Having the ability to openly communicate within a partnership is the core of any successful venture. Work relationships are no different. If a few people dominate every discussion or brainstorming exercise, the less others have their ideas heard. Encouraging an atmosphere where all employees feel like they can openly communicate with their supervisors and one another improves a company's bottom line. Several team-building exercises help facilitate better communication in the work environment.
"Knot a Problem"
"Knot a Problem" encourages teamwork and open communication to untangle a mess. Have participants stand next to one another in a circle. Instruct everyone to put his right hand in the circle and grab someone else's hand. Then have them do the same with their left hands, latching on to someone different. When everyone is tangled, instruct them to unwind without breaking contact. Talking everyone through the pileup may be not only humorous, but can encourage communication as everyone tries to solve the problem by giving his ideas.
Encourage more open communication on a personal level with the "Pair Up" exercise. Write down the names of well-known pairs on sheets of paper, such as cream and sugar, or night and day. Write just one of the paired items on each sheet of paper. When you gather your group, tape the sheets of paper on each employee's back, so that each person has only one of the paired items. When you set them loose, have each team member find her pair by asking simple yes or no questions. When the all of the pairs have been matched, they must then find out two unusual things about each other, such as an ability to write backward or juggle blindfolded. At the end, take the exercise of communicating to another level by having each team member share her discoveries with the group.
"Can't Say No"
One reason people don't openly communicate is fear of criticism. Overcome this barrier by playing "Can't Say No." In this exercise, propose that everyone comes up with a solution to a work problem that was just encountered. For example, if last week was the third time in a row that a project wasn't completed on time, ask the team members for their solutions to that problem. Inform them that there are no wrong answers and that what's important is to discover unique solutions. When all of the ideas given, have team members anonymously vote for the most viable answer and then have them figure out how to implement that solution as a team.
"Tear It Up"
"Tear It Up" is a stress-relieving exercise you can do with your team. Gather everyone together and give each person a plain piece of paper. Have your team members close their eyes, and then instruct them how to fold and tear their individual sheets of paper at the same time. For example, you can tell them to fold the paper in half and then tear the right corner. Then have them fold it in half again and tear the left corner. When you're finished giving instructions, have them open their eyes and see how different their final products look, even though they were all given the same direction. Afterward, facilitate a discussion about how important communication is to correctly performing and completing a job. Talk about how everyone hears instructions differently and how important it is to listen when communicating.