example, there’s evidence that playing music in the workplace correlates positively with changed moods and improved quality of work - if your team building questions reveal that half the people on your team like piano jazz, it may be worth updating the office playlist. If you discover that a few members of your team really love their goldfish, perhaps it’s time to rethink the office policy on pets. And, if someone wants to try hiking a trail after a teammate tells them about it, that’s a valuable idea for the next office retreat. Travel is an excellent way to connect people, and physically challenging trips can do wonders for strengthening team bonds.
Finally, you can connect people’s responses to team building questions to the results of their personality assessments, such as the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). This exercise will help teammates understand how responses to problem-solving and value-based questions are indicative of personality types and thinking styles. Some personality classifications may be quite abstract and difficult to link to behavior, so questions help contextualize how personalities influence the way people fill roles and functions at work.
How Not to Use Team Building Questions
We have made a good case for the value of asking questions when you are building a team. However, remember that it’s crucial to ask these questions in an appropriate setting so they don’t backfire.
You can use questions as a stepping stone to increase openness, trust, and camaraderie among team members. However, group members often cover a wide personality spectrum. So, be sure to select questions that encourage sharing and sociability rather than vulnerability. For example, avoid questions like, “What has been your worst failure and why?”
Even some questions that seem innocuous, such as, “What would you change first about our office?” could be stressful. People may worry that their responses will displease the manager or won’t be kept confidential. Team members will then be unlikely to answer honestly, with overly confrontational questions defeating the purpose of the exercise.
Naturally, you should also avoid divisive, gossip-oriented, or intimate questions about sex, politics, office romance, and money. Other off-limits topics include opinions regarding senior staff, salaries, and hot-button cultural, legal, and religious issues.
The Ultimate List of Team Building Questions
Now that you know why and when to use team builder questions, you’re probably looking for the ideal material to get you started: great questions. We’ve got you covered.
In the sections below, you’ll find a list of over 230 questions spread across several categories: icebreakers; personal hobbies, tastes, and pastimes; humorous questions; problem-solving questions; values and sense-of-purpose questions; and trivia questions. You’ll also find information on how best to use each question type.
Icebreaker Team Building Questions
A perennial favorite with new teams, icebreakers warm up groups and reduce the awkwardness of meeting several new people at once. Since their primary aim is to introduce people to new colleagues or teammates, icebreakers typically prompt sharing personal details. Unsurprisingly, introverts or shy people often dislike icebreakers, even if those icebreakers are well-designed and conducted. Moreover, icebreakers can feel like a chore if they aren’t tailored to a group’s makeup, function, or relevant activities.
A well-designed icebreaker introduces people to each other while setting up the group for the activities to follow. For example, an icebreaker for a team of junior news reporters and editors may ask people to talk about the most challenging story they’ve ever covered or, on a lighter note, the funniest typo they’ve ever let slip into print or on the air.
Following are a list of 83 icebreakers to get your team going:
- If you could be any animal for a week, which would you choose to be and why?
- Who’s your favorite superhero and why?
- What’s your favorite thing to do in the summer?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is/was the name of your favorite pet?
- Who is your favorite cartoon character and why?
- Describe yourself in three words.
- Where did you grow up?
- When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do?
- What is your favorite movie quote?
- Show us the most interesting thing you have in your purse/wallet.
- At which store do you shop the most?
- What’s the longest time, in a single stretch, that you’ve ever been in a car?
- What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
- What’s the lowest grade you ever received in college, and which class was it for?
- How many keys are on your key ring right now?
- What’s your favorite song?
- How many siblings do you have, and where are you in the order?
- What is one food you can’t give up?
- Which sport do you most like to watch?
- Describe your team in one word.
- Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people who know you.
- What do you admire most about the person to your right?
- What is your favorite outdoor activity?
- What do you do to beat stress?
- What’s your favorite type of cuisine?
- What’s your favorite genre of movie?
- What’s your favorite genre of music?
- What is your dream car?
- What’s the most surprising thing that’s ever happened to you in another country?
- Are you a plant person?
- What kind of chocolate do you prefer — white, dark, or milk?
- Do you have a favorite animal?
- What was your favorite TV show as a teenager?
- Where were you, and what were you doing when [insert name of famous event] happened?
- Have you ever written a letter to the editor of, or an article or opinion piece for, the local paper?
- How many languages can you speak?
- Are you good at fixing things?
- Which is your least favorite fruit?
- How long have you lived in [insert name of place]?
- What do you like to do on weekends?
- What’s your favorite color?
- What’s your favorite nursery rhyme?
- Have you ever traveled in a submarine or helicopter, or on a dogsled?
- Who played at the first live concert you ever attended?
- Have you ever climbed a mountain or run a marathon?
- Which sports team(s) do you support?
- What’s your favorite video game?
- Have you met anyone famous in the last year? If you have, may I see a photo?
- Do you cook? What’s your favorite recipe?
- Do you play a musical instrument?
- Name one movie you think should have had a sequel.
- What was your favorite board/card game as a child?
- Have you ever driven anything other than a car or light truck?
- What’s your favorite time of year?
- When it comes to candy, what is your guilty pleasure?
- Can you read music?
- What do you like on your pizza?
- What’s the oldest article of clothing you still wear?
- Have you ever skydived? Would you?
- What’s the longest book you’ve ever read?
- What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
- Which show are you currently watching?
- What do you usually have for breakfast?
- What is your middle name?
- What is your favorite junk food?
- What car do you drive?
- What color is your kitchen?
- Which is your favorite brand of clothing?
- Where would you like to move when you retire?
- What happened on your worst birthday?
- What is your favorite dessert?
- Which is your favorite flower?
- What date on your calendar are you looking forward to this year?
- Which is your favorite restaurant in [insert name of place]?
- What is your favorite drink?
- Do you prefer dancing with others or alone?
- If I opened your closet, I would find __________.
- Who is your favorite comic-book character?
- Who is your favorite artist?
- What is your favorite work of art?
- Are you good at imitating foreign accents?
- Tattoos: yes or no?
Team Building Questions about Personal Tastes, Hobbies, and Pastimes
Like icebreakers, questions about personal tastes, hobbies, and pastimes help people learn about each other. Typically, however, managers do not use this category of questions for first-time groups, as the value of these questions lies almost exclusively in helping people build upon existing conversations and relationships.
Although you can use questions about personal tastes, hobbies, and pastimes along with other team building activities, this particular category of questions can make conversations with time limits feel strained. As such, these questions work best when you use them in informal settings with no time limit.
Here is a list of team building questions about personal tastes, hobbies, and pastimes:
- If you could paint a portrait of anyone, who would you paint?
- What’s at the top of your bucket list?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- How many books have you read this year?
- What thing are you most afraid of?
- What was your favorite book as a child?
- When people compliment you, they’re most likely to comment on your __________.
- Which celebrity would you hate to sit next to on a plane?
- Who is your favorite U.S. president?
- What do you think is your best feature?
- What has been your most exotic trip?
- Which song are you likely to have on repeat this week?
- If you could change one aspect of your appearance, what would it be?
- What genre of music do you dislike?
- What is your favorite type of cuisine and why?
- Have you ever seen a phenomenon you still can’t explain?
- If you had a time machine and could make a single, one-way trip, where would you go?
- Which award would you most like to win and why?
- Tell us your earliest childhood memory.
- What’s the best thing to happen to you this year?
Humorous Questions for Team Building
Humorous questions can work for almost any group of people as long as the setting, context, and content of those questions are appropriate. They serve a variety of purposes, from helping new people get comfortable with each other to relieving stress.
Here are 42 fun and funny questions:
- If someone made a movie about my life, it would be a __________ (genre), and I’d be played by __________ (actor/actress name).
- While on a date, what’s your biggest pet peeve?
- What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
- Who is the quirkiest person in your family?
- Tell us about one of your quirks.
- What is your favorite joke?
- If you were on Mars, what would you do for fun?
- I’d hate to be stuck in an elevator with __________.
- Where would you go if you were invisible?
- When I dance, I look like __________.
- Tell us about a person you’ve met and wish you hadn’t.
- What’s your biggest pet peeve in general?
- If I had a yacht, it would be named __________.
- What’s the best thing about being really tall?
- If you could change your nationality, what would you change it to?
- How long do you take to get out of bed?
- Which TV sitcom family would you fit into best?
- What is the best insult you can think of?
- What fashion trend do you just not understand?
- If I were a dictator, I’d name my country __________.
- If I could give myself a nickname, it would be __________.
- Tell us about the worst haircut you’ve ever had.
- How would your worst enemy describe you?
- What one sentence would you most like to hear from your boss tomorrow morning?
- Which TV game show would you have the best chance of winning?
- If you were a chef, your least favorite dish would be __________.
- Who is your favorite comedian?
- What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
- Which famous person do you think you look like?
- When I write my autobiography, I’m going to call it __________.
- What’s the most exotic dish you’ve ever eaten?
- What is something about you most people would find funny if they knew?
- How would you describe what you do for a living to a bunch of five-year-olds?
- What never fails to make you laugh?
- What would you name your pet monkey?
- If you had a Second Life avatar, what would they look like?
- What makes you geek out?
- Which famous person would you ask to autograph your cast?
- Which city in America should not be included on a map for tourists? Why?
- When did you last get the giggles in an awkward place?
- How can you tell if someone’s a nerd?
- If you had the chance, would you choose to stay your current age forever?
Problem-Solving Questions for Team Builders
Problem-solving questions are a more functional sub-category of team builder questions. Although (like other types of questions) they encourage people to learn about each other, team members gain practical insights from solving problems together. For example, problem-solving questions can reveal individual thinking styles, functional strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to cope with pressure.
The best problem-solving questions include tasks that bring some novelty to skills that participants regularly use in team work. These questions work best with groups of people who already know each other but haven’t worked as a team before.
Here are some problem-solving questions for team builders:
- Have you ever had to do something for work you knew you’d struggle with? How’d you prepare for it?
- Which developing technology do you think will transform the future?
- If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
- If you could add a word to the dictionary, what would it be?
- What upcoming technological innovation do you think will impact you most during the next five years?
- How would you spend a million dollars in 24 hours?
- What one skill should everyone on Earth have?
- If you had an extra hour of time each day, how would you use it?
- Would you rather have the power to become invisible or read minds? Why?
- Describe one time you took a huge leap of faith. Did it pay off?
- What color would you paint this room?
- Which of your five senses do you think is the strongest? Which is the weakest?
- Share a good riddle or brain teaser with the group.
- Which amenity do you think your workspace currently lacks?
- If you had a chance to rescue an armful of your possessions during a natural disaster, what would you grab?
- If you had to pick only one type of food to survive on for a week, what would you pick?
Values and Sense-of-Purpose Questions for Team Building
Questions about teammates’ values and sense of purpose are appropriate for teammates who already know each other and how they’re supposed to work together. This is because these questions require a considerable degree of openness and familiarity with the task at hand. As such, they’re not appropriate for teams who are convening for the first time.
For teammates who do know each other, questions about values offer a useful perspective on colleague conduct. In turn, this knowledge enables teammates to recognize each other’s contributions to the team. Sense-of-purpose questions are excellent for creating and recharging team spirit and motivation. Both types of questions can also increase the extent to which individuals identify with the team and its mission.
Following are 46 values and sense-of-purpose questions:
- Which living person do you admire most?
- What is your dream job?
- If you could swap jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?
- What would you do with fifteen minutes of fame?
- What one thing do you own that you wish you didn’t?
- What is your biggest addiction?
- If you were famous, what would you be famous for?
- What do you think is the most important quality in a friend?
- What is the worst job you could have?
- What is the meanest thing you’ve ever said to someone in person?
- If you could call the president, what would you say to him?
- Have you had a lifelong dream?
- If I were running for president, my campaign slogan would be __________.
- What product would you refuse to promote?
- If I were a teacher, I’d teach __________.
- What is the most useful advice you’ve ever received?
- Which dead person would you like to add to Mount Rushmore?
- With a million dollars, I would__________.
- Who is your hero?
- If I could write a note to my favorite school teacher, I’d say __________.
- What’s the best gift anyone could give you?
- If you were the host of a national talk show, who would you invite as your first guest?
- What personal attribute do you think your current role demands above all else?
- If you were healthy, wealthy, and had plenty of time, would you stick with your job?
- Which three persons, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?
- What do you plan to do once you retire?
- Which person, living or dead, would you like to have as your mentor?
- If you could be rid of one of your fears, which would it be?
- What person do you think has had the greatest influence on your life so far?
- If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
- What single event did the most to change the way you see the world?
- If you could grant yourself a new professional or personal skill, what would it be?
- My dream business would be __________.
- When was the last time you stayed up all night because you were excited about something?
- What personal trait do you dislike most in yourself?
- Do you volunteer anywhere?
- What advice would you give to an 18-year-old version of yourself?
- What future event would you most like to see?
- The time I waited longest in line was to get __________.
- What did you want to be when you were little? What did you actually become?
- For me, the perfect day is __________.
- What was the highlight of the year for your team? What might have happened if you hadn’t been part of the team?
- If you knew you only had one year left to live, what would you change about the way you live?
- What is the thing you most want people to say about you at your funeral?
- What thing would you most regret not doing by the end your life?
- What is the most important thing you have learned in the past year?
Trivia Questions for Team Building
There are lots of great resources for trivia questions. You can even use cards from the game Trivial Pursuit for suggestions, or search online for general trivia questions. Here are some examples:
- Name all the signs of the zodiac.
- What color jersey does the winner of each stage of the Tour de France wear? (Yellow)
- Which chess piece can only move diagonally? (Bishop)
- Who invented champagne? (Benedictine monk Dom Perignon)
- What animal needs the least sleep? (Giraffes at 30 minutes a day)
- In the Spider-Man series, who is Peter Parker’s best friend? (Harry Osborn)
For team building in a company or organization, it can be especially effective to use trivia questions related to the workplace. You can divide into smaller groups and send people off for 30 minutes to research the answers. Some questions you can use for this exercise include:
- Who are the youngest and oldest full-time employees?
- What’s the most expensive item in the cafeteria or vending machine, and how much does it cost?
- What is the coffee shop closest to the office, and how far away is it in feet or miles?
- What department occupies the most office space?
- Who founded the organization?
- What year was the company founded?
- When did the organization get its first website?
- What is the company motto or tagline?
- How many lawyers work at the company full-time?
- What is the most popular product or service the organization offers?
- How many locations does the company have?
- Does the organization give anything to employees who retire? If so, what is the gift?
- How many sports teams does the company have? What sports are they?
- How many organization-wide social events does the company hold each year?
- What color is the carpet in the CEO’s office?
- Name the charities that the organization supports.
- What are all the different ways employees commute to work?
- Whose signature appears on your paycheck?
How to Use Team Building Questions: Activities and Games
Although we normally think of people answering team builder questions one by one around a circle, you can actually use these questions in many other ways.
If you’re looking to get people up and moving, a game or activity based on these questions is a great idea. And, if you want to introduce a little competition, divide your staff into teams that compete against each other. Ask team building questions like, “What things would you need to survive on a desert island?” or “What color should you paint the office?” and see who comes up with the best solution. Check out these ways to use team building questions:
- Person Bingo: Fill the squares on a bingo card with uncommon personality characteristics you might hear in response to some of the icebreaker questions, such as whether someone plays the flute or runs marathons. Give everyone a copy of the card. Participants have to talk to each other to find the people who possess the characteristics listed in the squares on the card. When they do, they can enter that person’s name on the corresponding square. The first person to fill up all their squares with the names that correspond to the characteristics wins.
- Switch Sides If: This is a fun exercise and also gets people moving, so it can be a good transition activity or way to break up a long session. This activity helps people see who they have things in common with. In a room with plenty of space for your group, divide the room in half with masking tape. Start by having people stand wherever they want. Then, tell people to switch sides in response to your questions. These can be questions like, “Are you a morning person or a night person?” or “Do you speak another language?” (If people switch sides for the latter, have them tell someone what language they speak.)
- Question Ball Toss: Take a large, inflatable beach ball, and write questions on it in marker. Get your group in a circle, and toss the ball. Whoever catches it answers the question on the ball that is closest to his or her right thumb. After answering, he or she tosses the ball to someone else. There are also some pre-made versions of the ball, such as this one.
- “Tell Us” Candy Game: Get a bag of different-colored candy, such as hard candies, M&Ms, or Skittles. Have each person in the group pick three or four pieces of candy. For each candy color, assign a question. For example, red could be: “What has been your favorite travel experience?” Or, green could be, “What has been your proudest work accomplishment of the past year?” Go around the room and have people answer questions according to the colors of candy they selected.
- Circle of Questions: Have the group form two concentric circles, with those comprising the inner circle facing outward and those comprising the outer circle facing inward so that pairs of people are face to face. Each pair has a set amount of time — usually a few minutes — during which both members must answer a question called out by the facilitator that relates to personal tastes, hobbies, or pastimes. Once the time limit is up, the inner circle rotates clockwise and the outer, counterclockwise (or vice versa) so that everyone has a new partner for the next round of questions.
- Team Effectiveness Exercise: This is an exercise to use with mature teams. Have each person answer two questions about each member of the team. Questions may include the following: “What is the person’s most important attribute for the team?” and “What is the person’s attribute that detracts from the team the most?” Start with the team leader, and have everyone read their positives about him or her. Ask the leader if there are any questions or surprises. Then, repeat the process with the negatives. Follow these directions with each member of the team. At the end, ask each person for one or two pieces of feedback they plan to work on.
For more ideas, check out the team building resources on Pinterest.
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