5 science-backed team activities that will actually improve performance - Work Life by Atlassian (2022)

As any sports fan knows, a winning team needs two things to succeed:

  1. Trust in each other, and
  2. A good playbook

It’s not so different for teams in the business world. In fact, we’re big proponents of borrowing strategies from the world of sports to optimize performance in all kinds of teams.

The question is: how do you get started?

Answer: look no further than our very own Atlassian Team Playbook – a free online resource of team workshops (or “Plays”) to help teams build trust, play to their strengths, troubleshoot difficulties, and encourage positive team dynamics. Team Playbook includes dozens of Plays designed to help teams of all types successfully manage projects, monitor progress, and remove common sources of friction.

Better teamwork, built on scientific principles

The secret, in everything from goal setting to identifying pain points, is that the strategies outlined in Team Playbook are rooted in science. That means teams are better positioned for positive long-term outcomes compared to addressing issues in an ad-hoc way.

“Plays [were built on] a solid evidence basis, which makes them significantly more effective,” says Dr. Mahreen Khan, an organizational psychologist and emotional intelligence specialist, who’s also a senior quantitative researcher at Atlassian. “From the science, we already know the characteristics of a successful team. The more you work towards those characteristics, the more effective your own team will become.”

As we continue to adapt to remote or hybrid work, communication, alignment, and team empathy are more important than ever before. “The challenges facing teams in a remote work environment are very different to those faced when everyone was in the same office,” says Dr. Khan. “By using these structured Plays, you’re going to help your staff not only become more effective in their performance, but also in terms of collaborating with one another. That fosters deeper and more meaningful relationships – and a healthier, happier team.”

Different Plays for different needs

The resources within Team Playbook are all exhaustively trialled within Atlassian before being added to the free online roster. (As a global company with over 5,000 employees on five continents, we’re no strangers to the messiness of teamwork).

“The number one area we’re trying to build on here is a sense of openness – with each other, with the team as a whole, and with the greater organization,” says Eugene Chung, an Atlassian team coach and advisor on Team Playbook. “Whether a particular Play is about expressing vulnerability, sharing an honest perspective, or trying not to shoot down ideas, it can become a blueprint for modelling what ‘good’ looks like for everybody. Ideally they don’t stop as one-off Plays either – they become habits moving forward.”

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Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to which Plays you should run, or which order you should run them in. There are Plays that address very specific issues, as well as Plays geared towards improving teamwork in general. As Chung points out: “Team Playbook is extremely accessible; there’s a very low bar to entry. Just start small and you’ll start to see the value and success that follows.”

With that, here’s our starter’s guide to five of the most popular Plays from Team Playbook …

1. Retrospective

Prep time: 15 mins

Run time: 60 mins

What is it? This Play is based on the classic Agile retro, but we’ve adapted it for use by technical and non-technical teams alike. This workshop is a targeted debrief, in which team members reflect on what worked in a project, what didn’t, and what should be done differently next time. (Research shows that exercises like this can lead to 25% better team performance).

How does it work? Best used at project milestones, this live meeting is a controlled discussion split into three parts: what we did well, what we can do better, and actions.

“Retrospective is the easiest place to start if you want to try running Plays with your team,” says Chung. “It’s also more than just a simple analysis of a project – it’s a valuable means to build communication, trust, and honesty in the group. It helps build those muscles, so you can later have hard conversations more easily.”

Expert tip: create a “past two months map.” Draw a timeline spanning two months and have team members call out significant events. Doing this at the start of the Play helps refresh everyone’s memory and sets the stage well.

Check out our ready-made templates for Confluence or Trello to jumpstart your Retrospective.

Run a retro

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2. Project Kickoff

Prep time: 30 mins

Run time: 90 mins

What is it? Project Kickoff gets everyone on the same page and ensures they can see the bigger picture – and the potential pitfalls – before a new initiative begins.

How does it work? Team leads, such as the project sponsor and project leader, meet with a facilitator to create a preliminary vision, mission, and mission tests. Then the entire team follows prescribed steps to review and refine the draft statement. This process is designed to help create alignment in objectives and workflows.

“The scientific literature shows it’s important for teams to engage in a transition process like this at the start of a project,” says Dr. Khan. “Project Kickoff defines what the structure is, what the strategy is and what the mission involves, as well as clearly targeting your goals.”

Expert tip: hold a mini pre-mortem. As a group, imagine all the ways your project could go down in flames, as well as the ways it might succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Essentially, it’s visualizing risks and opportunities before you execute on your project, while you can still do something about them.

Do a Kickoff

3. My User Manual

Prep time: 30 mins

Run time: 60 mins

What is it? A valuable means to get to know your teammates better, for more effective collaboration – particularly in a remote working environment.

How does it work? Each team member writes a “user manual” about themselves (see our Confluence template for an example), where they note how they like to work, communicate, and collaborate. It’s a shortcut for bonding when you can’t simply lean over a desk to chat – but also a guidebook for working together smoothly and efficiently. “It’s a great idea to do this at the start of a major project – as early as possible, in fact – in order to set ground rules and help manage conflict later down the track,” says Dr. Khan. “If you cater towards a colleague’s particular strengths and you’re mindful about the things they don’t like, they’re much more likely to perform to their full potential.”

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Expert tip: you can supplement this exercise by having team-members complete personality tests beforehand, and compare the results. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies. It’s a fun activity – but the results can also help add valuable detail and insight to My User Manual profiles, thereby improving team cohesion.

Make a User Manual

4. Team Health Monitor

Prep time: 5 mins

Run time: 60 mins

What is it? A collaborative way to assess your team’s performance against the eight attributes most commonly found among healthy teams.

How does it work? This isn’t solving problems – it’s uncovering them during a live meeting. For each of the eight attributes, all team members count to three, then rate overall performance as either green (thumbs-up), yellow (thumbs-sideways), or red (thumbs-down). The team then takes time to discuss the red and yellow items to discuss next steps, which might include selecting Plays to strengthen those areas.

Expert tip: make this a regular calendar fixture. “Team Health Monitor can help diagnose problems before they even become problems,” says Dr. Khan. “Regular checks mean you’re staying agile, adapting to changes around you as they happen.”

Run a Health Monitor

5. DACI Decision Making Framework

Prep time: 15 mins

Run time: 60 mins

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What is it? Pronounced “day-cee,”this is a Play to help make effective group decisions. DACI stands for “driver, approver, contributor, informed.”

How does it work? This is about building a framework to help your team make key or complex decisions that requires input from multiple stakeholders. As a group, you consider all the information necessary to make a decision, (like due dates, background research, and costs), before applying the DACI structure to it.

“A lot of times when you’re working together, you tend to disagree with each other and end up in a stalemate,” says Dr. Khan. “A DACI is a problem-solving framework to help you get past that. This template enables a team to have disagreements with each other constructively, then come up with an effective decision.”

Expert tip: use an online collaboration document, like a Trello board or Confluence page. There are specific DACI templates provided in Team Playbook, or you can easily create one of your own. This way you can always refer back to how and why decisions were made, throughout the project.

Make a DACI

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FAQs

How does team building improve performance? ›

It builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. Effective team building means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture and boosting the bottom line. It can also be adventurous and enjoyable if you do it with a little pizzazz.

How do you build a strong team culture? ›

If you want to build a team culture for your group, follow these steps:
  1. Learn from others. ...
  2. Create a vision for your team. ...
  3. Set a regular meeting time. ...
  4. Build relationships with your team. ...
  5. Give constructive feedback. ...
  6. Set an example. ...
  7. Support your team.
22 Mar 2021

What are the six aspects of team building? ›

The six elements are role clarity, trust, job satisfaction, commitment to the organization, motivation and empowerment. If you look at any person in your team, you can describe your relationship with him or her looking at: Role clarity: How clear it is to this person what behaviors and tasks you expect.

What are 7 team building strategies? ›

The 'Seven C's'
  • Clarity. Clarity of purpose focuses a team on what to accomplish and how it fits within an organization's larger priorities. ...
  • Capability. ...
  • Collaboration. ...
  • Commitment. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Continuous Improvement. ...
  • Creativity.
22 Sept 2022

How do team building activities increase productivity? ›

Team building results in unity among individuals and departments, making people work together, pulling in the same direction, which ultimately increases productivity. It combines the effort of a number of individuals, thus more is accomplished within a shorter timeframe.

How do you bring your team closer together? ›

12 easy ways to improve workplace teamwork
  1. The role of leaders. It starts at the top. ...
  2. Communicate, every day, every way. Good communication is at the heart of great teamwork. ...
  3. Exercise together. ...
  4. Establish team rules. ...
  5. Clarify purpose. ...
  6. Recognize and reward. ...
  7. Office space. ...
  8. Take a break.

What are 5 strategies that help a group work together and be successful? ›

5 leadership strategies for effective teamwork
  • Develop diversity within your team. ...
  • The team always comes first. ...
  • Group problem-solving. ...
  • Encourage free thinking (and speaking) ...
  • Don't forget the fun factor.
21 Nov 2018

What are top 3 ways to improve on performance at work? ›

13 ways to improve performance at work
  • Limit distractions. This is a tip many people know but rarely follow: limit your potential distractions. ...
  • Set milestones. ...
  • Set clear and achievable goals. ...
  • Avoid multitasking. ...
  • Improve your time management. ...
  • Do important tasks first. ...
  • Delegate tasks whenever possible. ...
  • Clear your workspace.
26 May 2022

What are 3 ideas for effective teams? ›

3 Ways to Build an Effective Team
  • Establish trust. The best exercises for building psychological safety and interpersonal sensitivity increase trust among team members. ...
  • Build dependability. Establishing ground rules of engagement can help foster both psychological safety and dependability. ...
  • Strengthen communication.
30 Jun 2017

Why team building activities is important? ›

An effective team building activity strengthens collaboration and avoids internal competition. They foster a productive work culture by building rapport between team members and encouraging people to embrace each other's strengths and weaknesses.

What are team building strategies? ›

Team building strategies are practices that organizations use to get their teams working well together. For example, defining team roles and rewarding excellence. These methods contribute to creating an environment where employees feel empowered to do their best. The singular form is “team building strategy.”

Why team bonding activities are important? ›

Team bonding events like activities are designed to motivate the team members to pool their talents and perform at their best as individuals as well as team players. Team members discover that trust, cooperation and effective communication are the keys to a team's success.

How do you create a positive team? ›

6 ways to build a positive team culture
  1. Help everyone understand how they contribute. ...
  2. Develop leadership skills. ...
  3. Focus on development. ...
  4. Get everyone together. ...
  5. Make communication a priority. ...
  6. Reinforce the important ideas consistently.
1 Aug 2016

What are 5 stages of team development? ›

Using the Stages of Team Development
  • Stage 1: Forming. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 2: Storming. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 3: Norming. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 4: Performing. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 5: Termination/Ending. Some teams do come to an end, when their work is completed or when the organization's needs change.

What are the five characteristics of effective teams? ›

These five characteristics are key components of team success.
  • Trust. The biggest factor separating high performing teams from average teams is trust. ...
  • Clear communication. Second only to trust, communication plays a huge part in the success of a team. ...
  • Defined roles and responsibilities. ...
  • Engaged leadership. ...
  • Collective goals.
31 Jan 2021

What are the 5 roles in a group? ›

Honey's Five Team Roles
  • LEADER: makes sure team has clear objectives and members are engaged. ...
  • CHALLENGER: questions effectiveness and drives for results. ...
  • DOER: encourages progress and takes on practical jobs. ...
  • THINKER: produces ideas and thinks through those proposed by others. ...
  • SUPPORTER: eases tension and promotes harmony.

What are the 8 characteristics of effective teams? ›

8 Key Characteristics of Effective Teams
  • Care for each other.
  • Open and truthful.
  • High levels of trust.
  • Consensus decisions.
  • Commitment.
  • Address conflict.
  • Real listening.
  • Express feelings.

How working in teams can improve employee effectiveness? ›

Team work plays an essential role in increasing efficiency of employees eventually benefitting the organization and yielding higher profits. Team work leads to proper delegation of responsibilities as per employee's expertise, skill sets and knowledge. Employees are supposed to do what they can best do.

What are the strategies for improving performance and workplace productivity in the organization? ›

How To Increase Workplace Productivity
  • Onboard Effectively to Set Up for Success.
  • Align and Communicate Company Goals to Individual Goals and Outcomes.
  • Inform Employees in Engaging Ways.
  • Establish a Work Environment That Supports Efficiency.
  • Empower Employees to be Productive.
  • Invest in Well-being During Work Hours.

How do you build team building in the workplace? ›

How to Build a Strong Team in 9 Steps
  1. Establish expectations from day one. ...
  2. Respect your team members as individuals. ...
  3. Engender connections within the team. ...
  4. Practice emotional intelligence. ...
  5. Motivate with positivity. ...
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. ...
  7. Look for ways to reward good work. ...
  8. Diversify.
13 Sept 2021

What three factors improve teamwork and success? ›

The key elements to successful teamwork are trust, communication and effective leadership; a focus on common goals with a collective responsibility for success (or failure).

How would you address 5 dysfunctions of a team? ›

In my previous article, I shared “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by renowned author Patrick Lencioni.
...
30 second summary:
  1. Build trust. How does a team go about building trust? ...
  2. Engage in constructive conflict. ...
  3. Ensure commitment. ...
  4. Ensure accountability. ...
  5. Focus on results.

How do you improve team dynamics at work? ›

To strengthen your team's dynamics, use the following strategies:
  1. Know your team.
  2. Tackle problems quickly with good feedback.
  3. Define roles and responsibilities.
  4. Break down barriers.
  5. Focus on communication.
  6. Pay attention.

What is the most important thing your team should do better? ›

Effective communication is the most important part of teamwork. It involves consistently updating each person and never assuming that everyone has the same information. But good teamwork also requires sound listening skills.

What is an example of performance improvement? ›

Doing more in an hour of work. For example, an employee who finds a way to get through their daily emails in 20 minutes as opposed to 3 hours.

How can employees improve quality of work life? ›

To improve the quality of work life at your business, experts suggest these tips:
  1. Acknowledge hard work. Supervisors should ensure that their employees feel appreciated, McGonagle says. ...
  2. Invest in their development. ...
  3. Find ways to limit hours. ...
  4. Schedule regular get-togethers. ...
  5. Re-energize the workplace.

How can you improve team working skills? ›

How To Improve Teamwork Skills
  1. Know Your Goal. People in teams are working towards a common goal. ...
  2. Clarify Your Roles. Within a team, everyone should also understand their responsibilities. ...
  3. Positive Mindset. ...
  4. Manage Time Efficiently. ...
  5. Share Enthusiasm. ...
  6. Exercise Together. ...
  7. Establish Team Rules And Purpose. ...
  8. Do Not Complain.

How do you grow your team? ›

7 tactics to develop your team
  1. Identify your working and leadership style. ...
  2. Establish clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations. ...
  3. Empower your team to make smart decisions. ...
  4. Encourage listening and feedback. ...
  5. Foster trust, belonging, and inclusivity. ...
  6. Encourage a growth mindset. ...
  7. Provide coaching. ...
  8. Forming.
21 Jan 2022

What is a fun team building activity? ›

Scavenger Hunt

Split everyone into groups and make a list of fun things to find or do outside your office. Make it each team's mission to find and photograph everything on that list within a certain time limit. The first team to complete each item on the list wins!

How do you bond a team together? ›

All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.
  1. Hold Regular Individual Meetings. ...
  2. Include Everyone In Decision Making. ...
  3. Ask For Feedback On Your Management Style. ...
  4. Make Time For Small Talk. ...
  5. Ask, Listen, Respond And Recognize. ...
  6. Be Transparent About Your Mission And Methodology. ...
  7. Focus On The S.M.A.L.L. Things. ...
  8. Be Thoughtful.
5 Sept 2018

What is an example of team building? ›

Scavenger Hunt

OBJECTIVE: A classic example of team building, a scavenger hunt is great for team bonding. The objective is to build a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among employees. Other skills that can be acquired are problem-solving and strategizing.

What are the four main elements of a successful team? ›

To establish an effective team – there are four essential elements: Goals, Roles, Interpersonal Relationships and Processes.

What is an example of a successful team? ›

The Black Mambas. The Black Mambas are a perfect example of a team working together successfully to achieve a shared goal.

What are the best team-building activities for a small group? ›

Team-building activities for small groups
  • Human Knot. Human Knot is a great game for encouraging your employees to work together to solve a problem. ...
  • Blind Retriever. ...
  • Perfect Square. ...
  • Two Truths, One Lie. ...
  • Egg Drop. ...
  • Office debates. ...
  • Team lunch. ...
  • Spectrum mapping.

What is effective team development? ›

Effective teams help each member succeed at his/her assigned tasks, collaborate on projects as necessary, respect individual and cultural differences while holding each other accountable, and recognize team members for jobs well done.

What are 7 team building strategies? ›

The 'Seven C's'
  • Clarity. Clarity of purpose focuses a team on what to accomplish and how it fits within an organization's larger priorities. ...
  • Capability. ...
  • Collaboration. ...
  • Commitment. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Continuous Improvement. ...
  • Creativity.
22 Sept 2022

What kind of activity is team building? ›

Team building activities might include running team games and activities, holding group discussions, hosting away days, or simply doing things together as a team. They key is that the exercise is designed to bring your team together in a fun and engaging way.

What is an example of team building? ›

Scavenger Hunt

OBJECTIVE: A classic example of team building, a scavenger hunt is great for team bonding. The objective is to build a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among employees. Other skills that can be acquired are problem-solving and strategizing.

What are the 8 characteristics of effective teams? ›

8 Key Characteristics of Effective Teams
  • Care for each other.
  • Open and truthful.
  • High levels of trust.
  • Consensus decisions.
  • Commitment.
  • Address conflict.
  • Real listening.
  • Express feelings.

What are the five characteristics of effective teams? ›

These five characteristics are key components of team success.
  • Trust. The biggest factor separating high performing teams from average teams is trust. ...
  • Clear communication. Second only to trust, communication plays a huge part in the success of a team. ...
  • Defined roles and responsibilities. ...
  • Engaged leadership. ...
  • Collective goals.
31 Jan 2021

What makes a team successful? ›

Teams depend on the personalities of the members, as well as the leadership style of managers. However, the ingredients for what makes a successful team are similar across the board. Having mutual respect, common and aligned goals, open communication, and patience can all help make for a successful team.

How do you get your team to work together? ›

Managers can encourage new ideas, drive innovation, and find success by using any of the following 15 ideas.
  1. Set Clear Roles. ...
  2. Encourage Teammates to Visit Socially. ...
  3. Ask for Help. ...
  4. Communication Is Key. ...
  5. Ask Everyone for Feedback. ...
  6. Make the Right Choice in Team Members. ...
  7. Create a Shared Vision. ...
  8. Develop a Review Process.
13 Sept 2022

How do you increase team bonding? ›

8 Useful Ways to Enhance Teamwork in the Workplace
  1. Build diverse and inclusive teams.
  2. Clearly define roles and responsibilities for every team member.
  3. Build trust within the team.
  4. Encourage clear, frequent communication.
  5. Give teams autonomy in decision-making.
  6. Manage team meetings wisely.
16 Jun 2022

What are the five stages of team building? ›

Using the Stages of Team Development
  • Stage 1: Forming. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 2: Storming. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 3: Norming. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 4: Performing. Feelings. ...
  • Stage 5: Termination/Ending. Some teams do come to an end, when their work is completed or when the organization's needs change.

How do team building activities increase productivity? ›

Team building results in unity among individuals and departments, making people work together, pulling in the same direction, which ultimately increases productivity. It combines the effort of a number of individuals, thus more is accomplished within a shorter timeframe.

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