Team Communication: 21 Games Every Manager Should Know
Team Communication – Why Is It Important?
The three Dilbert panels below perfectly sum up the problems that poor team communication can lead to:
If your team doesn’t communicate well, messages are read and perceived differently by every individual, instead of what they actually are. This miscommunication breeds confusion and priorities get jumbled up.
Team communication is the sailor’s compass. Just like a sailor trusting a faulty compass for directions, no communication ensures that people don’t finish their tasks, as they’re all thinking in different directions.
Without clear direction, tasks that may take only a day, need weeks to complete. Of course everyone knows that time is more valuable than money. Money can be regained, but the same can’t be said for time.
Unclear communication leads to confusion, not just in terms of tasks at hand, but also about every person’s role. If two people eventually end up doing the same thing, conflict becomes the only outcome.
We seek a sense of community and build relationships. Ineffective communication limits camaraderie between your team members and restricts engagement, creating a culture of distrust, which only serves to harm an organisation.
Collaboration across teams is key for any company’s success. And, companies need to spend more time laying proper communication guidelines in place to ensure teams can effectively collaborate.
Team communication and Team Building Activities
An often overused but fail proof solution for ineffective communication is to institute a culture of trust by taking part in ‘team building’ activities. What this means is that managers should conduct regular team exercises or activities to ensure that there is a culture of trust and a level of camaraderie. For your benefit, I have compiled a list of 21 such exercises you can do with your team:
Purpose: Helps improve listening and speaking skills.
- Ask your team to form pairs.
- Blindfold one person in each pair.
- Give the non-blindfolded person a picture. (Ideally, use pictures with geometrical shapes).
- The non-blindfolded person describes the picture to their partner.
- The blindfolded partner will draw the shapes based on their teammate’s instructions.
Purpose: Helps teams acknowledge their colleague’s efforts.
CCSG stands for Character, Conflict, Struggle and Goal.
- A participant will select a topic to talk about with the team
- The story should follow the CCSG storytelling format
For example, a participant can talk about a successful project. In this scenario, the people involved become characters, the challenges faced by the team become the conflict, working with remote teams can become the struggle and the objective/result of the project becomes the goal.
Are You Listening?:
Purpose: Helps improve team collaboration and bonding.
- Make two groups and pick captains for each.
- Give the group captains a long list of sequences.
- The sequences will be the same for both the teams.
- The captain will pass on these sequences to their group, word-by-word.
- The game begins with a member of, say, Group 1 says the first sequence
- Then a member of Group 2 will repeat the following sequence.
- This will go on till the end of the list.
Mime or Dumb Charades:
Purpose: Helps develop engagement between the team.
This one is a popular pastime, and it can be used to improve team communication as well.
- Divide your team into two groups.
- First group will nominate a member to mime.
- The other group will share a topic or a movie name with the nominated member in secret
- The nominated member will mime the movie name or topic and their team will guess the word or phrase.
- The groups can take turns to nominate a mime.
Let’s Face It:
Purpose: To highlight the importance of facial expression while communicating.
Suggested in ‘The Big Book of Conflict – Resolution Games’, it’s a bit similar to the mime game.
- Every member of your team should write a feeling on a piece of paper & fold it.
- A volunteer will pick all the folded chits & put them in a bowl.
- The volunteer will pick a chit and enact whatever emotion is mentioned on it
- The rest of the team will guess the emotion.
- You can change the volunteer for every three or five turns.
Talkers & Watchers:
Purpose: To highlight the differences between being a talker and a watcher.
- All the participants will sit in a semi-circle facing one person in the centre.
- The person sitting in the middle will be designated as a Talker, and others as Watchers.
- The Talker will speak on a topic for 5 – 10 minutes.
- The watchers will make notes.
- Once the Talker is done, others will share their thoughts.
- One of the watchers will swap places with the Talker & the process is repeated.
Purpose: To help your team become better listeners.
This exercise is similar to Talkers & Watchers. However, this activity is done in pairs.
- Ask your teams to form pairs.
- One person (Talker) will talk about their ideal vacation.
- The other person (Watcher) takes notes and makes non-verbal gestures.
- The Watcher isn’t allowed to talk.
- Once the Talker is done with the description, the Watcher summarizes it.
- Now they’ll exchange roles.
Rant It Out:
Purpose: To help people see through their rants and understand what bothers them about co-workers.
Like the name suggests, it’s a task where people will rant in open.
- Every participant is allotted a full 60 seconds to rant.
- It can be about anything that bothered them – their favourite team losing a match, people’s driving skills, etc.
- The listeners should pay attention to everything.
- Once they’re done with the rant, listeners should say something or make suggestions to make them feel better.
Story Of Your Heart:
Purpose: To help strike a personal chord between the team.
It might seem similar to CCSG storytelling exercise, but the purpose is not to inform, but to share.
- A participant will narrate a story.
- The story can be about anything – their life goals, first job, or college days.
Purpose: To explain how messages get corrupted when passed through so many people.
Inspired by a children’s game called ‘Telephone’, ‘A What?’ is slightly challenging and a lot of fun.
- Pick two random objects and form a circle with your team.
- Now pass one object to the person on your right while describing it
- Pass the second object to the person on your left coupled with a description.
- For example, Nitya will pass a pen to Kanth saying ‘this is a blue pen of red ink’ and Kanth will receive the pen asking ‘A what?’. He will pass the same to say Ram and say ‘this is a blue pen of red ink’ and so on.
- By the time the object makes a whole circle, you’ll realize how the description changes completely.
Purpose: To emphasize the importance of clear team communication.
- Form multiple groups of 3 – 6 members each.
- Each group will ideate, draw and write a comic strip.
- Every person in the group should take complete responsibility for one panel of the strip.
- Also, the catch is, once the group members have discussed the plot, the characters and the setting, they can’t see the other panels being drawn by their teammates.
- The teams can describe the panels to each other.
Blindfold Rope Square:
Purpose: To demonstrate why teamwork is important.
- Make sure you have a safe place ideally with no walls and tripping hazards
- Get a big rope
- Invite your team to this place.
- Blindfold them, and turn them around a few times to disorient them.
- Tell your team that there’s a rope on the floor and everyone should team up to form a square with the rope.
- Once they announce that the job is done, remove their blindfolds.
Purpose: To help individuals practice letting others speak
- Form a circle with everyone facing outwards
- Ask your team to count from one to ten.
- Any person can start the counting, but each person can say only one number.
- If anyone interrupts or repeats the number, the counting begins again.
Purpose: To nurture teamwork and help your team understand which negotiation tactics work.
- You’ll need at least 4 – 6 cards for each person and three teams.
- Cut each card diagonally into four pieces and mix all the pieces together.
- Put an equal number of pieces into as many envelopes as you have teams.
- Each team will get an envelope and three minutes to sort the pieces.
- In that time they should also come up with a strategy to bargain for the missing pieces.
- After this, the teams will get 15 more minutes to bargain and barter their cards.
- At the end of it, whichever team has the most number of completed cards will win.
Purpose: To develop a bond between the team.
- Gather your team in a room.
- One participant will go out and bring an object from within the office.
- The participant should keep the object hidden from everyone.
- The team will try to guess what the object is.
- The team can only ask ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions i.e. the participant can only answer with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Follow The Instructions:
Purpose: To help your team understand why body language is more important than the words
- Form a semicircle with your team, while you stand in the centre.
- Now tell your team that you’ll give them a series of instructions.
- They should follow them as fast as they can.
- The instructions can be like
- Put your hand to your nose
- Clap your hands
- Stand up
- Touch your shoulder
- Sit down, stamp your foot
- Cross your arms
- Put your hand to your mouth (but while saying this one, put your hand to your nose).
*You’ll realize people mirror your action instead of following the instruction.
Clap & Follow:
Purpose: To stress on the importance of listening carefully and attentively.
- Gather your team in a spacious room and share the following instructions
- When you clap once they should stand
- Two claps, they should hop
- Three claps, they should pat their head
- Four claps, they should turn around.
- As the facilitator, don’t be afraid to mix it up.
Stack the Deck:
Purpose: To help teams improve their non-verbal communication skills.
- Shuffle a deck of cards and hand each member one
- Ask them to keep their card a secret.
- Once everyone has a card, they should group themselves as per their house (hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades).
- Participants can only describe their cards non-verbally.
- After 15 minutes, you can check which group has all the right cards.
Purpose: To build trust between teammates.
- For this exercise you’ll need an empty office space.
- Ask your team members to pair up.
- One partner in each pair will be blindfolded and will take part in a race.
- The other person will guide their blindfolded partner through the obstacles (chairs, desks, etc.) to help win the race.
Purpose: To develop good communication skills.
Your team will have to connect with their inner child for this fun activity.
- First pair up your team members.
- Each pair will sit with their backs to each other with a set of lego blocks each.
- Both the partners should make identical structures.
- They can only share instructions between them, but cannot see each other’s structure.
Purpose: Builds a bond between the team, especially if it is full of new members.
- Give each member of your team two slips of paper and a pen.
- Ask them to write a question that is on the top of their heads.
- It can be something silly or serious or anything random.
- On the second slip they should write the answer to their own question.
- A facilitator should collect all the questions in one bowl or a container, & the answers in another.
- Now every member should pick one question and one answer at random.
- Everyone should take turns to read the question and answer they picked.
- It could fit perfectly or might sound silly.
Besides organizing activities, it is important that a manager digs deeper into the challenges that lead to ineffective communication between the team.
Go Team Communication!
In addition to the fun team building activities, companies should invest in intuitive communication and collaboration tools such as grptalk, TelebuJoin and TelebuPing.
grptalk is an audio conferencing app that eliminates the need of internet and hardware to conduct large-scale audio conferences. With grptalk, you can connect with up to 1,000 participants on a single call.
TelebuJoin is a video conferencing solution using which you can set up a virtual meeting in just three steps. With features like screen-sharing and group chat, collaboration will be as easy as blinking.
TelebuPing is a unified communication and collaboration platform that brings chat, voice and video calls on one video. It helps you set up your own secure and virtual workplace.
Your team is only as good as the communication between them.