Category Archives: Leadership Games

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

secrets to a super fun team

Have you ever wondered what makes some teams great and some, well, duds? So have I. I’ve been on teams that work really well together and are downright a blast to be a part of. I’ve been on others where I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. For many people, it may be a mixture of both fun and frustrating.

In working with a number of different teams, I’ve noticed a common thread among the ones who work really well together. There are certain characteristics that make these teams click. Lack of any of them, however, can cause any number of team dysfunctions.

Super-fun teams are good at collaboration

Fun teams work well together and have an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. If you’ve ever experienced working with people you don’t trust, you know how stifling that can be. And, it just takes one person to ruin an environment of trust.

You would think trust takes a lot of time to develop. The fact is, trust can be developed very quickly and that foundation can continue to be built upon. According to Stephen Covey, there are 13 behaviors you can us to develop what he calls “the speed of trust.”

Collaboration is a by-product of a high-trust environment. You can see this in those with whom you work. You tend to work well with those you trust and avoid those you don’t. The partnerships you seek are with people you know you can trust – for obvious reasons.

As you look at your team – how would you rate your level of collaboration?

Super-fun teams exhibit effective communication

Teams and co-workers communicate all the time. But is it effective? Have you moved forward with a project, only to find out at the end, that you weren’t given all the critical details?

When your team communicates effectively, it will increase productivity and significantly effect your bottom line, as well as overall team morale. People will feel more engaged and a critical part of the process.

What is the level of effective communication within your team?

Super-fun teams know when it’s time for celebration

I’m a part of a team that loves to celebrate. Whether it’s someone’s birthday, or a new team member comes on board or leaves, we celebrate. (And, no, we’re not celebrating the fact they’re leaving but going on to new adventures!)

The celebration usually centers around food, as well as the person we are celebrating. There is eating, laughing, conversation, eating, more laughing, sometimes singing, maybe a game or two (but not always), eating, frivolity, and did I mention eating? 🙂 Usually there is a theme, and it’s based on something that the person we’re celebrating likes.

We do our best to not talk about work (for the most part we are very successful). It’s not time to check in on business, but it is time for a party. We have lots of fun and don’t worry about work.

So, you may know these things already. The question then becomes, how do we make the above a reality? One of the best ways I know of to increase all of these is through a combination of icebreakers and team building activities.

That’s why I wrote a brand new book of these kind of exercises called, 10 Super Fun Team Icebreakers and Challenges. In it, you’ll find 10 team building activities that have never been printed anywhere else.

super fun team ebook

These are activities that I’ve spent the last few months creating and designing for teams just like yours. Whether you need better collaboration, communication, or you just want a day of celebration, these exercises will help your team, all based on the superhero theme.

You can use these activities one at a time, or you can group them together for a Super-Fun team adventure. Or do a half-day event by picking and choosing a few of the challenges. You decide.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.

Right now, you can order the book for only $10. It not only includes the activities, but also has suggestions for how to use the book, instructions for how to facilitate each activity, and also (my personal favorite) a “Deep Dive” section where you can take the activity further and dig into the challenges even more.

If you end up buying the book and do some of the activities, please let me know. I’d love to know how it goes – send pictures, email me with how it went – who knows, maybe you and your team will even be featured on the blog or my social media accounts (with your permission, of course!)

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

5 quick and easy holiday team building activities

Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.

Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)

1. Snowflake

Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.

Instructions:

Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.

Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Fold it in half again.
  3. Tear off the top right corner.
  4. Fold your paper in half length-wise.
  5. Tear off the bottom left corner.
  6. Rotate your paper.
  7. Fold it in half again.
  8. Tear off a piece from the middle

Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.

Debrief questions:

What was it like to follow the instructions?

How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?

How does this resemble communication in your organization?

What ways could this process be improved/changed?

2. Helium Peppermint Stick

This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:

Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.

This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.

Debrief questions:

  • What worked well during this activity?
  • What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
  • How did that change over time?
  • What observations did you make during this exercise?

3. Holiday Spectrums

Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.

Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.

Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:

a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!

b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up

c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!

d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!

e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.

Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!

f. Create your own spectrum question(s).

After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)

What can we learn from each other during this activity?

4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt

Option #1

Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.

Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)

See sample items in the PDF (Free download)

Option #2

This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.

Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:

  • Most creative item obtained.
  • Biggest item.
  • Weirdest object.
  • Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
  • Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
  • Create your own fun awards!

5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)

Instructions:
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford

Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?

b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?

c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)

d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?

e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)

f. <Insert your creative question here.>

After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.

You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.

What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!

A Team Building Activity Adapted from The Biggest Loser

Team Building idea Chinese lanters

I’m always looking for new ideas for team building activities. Last night, I was watching The Biggest Loser with my family. We find the show very uplifting and encouraging. One of the activities they did inspired an idea for a team building activity that I want to share with you.

The participants had been on a hike together, and at the peak of their hike, the trainers gave them what looked like a small, folded piece of paper. However, inside of the paper was a butterfly. They were to answer the question, “What is your intention for the remainder of your time here?”

After everyone had shared, they opened up their folder paper, and released a butterfly, symbolizing both their journey of transformation and what their part was going to be in that process until the end.

Ways to Use This Team Building Activity

There are several scenarios where you could use this kind of activity:

  1. Launching a new project and using this with project managers or team  leaders.
  2. In the middle of a project that is heading in the wrong direction. Use it to help re-direct both staff and leaders.
  3. At the end of a project to celebrate accomplishments and talk about what’s next on the horizon.
  4. Taking your team to a new level of trust and authenticity.

How to Set Up This Team Activity

Set up for this activity will be relatively easy. I don’t think you necessarily need to have butterflies folded up in paper pouches; although, if you could pull that off, it would be impressive. (If you live near a Butterfly Pavilion, Nature Center or Botanical Gardens, it might be worth a call to see what’s possible.)

Decide what end result you want to achieve. I talk a lot about setting goals and being intentional about team building activities. To get the most out of them, you have to think about what results you want to achieve. Learn more here.

Begin with a hike or some kind of team activity that isn’t competitive and will focus on change and transformation. You can check out Playmeo for a great database of activities.

At the end of the hike, ask the question (you will need to tweak the question depending on how you want to use the activity):

As we’re looking at this new project, what will be your primary intention you will focus on?

Allow ample time for responses. Encourage everyone to share (but we follow the rule of challenge by choice). After everyone has shared, release the butterflies (or other item – see below for modifications).

Debriefing the Activity

Talk about what people have shared and their commitment to the team and project and that part of the responsibility of the team is to hold each other accountable to our intentions and goals.

[You could also combine this activity with a time of goal-setting and looking at ways to hold the team accountable to goals and intentions.]

Ways to Modify This Activity

Knowing that everyone might not have access to butterflies, here are a few ways that this activity could be modified to use:

  1. Instead of butterflies, you could use helium-filled balloons and release them at the proper time. Talk about ways for the groups intentions to stay on track and not become “deflated” (see what I did there.)
  2. You could do this activity at night and use Chinese lanterns. Light them and release them to symbolize the group’s intentions being shared with everyone.
  3. If you are talking about a project NOT going well, you could ask your team to write on pieces of paper things that are not working well, and at the end of the sharing time, you burn the pieces of paper, symbolizing you are letting go of old ways and then brainstorm of ways to get the project back on track.

How else you use an activity like this for your team? What other ways can you modify it to suit your needs?

How to Use Team Building Activities in the Classroom

team building activities for students

This week’s post is dedicated to teachers everywhere. You are a hard-working bunch, and I admire what you do and the dedication you bring day in and day out. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for educators. I consider myself an educator; although, not in the traditional sense.

Here are some suggestions on how to use different kinds of team building exercises in the classroom. I’ll also include some specific names and ideas of activities you can use, as well as some links where you can go to find more detailed instructions.

Most team building activities are designed to be done in smaller groups (10-12), but there are always ways to modify them. I would encourage if at all possible to do these outside. Allow your students a chance to take a break from the classroom and enjoy a change of scenery.

Set Your Goals

Before doing any kind of team building activity, I always recommend setting goals. This will help you be very focused and intentional about the activity and its purpose. Questions to ask when settings goals for these exercises should include:

  • What is the purpose of this activity?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What do you want the end result to be?
  • How will your team (or class) be different when they’re done?

It’s important to be intentional about these activities from the beginning. Although you can do activities just for fun, I find that the more purposeful you are, the better the activity will go, the more the students will get out of it, and the more effective they will be in the long run. It does take a bit more time on the front and back end (because you also want to make sure you debrief the activities, including icebreaker activities [link]).

Icebreakers

Icebreakers are great activities to use for your classroom. There are all kinds of icebreaker exercises that you can use. They are good for having your students get to know each other (and you) better. They are fun and high energy, so be aware that they might get your students engaged but some will also be loud and spirited.

Depending on your goals, there are different categories of icebreakers that you can use. There are problem-solving icebreakers, get to know you games, and more. Check out a few problem-solving activities here. [link]

Icebreaker Ideas
Group Juggle 

Groups of students form circles of 12-15 each and attempt to toss a number of objects around the circle without dropping them.  There are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Say the name of the person you are tossing to before tossing
  • Toss across the circle (don’t just hand it to someone next to you)
  • Underhand tosses only
  • Everyone gets it once, except the person who started.  The game starts and ends with him/her.

Name Samurai

Using a foam sword, students sit in a circle with legs extended. The “samurai” stands in the middle trying to tag the people speaking. Someone in the circle starts by saying their name and then “to [another person’s name], so it would sound like, “Jeff to Amy”, “Amy to Molly”, “Molly to Braden”, etc. The player who gets tagged while speaking then becomes the Samurai. Great activity for learning names!

Man – Gun – Bear

Think the full-body version of rock-paper-scissors. Divide the group into pairs (perfect for a large group). The pairs start back to back and after the facilitator counts to 3, they jump around assuming one of the 3 characters (man, gun or bear). Karate man beats the gun-slinger, gun-slinger beats the bear, and the bear beats the karate man, and if you tie, both die! Play until there’s one winner.

Team Initiatives

Team initiatives are great for getting groups of students working together to achieve a common goal. You can focus on leadership, communication, problem solving, and more. These challenges can vary from short 10-15 minutes problems or longer (30-45 minutes or more) exercises that require some planning.

Marshmallows & Knives

Using the large marshmallows and knives (like you would find in your school cafeteria), teams must figure out a way to keep the knives off the table using only the materials given (just those 2 items). This is another great problem-solving and brainstorming challenge!

Tallest Tower

Using strands of dry spaghetti, small marshmallow, and a roll of tape, teams must create the tallest free-standing tower possible in 10 minutes. For an extra challenge, give all the teams less time. {You can also do this with a roll of aluminum foil and see how high they can go).

Hula Hoop Hut Relay

Teams use 6 hula hoops to create a “hut” and then all team members must pass through the hoops without letting the hut fall down. Want to make it more challenging? Require each team member to start through a different opening or have the team member passing through be blindfolded!

team building exercises for students

 

(photo courtesty of Flickr, Create-Learning, no changes made)

Helium stick

Teams figure out how to lower a lightweight dowel rod with just their forefingers. The crazy thing is – it wants to go up instead of down! Great for communication and leadership!

Icebreaker and Team Building Resources

Teampedia is a collection of team building activities and icebreaker ideas.  It’s a great collection that is searchable by activity name and category.  You can also add team building activities here if you know one that’s not in the database.

www.teampedia.net 

Playmeo is also a collection of team building activities, icebreakers, group games, and more.  The difference is that many of the activities also have a video to accompany them, and they also offer a monthly or yearly subscription that allows you to access ALL of their activities, videos, and awesomeness!

www.playmeo.com (affiliate link)

 

What team building activity will you use with your students?  What other team building activities have you used?  Let me know in the comments below. 

How to Choose the Best Team Building Activities, Part 3

Young adults camping

In the previous two weeks, we have discussed the process for choosing team building activities for your team and how to go about it the best way.  When many people consider these kinds of activities, there is little thought that goes into the process of choosing these kinds of exercises.

Activities are chosen based on whether or not they seem like fun or if they group will “like” the activity.  This is the wrong way to choose these events, especially if you want to move your team forward and really challenge them to work together better, communicate more effectively, and increase the team’s productivity.

Throughout Part 1 and Part 2, I hope that you see the benefit in taking time and being intentional when it comes to choosing the best team building activities for your team.  In part one of this series, we talked about the different kinds of team building exercises that exist and how each of them are typically used.

In part two, we discussed evaluating your team, looking at their strengths and weaknesses before doing anything, and then setting goals for your team based on their strong areas and areas that need work.  There are specific 

Step #3: Choose Appropriate Activities

Now that you have an understanding of the different types of team challenges you can choose from, and how to think about those activities in light of your team goals, now you can begin to choose the appropriate activities for your day(s).

This will take a little bit of research and some time.  You want to choose the activity (or activities) that will best bring out the issue you want to work on.

Example #1

Your team needs to work on communication issues.  They communicate well with their own groups, but when it comes to communicating between teams, that’s where the breakdown occurs.  You want to teach your team that communication is critical and there are multiple paths of communication.

You tweak an activity so that the group cannot talk while completing it and must remain silent during the entire challenge.  They have to come up with alternative ways to communicate to complete the activity.

Example #2

You have a couple of strong personalities on your team that are keeping other people from taking on leadership roles.  These quieter team mates may try to step up, but typically get run over.

You know they have good ideas and want to encourage them to step up more and also convince the outspoken leaders that they are not the only ones with great ideas and leadership capabilities.  You tweak an activity that puts a “handicap” on the outspoken team members so that others will be forced to lead out.

Step #4: Outline the Event

After you have evaluated your team, set your goals, and selected your activities, you want to outline the event.  The best way to use these kinds of experiential activities is in a way that builds on each other.  Icebreaker activities are usually done first, building your way up to more difficult team and individual challenges.  Problem-solving and survival scenarios can be used as breaks from some of the more intense team challenges.

It’s always better to plan too many activities than too few.  If some of the activities go shorter than expected, then you have more to pull from, and if some run long, then you can save the ones not used for another time.  This is not the time to run out of things to do!  It’s better to keep the momentum going and the group engaged.

Plan for plenty of time for each activity.  You probably want to schedule at least 20-30 minutes for each icebreaker activity, 30-45 minutes for group initiatives, and 45-60 minutes for more intense team challenges.

You also want to plan plenty of time to debrief and process each activity after the team has completed them.  Depending on the activity and desired area of focus (communication, problem-solving, leadership skills, etc.), you may want to take longer to debrief and hone in on those specific problem areas.

There are multiple ways to debrief a group, and that is a post we’ll save for another time.  There are creative ways to process an experience, as well as traditional ways.  If you want to go the more traditional route and need some ideas for debriefing questions, here are a few debrief questions you can ask:

As you went through completing the activity, what are some things that worked for your group?

What didn’t work?

What is something you would change if you could go back and do it over again?

What did you learn about your team mates or yourself during this activity?

What communication strategies did you concentrate on throughout this challenge?

Did everyone feel that your ideas were heard and acknowledged?

I hope this gives you an idea about the time and effort it takes to truly make a team building event be all that it can be.  Whether it’s a partial-day or multi-day event, use these suggestions to choose the best activities for your team and help grow them to the next level.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

What other suggestions do you have for choosing team building activities?  What has worked for you and your team in the past? 

How to Choose the Best Team Building Activities, Part 2

ropes course and team building activities

This post is the second in a series.  To read the first post, click here. Team building activities can be a great way to increase your team’s effectiveness, motivation, communication and vision.  When used the right way, many goals can be accomplished and issues worked on that can move a team from being dysfunctional to highly effective.

In the first post, I defined the different types of team building activities, which will help give you a basic understanding of the different types of team challenges that are available to use.  In this post, we will look at the best way to choose these activities, as well as a way to schedule them so that you get maximum impact for your time. Here is the process you can use for choosing team building activities for your team.

Each step in the process is important and should be completed thoroughly.  As always, if you have questions on any part of the process, send me an email, and I’ll be glad to answer any questions.

Step #1: Evaluate your team

Before making a plan or choosing anything, you need to stop and evaluate your team.  Here are some questions to ask during this step:

  • What are the strengths of your group and how do you want to capitalize on those?
  • What are the weaknesses of your team and how do you want to readjust them?
  • What issues does your team have that you want to work on?

For example, you might have some strong leaders but they are not strong in listening to others.  You might have people that have great leadership potential but do not step up as often as you would like. Your team might communicate well, but they need help problem-solving and brainstorming.

Step #2: Set Your Goals

After you’ve evaluated your team and determined some of the issues you want to work on, it’s time to set goals for your team building event.  Whether it’s a half-day outing or a multi-day event, setting goals is an important step and something that should be done with careful consideration.

Based on the list that you developed above, flesh those out into goals that you want to accomplish for your team activities. Many team building activities can be tailored to focus on the specific issue your team needs to work on. Once you have evaluated your team and set your goals, you are now ready to begin choosing your activities for your outing.

In the next post, I will show you how to choose the best activities that will align with your goals, and also how to organize the activities for ultimate benefit. More about that in the next and final post: How to Choose the Best Team Building Activities, Part 3.

How to Choose the Best Team Building Activities, Part 1

High ropes course team building

You have a team retreat or event coming up and need to choose a few team building activities to get your group excited and working well together so you can be uber-productive during the retreat. The best team building exercises build on each other so that your team can accelerate its performance not only during the event but also in the weeks and years to come.

How do you choose which activities to run? Here are a few suggestions on choosing team building activities. We will discuss the different types of team building activities you will encounter (in this post) as well as how to choose the best ones for your team, and what resources are available online to help you.  

First, you need to understand the different kinds of activities that fall under the team building umbrella:

Icebreakers

Icebreaker games accomplish what their name suggests. They help people feel more comfortable with each other and start breaking down walls. These activities are great if you have new team members or if your members are not that familiar with each other.

These serve as “get to know you” type activities and can be used not only in the beginning of a retreat, but they are great to sprinkle throughout the retreat as warm-ups to more intense activities.

Group Team Building Activities & Initiatives

These activities come in a variety of shapes and sizes. From exercises that are more indoor problem- solving challenges and survival simulations to the more active and outdoors, these activities use different elements to get your team working together, communicating more effectively, and can really provide an eye-opening glimpse into how your people actually work together.

For the well-trained facilitator, these events can show the leader how to proceed with the group and also what activities the group needs next (or more of).

Low Ropes Challenges

Depending on where you do your corporate retreat, these may or may not be feasible for your group. Most of the low ropes activities are designed to be facilitated by a trained instructor (someone who knows the in’s and out’s of this type of event) and are run on a specific course.

These include the spider web, junk yard, wobbly woozy, the black hole, and many more. These events usually take longer and you’ll need at least 1/2 a day to make these worth your while.  Though there are some portable elements, many of these are set up as a stationary course that can be worked through as a group.  There is no specific order, but varies upon the team and the group’s goals.  

High Ropes Course

A ropes course requires a trained facilitator; however, if you have the time (at least a half day, but a full day is recommended) it can be a good investment for your team. The types of activities a group would encounter on a high ropes course include the incline log, multi-vine traverse, trapeze jump, and a host of others.

These are some of the most intense (physically and emotionally) exercises a team and individuals can experience, but they are definitely worth the time and expense if a company is willing to invest in them.

Transformational Leadership Exercises

Transformation leadership exercises can be quite intense and can provide a team (or an individual) with some of the most incredible breakthrough’s and “a-ha” moments of any activity listed here. These events are mostly held indoors (but are also often paired with outside challenges).

These also require a facilitator familiar not only with how to set up and perform the activities, but also someone that is familiar with how to process the events afterwards.  For this type of group bonding activity, the debrief process is just as important (if not more so) than the actual activities.  

These exercises are not for the faint of heart. They are usually done on multi-day events where a team needs or wants to dig into specific issues that are holding a team back from being effective.

Depending on the group’s goals and the amount of time you want to spend on them, any of these activities can help launch a team to the next level. Set your goals before your next corporate gathering, and use the activities that will help you achieve your goals whether they are more of the fun, get-to-know-you games or the more intense transformational leadership exercises.

To continue reading part 2, click here.

What are your favorite team building activities?  What team building activity resources do you use?  Talk to me, Goose!  Use the comments below.