Building stronger teams

A leader’s guide for team-building activities that develop resilience, emotional intelligence and cohesion.

Building stronger teams

A downloadable workbook of team-building activities to strengthen leadership skills and build team resilience. 

 

As leaders, we’re only as strong as our teams, and sustaining an effective team is an ongoing effort. The intention of these activities is to help you build team resilience over time. These activities were developed by experts in the areas of trauma, resilience and emotional intelligence. You can include these activities as part of your regular team meetings, rather than scheduling separate meetings each time you want to do one. You can also facilitate most of these activities virtually or in-person.

Each activity should take 30 minutes or less for a team of about 12 people.

Use these activities to help improve team effectiveness, increase self-awareness, foster civility and respect, build emotional intelligence or develop mindfulness. These skills help team members respond more effectively to pressures or stressors at work, resolve workplace issues and support each other through challenging times. Choose the activities that you as a leader feel most comfortable with, and those that you feel will benefit your team, in the following areas:

Team effectiveness

The ability to share and learn from the experiences of others is an efficient way to improve team effectiveness as well as individual performance.

The following activities provide strategies and opportunities for sharing information in ways that can benefit the entire team:

Team huddle. Increase team effectiveness and build team resilience by acknowledging team members’ wins and supporting one another’s challenges.

Good enough vs. perfection. Develop shared and reasonable expectations in terms of quality of work.

Mistake meetings. Develop a sense of openness and trust amongst the team.

Identify and overcome obstacles. Help team members focus on solutions and strategies they can use to overcome obstacles they may perceive are in the way of achieving their goals.

React to workplace stress. Engage the team in reviewing how they handled past stressful work situations, and what they learned, to develop strategies for the future.

Reflect on the past. Draw on past experiences to develop awareness of personal coping strategies.

Deal with disappointment. Ask team members to consider how they faced and moved beyond a work-related disappointment.

Civility and respect

When team members don’t feel safe speaking up or don’t know how to do so respectfully, it can cause high levels of stress and dysfunction within the team.

The activities in this section help to improve civility and respect among team members:

Recognize active acknowledgement. Help the team develop skills to respond and acknowledge one another in specific and active ways.

Volunteering together. Build team resilience through a shared sense of making a difference.

Practicing non-judgmental interpretations. Have team members consider more constructive and non-judgmental interpretations of workplace situations and behaviours.

Recognize strengths. Have team members think and talk about the strengths that others bring to the team.

Acknowledge our accomplishments. Provide an opportunity for team members to share positive contributions they have made that may not have been recognized by you or others.

Microaggressions. It’s completely possible to unintentionally engage in microaggressions. By becoming aware of our own implicit biases, we can learn to avoid comments or actions that may have a negative impact on others.

Intersectionality. Intersectionality focuses on the overlap of various social identities one person may hold. This activity can help reveal areas where we may hold unconscious bias towards particular groups.

Self-awareness

The more we learn about ourselves, the more tolerant and respectful we can be of others.

This is because when we’re able to accept our flaws as well as our strengths, we’re less likely to hold others to impossible standards. In addition, when we learn about how different values and perspectives can contribute to the success of an entire team, we learn to appreciate differences.

The following activities can help team members improve self-awareness:

Identify your communication styles. Have team members think about interaction styles when under stress to help develop more effective behaviour.

Identify your values. Articulate core values to identify goals and understand behaviours.

Identify your strengths. Think about specific ways to build strengths.

What were you thinking? Change external behaviour to better reflect intention.

Interpret negative feedback accurately. Interpret feedback more accurately by avoiding assumptions about the intent.

Communicate with clarity. In this fun activity, the team will learn how to communicate without their message being misinterpreted.

React to change. Develop awareness of how we react to change.

Emotional intelligence

The benefits of building emotional intelligence and resilience among team members in the workplace can be significant.

This includes having greater capacity to adapt and cope with work and life stressors, making it easier to recover from challenges and setbacks.

The activities in this chapter can help team members become more aware of how their emotions impact their behaviour and how they might react to the emotions of others:

The function of emotions. Examine exactly what an emotional response may be communicating.

Emotional triggers. Understand emotional triggers and how they may impact different situations.

Anger as a symptom. Examine situations where anger is a “secondary emotion” of an underlying “primary emotion”.

Express anger constructively. Express anger constructively to minimize problematic circumstances in the future.

Deal with worry. Reduce worry about work and replace it with effective problem solving.

Well-being

We acknowledge that not every work team is ready to venture into the area of mindfulness, but research has provided evidence that this practice can improve well-being, stress management and ultimately productivity at work.

The activities in this section are for those who want to explore mindfulness from a practical perspective:

ABCDs of de-stressing. Calm the mind to improve focus and reduce stress.

Get mellow. An activity to calm the mind by relaxing the body.

Journal gratefulness. An activity to help the mind focus on what is positive to balance out the need to deal with the negative.

Get moving. An activity to help recognize the difference in tension and energy that even a couple minutes of movement can make.

Get creative. An activity to help recognize how something as simple as colouring can help relax both mind and body.

Wear a Mona Lisa smile. Understand how reducing tension in the face and body can reduce the intensity of negative emotions.

Workshop materials

Leveraging team wisdom workshop

Help your team members connect with each other practically and effectively, work together to address obstacles and learn from each other.

 

Psychologically safe interactions workshop

Prevent bullying and increase psychological health and safety by improving awareness of how workplace behaviours may be interpreted as harmful, even when that isn’t our intention.

 

On the agenda workshop series. This is a series of free workshop materials and facilitator tools to address psychosocial factors. Each presentation relates to one of the factors described in Guarding Minds at Work, which are known to impact psychological health and safety in the workplace. The presentation slides, facilitator guides and participant guides are for trainers, team leaders, managers or others. Use them to pave the way for discussions and actions aimed at developing a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.

Additional resources

Facilitation tips for leaders. Tips for successful team discussions. Strategies to help you create meaningful and productive conversations with your team members.

Resilience for teams. Learn why resilience is a workplace issue and how to address it. You’ll see evidence for building team resilience and actionable resources to start.

Team building activities. Discover team building activities, facilitation strategies for discussions, the importance of resilience and more. These resources are both practical and easy to use in a variety of workplaces.