In some organizations, the words “team building exercise” invokes anxiety and can send employees scurrying out of sight, away on sudden errands, or off to an early lunch. In others, teams look forward to these sessions and show up ready to have fun. What makes the difference?

Team-building exercises should follow a few basic ground rules:

  • They should be easy for team members to understand and participate in
  • They should have a clear goal – it doesn’t have to be a big one
  • Each exercise should take no more than 30 minutes
  • They shouldn’t have anxiety-inducing elements like revealing deeply personal information or discussing individual job performance
  • They should avoid elements that could lead to biased or prejudicial statements

team building exerciseThat’s why you see many of the same team-building exercises listed when searching for them. The most effective exercises stick to the ground rules. The three exercises below, adapted from, are among the best for building a rapport between team members.

NAME: Two Truths and a Lie

HOW TO DO IT: Have each member of the team write down three things about themselves: Two things that are true, and one that is a lie. (These don’t have to be deep – for example, writing down your favorite type of beer.) They’ll keep that paper tucked away for the next 15 minutes while the team mingles and chats and quizzes each other about their three statements. Then, gather the team in a circle. Have each person read their three statements, and the rest of the team votes on which are true and which is the lie.

GOAL: Get to know your team member

WHY IT’S EFFECTIVE: For a team in the Forming stage, it can be tough to communicate comfortably with each other. The conversation period in the middle of the exercise gives team members a reason to talk to each other about a non-work-related topic – and learn a few things about each other.

NAME: Take-Away

HOW TO DO IT: Place 15 coins of any denomination – pennies, quarters, euros, whatever your budget allows – on a table. Split the participants into two teams. Using another coin, toss it into the air to decide which team goes first. Then, flip the coin on each turn as each team calls heads or tails. The side that wins gets to take two coins from the pile on the table. Repeat until all the coins are taken; the side with the most coins wins.

GOAL: Work together and build a strategy

WHY IT’S EFFECTIVE: The simple rules of the game allow teams to employ flexible strategies to gather the most coins. The core rules can even be changed and adapted to fit different-sized teams, make the game more complicated, or encourage negotiation and compromise.

NAME: Guideposts

HOW TO DO IT: In a larger room or outside, set up a short obstacle course that requires team members to weave around obstacles like plastic cups, yoga blocks, or any other handy object that will stay in place. Blindfold one volunteer and have that person make their way through the obstacle course as the other team members give them directions. If they touch an obstacle, their turn ends and the next person can try.

GOAL: Learn to trust and listen to each other.

WHY IT’S EFFECTIVE: It’s fast, easy to set up, and fun to do – and team members bond more closely as they guide each other through the course.

One Team, One DreamExcerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory For more information, get your copy of Gregg’s book, One Team, One Dream today! Available in both print and electronic versions!

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