Best team building activities to develop teamwork

ski planks challenge

Posted on January 30, 2021 by Delyth Morgan-Coghlan (Del)

In this blog we look at the importance of teamwork in an organisation and suggest some ways that you can improve it.

Having spent almost 10 years as an international rugby player, 5 years as a rugby coach, and 8 years running a team building company, I’m passionate about what teamwork can do for teams in the workplace and on the sports field.

Modern day business teams are vastly different from the workplace teams of the passed. The environments they work in are increasingly complex, the speed at which they need to complete tasks has triplicated, the range of duties that they need to fulfil are broader than ever and the time they have to work together in teams has diminished. Add to that the remote nature of working and the amount of change to employee roles and workplace goals, it’s not surprising that teamwork is more of a challenge than it’s ever been before.

But teamwork can be highly effective, efficient and valuable to company’s progress if the ground work is in place. If teams are clear about the vision and the goal or goals; if they are confident and trust one another then anything is possible.

Ironically, we have found that the most effective team building activity for developing teamwork is one that has been around for decades. The classic ski plank challenge where teams of 4 or 5 work together to try and ski on a pair of planks from a start to a finish point.

We see all types of tactics, methodologies, communication styles and leadership styles come to the fore when we run this activity. People reveal so much about their understanding of teamwork when they are put on the spot like this.

Sometimes, the most successful teams don’t have to communicate verbally very much at all. It’s as if they are on the same wavelength and able to understand how to move towards the finish line instinctively.

But behind this instinct are some crucial individual behaviours. The personalities are on the same level, they are working in unison and without a hierarchy. They are happy to lead or to be led, they adopt whatever leadership style is necessary for the group’s success and understand they are equally important in the success of the team, regardless of what their role is. There’s no ego, just a collective determination to work together to complete the task with the least amount of problems. When there is a hiccup they don’t lose their focus and recover quickly to get back into a rhythm. And they are always having fun.

When teams are struggling wth the challenge to begin with, it’s almost always because they are behaving in the exact opposite way to the above. Too much talking, too many voices trying to lead in different ways, somebody thinks they know better than the others (they rarely do!), very little focus, high stress and tension in the group and lack of trust and faith in each other.

This activity is by far the best one we’ve used to develop teamwork with companies. There are also great opportunities to talk about leadership styles and how individuals can re-think what they believe leadership is really about. By running the activity a number of times and getting teams to reflect on how they can improve between each round, we find that everyone learns something new about how to work within a team environment. Sometimes we'll change the rules a little, to make it more challenging but in essence the most important aspect is people being given the opportunity to reflect, improve and learn. It's all done with a big dose of fun too which always helps.

For other quick and simple activities that you can do with your group, try Catapult, Team Draw or Flip The Tarp - you can download the instructables on these activities from our website for free.

"It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit"

Harry S Truman

If you want a team building challenge to help you get things going or to help your company take it to another level, we’re here to help at Let Me Out!

Contact us at any time to talk through your brief and see what we can do.

"Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everyone gets there" Virginia Burden