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In business, teamwork is more important than ever, but getting people to cooperate toward a common goal isn’t easy. Successful teamwork requires aligning a number of factors, including strong leadership, a sturdy organizational framework, and the right technology for connecting remote teams.
Of course, we must consider other factors as well. The failure of interpersonal relationships is one of the biggest causes of team breakdowns. Politics, infighting, mistrust, and even sabotage can thwart a team leader’s best efforts.
To counteract these issues, you can build and strengthen relationships with team building questions. In this article, we’ve created the ultimate resource for team builder questions. The following guide includes more than 230 questions in various categories such as icebreakers, personal interests, trivia, and values, plus games and activities using team building questions. You can even download Getting to Know You Bingo cards.
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.viagra 100mg
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.cialis vs viagra
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.how long does viagra last
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.female viagra pill
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:
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.viagra vs cialis
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.viagra for sale
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.viagra over the counter
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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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:
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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:
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Team building questions are a great way to promote understanding, strengthen group morale, and build trust among team members. However, in order to maintain this camaraderie outside of the team-building session, teams must also adopt tools that encourage steady communication, collaboration, and accountability.
One such tool is Smartsheet, a work management and automation platform that enables enterprises and teams to work better. Smartsheet is the world’s leading SaaS platform for managing and automating collaborative work. Store all relevant project information in a single sheet, and view your work in one of Smartsheet’s many flexible, intuitive view-types - Gantt, Calendar, Card, or traditional grid.
Share your sheet and invite other team members to collaborate on a specific project or task by leaving in-app Comments, assigning work, or attaching documentation and images. Plus, Smartsheet is a cloud-based app, so you can collaborate in real time from any device, at any time.
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