Five ways to improve your team’s dynamics

Doesn’t it feel great when on top of solid job performance your team is buzzing, joking and having a good time? Yes, it does without a doubt!

Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive, lists 3 elements of the motivation formula: (1) Autonomy — the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

If we are paid well, these elements engage and stimulate us to do our best work. There is, however, another overarching element — team dynamics.

We all have different backgrounds and personalities, and it makes every team unique. Here are the five ways that my team created its own culture to have fun at work.

Some of these may also work for your team; if not, go ahead and introduce different ideas that you can explore with your team.

#1 Capturing moments

These days everyone has a smartphone with a decent camera, but, surprisingly, we often forget to capture moments at work.

Grab your phone and snap a couple of pictures or capture a video once in a while. Add your photos and videos to wiki, share them with other teams and your social accounts, use them in your presentations and showcases. It adds to the story you’re telling, it’s featuring team’s identity and, most importantly, makes your team members feel proud to be in the team.

A couple of months ago I created a time lapse video to capture our day at work. Check it out:

#2 Tea time

Every day at 3pm our team gathers for a cup of tea in the kitchen for 15–20 min (ok-ok, most of the time it’s 30 min). There is just one simple rule — we don’t talk about work. And by the way you don’t have to do it everyday, do it when the whole team is around and needs a break.

This idea was introduced by Sophia, our producer, and it’s a great way to reset your brain, get to know people in the team better, share a couple of stories and have a quick snack.

#3 Fun competitions

Back in August last year I was looking for a UX Designer to join the team. In the meantime our software engineers claimed they had all the needed design skills and were keen to give it a go. They were just kidding (I really hope they did).

Then I said: “It’s fine, but to get the role you need to pass a drawing test“. And this is how the drawing competition was born.

The challenge was to draw a tree on the whiteboard in one minute. Initially the whiteboard had only two drawings on it, but a couple of days later we had 10 trees in total drawn by people from other teams. The next step was obvious, I had to bring our world-class UXD team to help us select the best talent. The winner was the “dramatic tree” (Variant “H” on the picture above).

The winner didn’t get the job (fortunately?) , but got a tub of Messina ice cream instead.

#4 Play games

A great game to play for all teams, new and mature, was introduced by Sri, our software engineer. I actually don’t know what this game is called, so let me call it “One true and 2 false things about yourself”.

Go out with for lunch with your team, order some food and, while you’re waiting for it, play this game.

The rules are simple. Each person comes up with 3 facts about themselves, two of which are false and only one is a true fact. The point of the game is for others to guess which fact is true. Everyone takes turns and you can count the number of times people get it right if you want. The game is fun, requires a bit of creativity and you discover something interesting about the team members.

In one of the games I came up with these 3 facts from my childhood. It’s actually harder than you think!

  • I once broke a mercury thermometer by putting it directly into steam from a kettle
  • I went bald trying to look like one of the famous soccer players and got in trouble for it in school
  • I embarrassed myself by falling off the stage during a school performance

Which one do you think is a true story?

#5 Planning session with ice cream

For every major release I hold a planning session with the team. As a team we decided to name our major releases after ice cream flavours, so that we can A) have a reference to our major release and B) eat some ice cream!

Here’s how it works: For the planning session we bring 5 different ice cream flavours and everyone in the team scores each flavour. At the end of the tasting we tally the scores and determine the winning flavour and here we are, we have the name for the release. When a major release is done and live we celebrate it by having ice cream party inviting all people in the business who contributed to the release.

The name of our first major release was “Bounty”, the winner of the group vote. Other flavours we tasted were: Apple pie, Chocolate Mint, Banana Split, Macadamia Crunch.

We want to come up with a new name (really, we just want to eat a lot of different flavours of ice cream) for every new release. What would it be: Tiramisu, White Choc Hazelnut, Coconut or something else?

When you see your team coming up with ideas that bring more fun to work, encourage them to take a stab at it. You’d know it’s a sign of a great team.

Happy team jelling!