Although many people think that corporate team building activities are boring, awkward, or at least useless, there’s a reason why all of the most successful companies in the world use them on a regular basis.
Team building can help improve vital communication skills and nurture closer relationships between colleagues, which is crucial when working on challenging projects that require co-workers to share information and help each other do a better job.
And an integral part of this communication is being able to actively listen to what others are saying.
When crucial details of a conversation are missed, it can not only cause damage to the project or the company but can even be outright dangerous.
That’s why it’s crucial to use team-building to help your employees become active listeners and condition them to listen attentively when someone else is speaking.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the most effective ways to use team-building for promoting active listening in your workplace.
Understanding Why Active Listening is Important
Before we move onto specific exercises, we must first take a look at what active listening is and why it is so vital to a company’s success.
The term itself is pretty straight forward – active listening is the process of being actively engaged with what the other person is saying, reacting to it, analysing it, and assessing every single word that is spoken.
That is in stark contrast to passive listening, where people are merely hearing what is being said, without much analysis or reaction.
The benefits of active listening are obvious.
They can not only help to share information more effectively but also prove vital in catching blunders and errors, as colleagues that are actively listening to one another have a much higher chance of spotting if someone has made or is about to make a costly mistake.
Now that we understand why active listening is essential, let’s look at what are the main attributes of active listening that you should nurture through team-building exercises.
Key Attributes of Active Listening
There are a few key attributes of active listening that can only be nurtured by focused and conscious practice, which is why team building is so useful.
Here are some of the key attributes that should be developed:
- Attentiveness: Being attentive to the person speaking and closely following not only their words, but their facial expressions and movements is the first step to being an active listener.
- Asking questions and clarifications. If you are actively following someone’s speech, you will inevitably start asking questions to clear up parts that you didn’t comprehend.
- Paraphrasing: Once you think that you understand what the other person is saying, it’s vital to paraphrase it so that they can confirm that is what they meant and there is no confusion or misunderstandings.
- Summarizing: After the person is done speaking, an active listener should encourage the speaker to summarize everything he just said so that every detail is re-examined and confirmed.
While these attributes don’t seem ground-breaking, employing them in workplace situations isn’t easy and doesn’t come natural to most people, so it’s crucial to implement them using exercises.
Let’s explore a few exercises that can be extremely helpful below.
The Paraphrasing Exercise
As you might have guessed, improving listening skills with team building will involve exercises in which multiple team members will have to participate.
That means that you will have to allocate time out of the workday for planning and executing these exercises, but although that will take away from work tasks, the long-term benefits greatly outweigh any inconveniences.
And the paraphrasing exercise is a great place to start.
It involves setting up your employees in groups of around five and then having them tell a story in order.
The first person tells a story based on a topic picked by everyone else, and then the second person must repeat the story word for word, and add her own bit. Then, the next person must repeat everything that was said before and add his own bit.
If someone isn’t able to repeat the previous parts, he has to sit down, and his turn ends.
What makes this game so useful is the fact that people are forced to be extremely attentive and follow every word that is spoken by others.
They will soon realise just how strenuous it can be, but it also works as a great exercise in learning to really tune in to what others are saying and paying attention to every single word that they say.
Collaborative Counting Exercise
Another great exercise that forces participants to actively and attentively listen is the collaborative counting exercise.
It can involve anywhere from five to fifteen or even more participants and can be done relatively quickly, so you can even use it as a short break from the regular work activities.
Before the game can start, people must stand in a closed circle, holding the people next to each other by the shoulders.
Then, one person should start counting from one, and the person next to them should say the following number, and so on.
At first, this will be very easy, but after a few circles go by, people will start having difficulty keeping their focus on the people speaking, so this exercise will test their ability to concentrate for a prolonged period of time.
These types of corporate team building activities are especially beneficial to a corporate events agency because active listening and paying attention are crucial in the events world more than anywhere else.
There are a wide range of team building activities that can be used, and if you’re looking for ideas, you can always consult a corporate events agency that has used these types of exercises in its own office or for clients.
But whichever exercises you end up choosing, the important thing to remember is that active listening must be encouraged not only during the games and exercises, but also during regular conversations at work, and start with the example that is set by management.
Sarah Hill is a content writer at Seven Events Ltd – one of the leading corporate event management companies in Birmingham who specialized in organizing team building events, incentive travel and conference organizer services. She started her career in the events industry almost a decade ago as time progressed she became an avid event blogger sharing her insight on corporate event planning.