by Katie Bergeman, Animal Care Technician for Humane Pennsylvania
As soon as you hear team building what comes to mind? Do you see a bunch of people hand in hand trying to figure out a problem? Team building is meant to bring individuals together to accomplish the same goal. Incorporating team building into a meeting or event can not only help staff get to know each other but can also help make that meeting or event not so much of a drag. But how can you get people excited to participate in a team building activity? By choosing the most appropriate activity to do for your group.
Activities range in time, number of participants, equipment needed and the overall message or take away from it. If you have a group of 40 people and your activity needs equipment for each person, maybe try finding a different activity that would work better for a larger group if you don’t have the means to get the equipment. If you have only 20 minutes for an activity before a meeting, making sure you have enough time to set up, explain and actually execute the activity is really important. Trying to do an activity meant to be an hour long in 20 minutes could just add unneeded stress and frustration to the group. The other thing to keep in mind is how well your group knows each other. Some activities do involve holding hands, being blind folded, sometimes even lifting people up. So gauging the comfortability of the group beforehand is important.
At the Humane League of Lancaster County, we have monthly meetings to ensure everyone is up to date with important information, procedures and events. I was given the great opportunity to use my background knowledge from college to provide team building activities to my fellow employees before the meetings. I tailor the activities for the group size and timeframe. When we had new employees hired, I would gear the activity for more of an ice breaker activity. One activity that I did was called “The Toilet Paper Game”. This activity involved taking a toilet paper roll (to save on toilet paper, I used small pieces of paper) and passed it around the group, telling them “Take as much as you think you need”. Of course I got questions like “why?” or “what do I need it for?” but all I replied was “take as much as you think you need”. So naturally some people took a whole bunch and some more cautious people only took a couple. Once everyone had their pieces then I said that for every piece you need to tell us one fact about yourself. Some people we learned four facts about them and others we learned twenty plus facts about them.
On the other hand when we had more senior staff and knew each other pretty well, I geared the activity more towards team building. One activity that I facilitated at one of our staff enrichment days, was called “Minefield”. This activity involved a minefield of different objects. We used safety cones, frisbees, crates and anything to create an obstacle. From there I split the group in two and handed each group a blind fold. The objective was to get everyone through the minefield blind folded. The teams could decide to all work together, pair up within the group or potentially have one person lead everyone through the minefield. As a facilitator, I had to change up the course as they were going through and I also noticed that one person from each group stepped up to lead everyone through. So in order to get more involvement within the group I told the ‘leaders’ that they had to remain quiet for a little to encourage other people to step up to guide other people through. Everyone made it through the minefield unscathed.
Team building has definitely helped improve the morale in the shelter. It’s tough working in the animal care industry but when you have an amazing team to support and help you, you can get through it! We are constantly learning from each other and growing together. By doing these team building activities, it may seem just like fun but there is so much more. As a team, we are learning about each other, trusting each other and working together to solve a common goal. All of which can be translated and used in the shelter.