Team building activities are an important way to help colleagues learn to trust each other and better understand each other’s abilities. It’s especially fun to do around the holidays! But what team building activities are best for your team?

team-buildingWe’ve all heard about walking on hot coals or becoming “blood brothers,” the trust experiment where you fall back into your teammates’ awaiting hands. But do these team building activities really work? Short of having burned feet and hurt backs, I’m skeptical! As the holidays approach and year-end parties are being planned, here are a few better ideas for bringing your team together:

Mine field: This is a great exercise if you have a large room or outdoor field. Set up a ‘mine field’ using chairs, balls, cones, boxes, or any other object that could potentially be an obstacle and trip someone up. Leave enough space between the objects for someone to walk through. Next, divide your group into pairs. Blindfold one person; this person is not allowed to talk. Ask his or her partner to stay outside the mine field, and give verbal directions, helping the mine walker avoid the obstacles in order to reach the other side of the area.

Before you begin, allow partners a few minutes to plan how they’ll communicate. Then, make sure there are consequences when people hit an obstacle. For example, perhaps they have to start again from the beginning.

This is a great way to build communication and trust amongst co-workers who may not work together on a regular basis or with colleagues who only focus on work-related tasks.

Broken Email: On a table, place as many pieces of paper with a pen as you have teams. Have pre-made simple images (called “emails” in this game — examples: Heart, Tree, Smiley Face, Star, Stickman). Have the teams line up in a straight line in front of their piece of paper on the table. Instruct them that there is to be no talking. The person at the back of the line (furthest from the table) on each team is shown a simple image we call the “email.” The image is then taken away. Once one person from each team has seen the image, he/she must then draw that image with their finger on the back of the person in front of them. That next person draws on the back of the person in front of them what they think the person behind them drew on their back. It continues down the line until it reaches the person standing at the table with the paper and pen. That person draws the image on the piece of paper. Once all teams are finished, the original image or “email” is revealed. The team who drew the correct image wins.  Again, this is an effective tool for communication within teams and also adds some humor in trying to figure out what your colleague is drawing on your back!

The Team Band: Have a variety of rhythm instruments:  tambourines, drums, bells, whistles, shakers, maracas, kazoos. This activity can be led by a musician with a guitar or other instrument, a singer, or anyone. Encourage people to think of PLAYING music, not to be intimidated by whether or not they have musical skills or talents. Invite people to play along with the free-form rhythm or a familiar song or tune begun by the leader. Encourage people to switch and trade instruments as they please. In the debrief, discuss the experience. Prompts can include: Did you listen to each other? How would you do it differently if you were the band leader? Are there lessons about collaboration?

Only YOU know your team and what folks will react to and really take in. It’s a fun way to kick off an annual meeting or holiday lunch. Have fun planning and make sure your team has FUN doing it! That’s what it’s all about!

What team building activities would you recommend? Share with us below!

Read Part 2 of this post here.

Holly Ewart counsels clients in the areas of Executive Search, Organizational Developments, Executive Coaching and Career Transition for OI Global Partners – Innovative Career Consulting (Denver & Cincinnati). She can be reached at

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