Team Building Exercises That Won’t Cause Eye Rolls

We’ve all “been there and done that.” I am referring to those team building exercises that leaders come up with that are supposed to result in comradery and bonding. The concept is a good one. Get people together in non-work environments and have non-work activities that will “force” them to work together. The problem is this: the same tired, old, and, quite frankly, boring activities are planned—thus, the eye rolls.

As a leader, you can avoid the eye rolls by selecting some more creative and unique team building activities that may make you a hero while still serving the bonding purpose for which they are intended. Here are some activities you might consider suing with your team:

  • Perform Community Service

Community service is a team-building event that is rarely thought of—do some good while you bond. Plan a day to clean up a park or to serve meals to the homeless. Plan two half days to go to a hospital and read to young children. People feel good about themselves and their colleagues when they are contributing.

  • Have an Airband Battle

Divide people into groups of three. Each team picks a song (you’ll need a device with the ability to pull up the song and hook it to a small speaker). One member of each group will be the guitarist, one will be the drummer, and one the singer. Give each team a bit of time to practice. Then they each perform playing their “instruments” while the singer(s) lip sync the song. Have a third party judge.

  • Trivia at the Office

Divide the participants into teams of three or four people. Give each person trivia questions that are all related to the office. How many windows are there? What is the color of the floor tile in the staff lounge or cafeteria? How many people are in the HR department? What is the brand name of the desktop computer monitors?

  • Learn to Juggle

Provide simple instructions for learning to juggle (There is a book called, Learn How to Juggle Today or play a YouTube instructional video). Each team gets three bean bags for juggling. The idea is that everyone in the team learns how to juggle. As one team member is learning, the other team members are coaching him or her. If anyone in the group already knows how to juggle, that person moves from group to group providing coaching as well. The first team to have all members able to do at least two “jugs” with three bean bags wins.

  • Drawing Back-to-Back

This exercise is done in pairs. They sit back-to-back. One member gets a piece of paper with a simple picture on it – a geometric figure, a house, a tie, etc. the other person gets a blank piece of paper and pencil. The partner with the drawing begins to describe how to draw the object, without naming the object. When finished, they compare their drawings. You can run this one several times, changing partners and drawing in many different ways.

  • The Tower

Each team of three to four people is given a roll of tape, a marshmallow, 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti, and a yard of string. With these items, the team is to build a tower that will stand free for at least five to six seconds. The rules are this: the goal is to make the tallest tower possible; the marshmallow must be at the top; and the tower must stand alone.

  • The Rembrandt Activity

Each group of three to four members is given a good-sized canvas, paint, and brushes. As a team, each group will decide on a painting to create. At the end, the paintings can all be grouped together to make a long mural for the office, or they can be individually hung on walls around the office. The mural idea is probably the best, because each time they walk by it, it will remind the team members that they created this “masterpiece” together.

  • Derby Race

Any of your team members who were boy scouts will remember the Pine Box Derby competition. Buy enough kits for teams of three to four people each. They will construct a Pine Box car from the kit. You can also buy the wedge for about $3.00 for the “hill” to race them. The kits allow for variations, so that teams can “play” with aerodynamics before they finish their mini cars for the big race. Have a tailgate party beforehand. A variation on this is model airplanes, with competitions for distance or length of time in the air.

Bonding for Remote Teams 

If a team is working remotely, it is more difficult to plan activities that will promote bonding and working together. It will require greater creativity, but here are a few suggestions for relationship building with remote team members:

  • Trivia Via Conference Call

This is standard trivia only it is done via digital conferencing venue. Team members compete individually, or they can be paired up and have a private chat feature in place to collaborate.

  • Play Charades

Again, this is the traditional game with everyone taking turns of acting out a book, movie, or TV show title.

  • Office Guess

Everyone on the team takes a picture of their offices and sends it to you. There can be no identifying stuff in the picture. Then present a picture and have team member guess whose office it is.

  • Team-Played Online Games of Strategy and Problem Solving

If you have a relatively small team, they can become a team playing some of the online games that have multi-player teams. These can be on-going so that the teams can schedule a “play date” when it is convenient for everyone. Or you can set a schedule for play during the workday.

The activities provided are just a small sampling of the kinds of things you can do to build a team. There are many books on the market now with new and unique angles on team-building exercises. The important thing is that you follow-through with additional exercises after the initial few, so that your team re-bonds periodically.

Photo Credit: teambuildinggallery Flickr via Compfight cc