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Bola Owoade

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Book Review – Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers By Brian Cole Miller


Quick Team-Building Activities For Busy Managers


Nowadays the rave is all about technology-assisted learning, but good old face-to-face learning still has its place, especially if it is short, quick and focused. Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers meets the criteria for having learning activities that are short, quick and focused. The book contains fifty team building activities with each one ideally taking no more than fifteen minutes to run with a team using little or no resources other than those readily available. This is not a new book, it was written back in 2004, but that in no way decreases it's relevance to today's context.

Written by Brian Miller Cole, he starts off the book with the first chapter concentrating on how to run a successful team building activity and the second chapter on what could go wrong in a team building activity. These two chapters help prepare one to use the activities which start off in chapter three. The book is divided into two parts. Part one titled Getting Ready consists of the first two chapter, while part two titled The Activities has the fifty team building activities split across six chapters.

The writer has done a brilliant job in being able to fit fifty activities and two get ready chapters in just 171 pages. This no doubt validates the purpose of the book, which is to provide managers with quick activities for building their teams. Following is a quick review of each chapter.

Chapter One - How To Run a Successful Team Building Activity: I personally found this chapter very useful. It discusses six actions in detail to be mindful of in order to run a successful  team building activity. The six actions are:

  1. Before: Select an activity that's good for your team.
  2. Before: Prepare  for your team building activity.
  3. During: Explain the activity to the team.
  4. During: Check for understanding before beginning.
  5. During: Run the activity.
  6. During: Debrief the activity.
  7. After: Reinforce the learning back on the job.

Chapter Two - What Could Go Wrong in a Team-Building Activity: This chapter suggest some ways to preempt what could go wrong during a team building activity. It discusses what the authors calls, "the most common fears and problems managers face in running an activity. The situations include:

  • One or more people don't want to participate
  • They don't understand the directions you gave
  • Materials break down, don't work or there isn't enough.
  • Someone gets overly competitive
  • Participants don't join the debrief session
  • Someone dominates the debrief session
  • The debrief session gets out of hand
  • They don't get what you want them to get out of the activity

Chapter Three - Communication: Listening and Influencing: This chapter has seven activities which concentrate on listening and influencing. Activities such as negotiating for coins, making card triangles, listening to each other without interrupting, story telling, origami, discussing values and selling used washing machines are used to tackle the subject.

Chapter Four - Connecting: Getting To Know each Other: This chapter is all about helping team members learn more about each other. Using activities such as talking about a typical work day, gossiping, being a human billboard and using names as acronyms to provide further information  about oneself, team members are challenged to learn more about each other.

Chapter Five - Cooperation: Working Together as a Team: Activities which include ball tossing, card playing, feeding someone popcorn blindfolded and playing with puzzles are used to emphasize the importance of cooperation.

Chapter Six - Coping: Dealing With Change: The activities in this chapter focus on dealing with change and they include learning from previous changes, a guessing game, building towers with cards, creating a human machine, re-arranging a picture and more.

Chapter Seven - Creativity: Solving Problems Together: Solving an ancient stacking puzzle, creating balloon sculptures, organizing a random stack of cards,  role playing as consultants, improving seating arrangements, story-telling and paper shuffling are part of the activities in this chapter focused on helping teams work creatively together.

Chapter Eight - Teamwork: Appreciating and Supporting each Other: This is the last chapter and appropriately it deals with teamwork.  The activities include a blame game, giving personal feedback, determining first impressions, giving appreciation and people talking about their own strengths.

Personally I like this book because it has so many simple and straightforward ideas of team building activities which can also be used as energizers and ice breakers, and most of them will not take more than 15 minutes nor do they require you to spend large amounts of money to set them up. You can dip in and out of the book just to get what you want. The first two chapters dealing with how to prepare and run a team building activity and what could go wrong during  team building activities have wider applications than the topic of the book. They were certainly learning points for me.

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Bola Owoade

Senior Learning and Development Advisor

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