There is a game, called the ‘Marshmallow Challenge’ which is greatly used as a team-building exercise among all age groups. This game involves 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of strings, and a marshmallow. The teams are asked to build a tower with those sticks and the marshmallow goes on the top of the tower. The tallest tower wins. It has been noticed that younger kids perform exceptionally well as compared to adults who perform this activity. And the reason for that is because kids do not have authority issues or impose the need for control, they can get together quickly, gel well with each other, and flexibly perform actions while having fun. But this tendency only stays if they are exposed to effective team building approaches at all stages of development.
But what would be the right way to build effective teams and inculcate the sense of teamwork and synergy? Let us discuss the top 10 ways to build a team effectively.
1. Icebreakers first
Most of the PG and PG-13 movies that have a storyline surrounding middle schoolers, high schoolers, or teenagers have displayed different groups- the mean group, the famous group, the shy group, and the studious group. This division happens when students don’t get to know each other. They are used to being with a particular group during lunch, play, or study time and they tend to stick with the same group throughout the school. To ensure this doesn’t happen and kids treat each and everyone similarly, ice-breaking exercises such as Find your Partner or Do Not Laugh, should be conducted frequently since the beginning of school.
2. SWOT Analysis
Students more often than not are unaware of what skills and qualities do they have as well as the points that they work on to be better. Teachers should perform SWOT Analysis for all the students by guiding them to self-reflect and pushing them to realize all their strengths and points where they have the opportunity to grow along with the understanding that it’s okay to have some weaknesses, as everyone has some. This will help in creating a team where the qualities of each member complement each other.
3. Mix and Match
As mentioned above, students get comfortable in one group, make friends with them, and participate in the projects with the same group. It is important to facilitate students to step out of their comfort zone and navigate different waters, partner up with different people, and engage with everyone for developing their overall qualities, especially social skills. Hence, teachers should ensure that all students are paired up differently for each project.
4. Display the destination
Whenever there’s a relay race, all the participating teams know the directions of the run along with the finish line. They then analyze the capabilities of all the members and then form the structure of who goes where and when during the race. This happens because they are known to the destination. Similarly, students need to be shown the destination that they are trying to reach, as in the outcome they are trying to accomplish by working in a team. Only then, they will be able to assess one another and develop a plan of action.
5. Make resources available
As a facilitator, it is vital that teachers provide students with all the necessary resources so that they achieve the goal they are working towards without having conflicts amongst themselves. A testament of availability of resources will reflect upon the streamlining of activities and if any frictions occur, students will understand there is a need to iron out the difficulty-causing elements in their nature of the team.
6. Encourage relationship-building
For students to be a part of an effective team, it is important they have a sense of belongingness towards each other. Students who are friends with fellow teammates will always be more comfortable working with them. Therefore, teachers should encourage students to form a connection among themselves, so that they understand each other’s point of view better, do not judge each other for anything, and most importantly have compassion towards one another.
7. Resolve Conflicts
No team has ever gotten through without having any conflicts in it. People with different mindsets have different views and opinions, as well as all of them, have a distinctive behavior and nature towards actions and situations. Conflicts are bound to happen. When a teacher realizes that a student doesn’t seem too comfortable in the given setting at that moment, the students should be given a time-out and later a brainstorming session to find out the best way of resolving will prove to be useful. Students should understand that they do not necessarily have to like or dislike someone in order to perform with them as a team.
8. Evaporate insecurities via games
Everybody has some or the other insecurity that they do not want the people around them to know. Students are no different. But since they are at an age when they can be taught to get rid of their insecurities by slowly and steadily evaporating them, they should be made to do so in the real sense, and games could be one of the best ways to do that. Story-telling games, know me more games, laugh off games, and other games that will build the confidence of the kids will enable them to mitigate their insecurities. The concept of a ‘feelings stick’ where whoever is holding the feelings stick can say whatever they feel without the fear of judgment would be ideal in such situations.
9. Motivate cheerleading
When students are motivated to cheer for each other, they automatically become crucial members of the team. They start rooting for each other as they develop empathy while building on their stack of self-confidence. Everyone is then pushed to reach their maximum potential and best results are accomplished.
10. Teach self-assessments
Self-assessments are when students learn about different methodologies of combating their weaknesses and turning them into strengths. They start taking responsibility for their actions and put in their best efforts to assist the team in reaching the final destination. When they themselves know that there is a scope of improvement, together they will push their limits and outperform themselves.
Team-building is a crucial task and comes across as a tad bit difficult, but it could also be fun if taken the right course of action. Effective teams are directly proportional to effective individuals. Therefore, it is more than critical that team-building is made a part of the day-to-day activities of the students.