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You have a small meeting and want an ice breaker activity for about 20 minutes that gets people talking to each other. You have no budget and no time. Here are four quick and easy ideas:

1. Give everyone a small card (half of a 3" x 5" index card-- or use a Post-It) and a pen. On the card, it has "Ask me about:"-- and people need to fill in the card. They should write something that they know about outside of their career, like maybe a hobby-- or raising a child-- or something they did for a job in high school. You get the idea. They tape the card onto the bottom of their name badge. This gives them something to talk about when they meet each other.
2. They draw a picture on a 3 x 5 index card-- that represents something that is important to them-- and they tape it to the bottom of their name badge. Again-- when they meet each other, they have something to share.
3. You hand out small cards to people to put on their name badge. They all have different scenarios on them (this is more work for you). They all start off with "What would you do if...." and you have to come up with the odd social or work situations. Each person gets one and puts it on his or her name badge. Again, this is a jumping off point for discussion.
4. "True Lies"-- every person gets a 3 x 5 index card. They write three statements about themselves. Two are true and one is false. They should be fun, interesting facts. Then they share these with each other. The listener has to try and guess which statement is false. Always fun.
Whatever you do, the idea is to make is easy for people to talk to each other, because most people are not good at approaching strangers and making small talk. 

Get Personal Outburst

--A fun, meaningful team ice breaker for a group of 20 or less

The purpose of an Ice Breaker is to get people talking, feeling more comfortable and having them learn something about each other. This rowdy ice breaker is also a great team activity.

     Split your group into two teams of ten people or less. Give every person a 4” x 6” index card and a pen. Instruct each person to title the top of their card with something that has to do with their own hobby or anything in which they have an interest and/or expertise. Here are examples:

Things Found at a Horse Show

Tom Hanks Movies

Famous Baseball Players

Things You See at Wimbledon

Gardening Tools

American Idol Contestants

… you get the idea.

     Then, underneath this heading, they are to list 10 things that are apropos. So, for example, if someone had their card titled “Gardening Tools,” they would probably list:





Lawnmower, etc.

If you need an example, you can bring cards from the game of “Outburst”—found at any toy store.

     Once everyone is finished completing their card, each teams puts their cards facedown in a deck—then the fun begins. A member of Team 1 picks up the first card in their deck and reads the category to Team 2—who now has 1 minute to try and shout out all the 10 items listed under that category. They must start within seconds of hearing the category; no talking about it for awhile. They may ask 1 question about the category if it is not clear what the writer intended. At the end of the minute, the team is told how many items they were able to match on the list—and also the writer of the list should be revealed. If you want to keep score, the number they got correct is their score. NOTE: a team may certainly yell out something that indeed is relevant to the category, but if it is not on the written list, it does not count as a point.

     Then, Team 2 takes the first card from their deck and repeats this sequence for Team 1. Everyone is yelling during Personal Outburst. It’s fun, energizing and an interesting way to get insight into your teammates.


We get a lot of calls from teams that want to do some form of team building because their team members are:

  1. Not working together; just ignoring each other
  2. “Back stabbing”
  3. The newer team members and the veteran team members are not getting along for a wide variety of reasons.
  4. Other cliques or factions within the team are undermining others.
  5. “Rules” do not apply equally to all team members.

… and lots of other problems.


People want to do SOMETHING to fix the situation or at least help it get better. They will call a number of team building companies, including ours, and ask for advice; looking for an activity that will solve their problems. However, when we tell them exactly what they should do, they often elect to do a fun, lighthearted activity that brings people together, but changes little.


This happens because everyone wants to avoid conflict, open communication and honesty. They want to find a “happy solution” to a problem that could potentially harm the team and the organization as a whole. Though the solution can include “feel-good” and fun activities, without some positive yet serious discussion, change is not likely to occur.


Yes, it means that in order to achieve a higher functioning team, some egos may get bruised, but everyone needs to feel like part of the solution. For managers it means that you don’t use “divide and conquer” tactic, where you get people to trust you while you pit them against each other. It means you need to garner support for “change” and bring the group together to provide solutions as a team. Ask the team to take an honest look at themselves and how well they operate together. Tell them there are no right or wrong answers – and mean it when you say that they won’t be penalized for sharing their candid assessments of the workplace.


If you feel you can’t talk to them as a group, then start with a survey. Our Team Performance Survey is attached, and you can certainly modify it to fit your own situation and team. Once your team members turn in their survey (and these can be done anonymously), make sure you review the results with the entire team. It provides a way to start a meaningful discussion on team performance improvement.


In our next blog, we’ll reveal how we use the survey and continue the Team Assessment in order to get to REAL Team Building.


Team Performance Survey

Please rate your team on the following statements/attributes by placing an “X” in the appropriate box. A score of five is the best (or an absolute “yes”); one is the worst, with 3 being average or “so-so.”








1. Our team has open communication. We are open to hearing and discussing each other’s concerns.






2. We respect each other. I personally feel that I am a respected member of the team. 






3. We share credit for our successes as well as our shortcomings.






4. Management listens to our concerns.






5. Management is always open and available to hear my suggestions.






6. There is appreciation for each other.






7. We trust each other.






8. We have all the tools and training we need to be effective at our jobs.






9. I have clear direction on what is expected of me.






10. I feel comfortable giving my input and opinion to other team members.






11. My team members are glad to have my input and assistance.






12. I take time to assist/support my team members, and they take time to assist/support me.







13. If my teammates were asked to name a positive trait about me, I believe they would say:



14. If my teammates were asked what they thought I could improve upon in order to be a more effective team player, I think they would say:


Is there something more than drinking to spread holiday cheer? Of course there is! Anytime you get your employees together, it’s a great opportunity to interact, have fun, bond and get to know each other a little better. It doesn’t have to be a full blown organized activity. There are some simple and very fun things you can do to engage people at your holiday party—whether a small gathering of 5 or a larger group of hundreds. Here are a few simple ideas that you can easily use:


For a small group of less than 20 people:

Holiday Speed Charades

Great fun during cocktails. Before the party, make up slips of paper with the name of a holiday movie or song on each one. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “White Christmas,” etc. You can find songs or movie titles online. Put 8 slips in a drinking glass. You need one drinking glass per team. If you can’t find enough titles, you can have some duplicates, but it is better not to have too many. Divide the group into teams of 4- 8 people. Have each team either stand together or around a dinner table. Give each team a glass with the movie slips in them. At the signal to “start” one person on each team pulls out a slip of paper and uses gestures so their teammates will guess what holiday movie they are trying to convey.  Once someone has guessed, the glass with the movie slips is quickly passed to the next person, who must pick one and again, using only gestures and facial expressions, try to communicate the title of the movie to their teammates. This goes on until one team has gotten through all 8 of their movie titles. They are declared the winners—and get served first (or win a small prize).


Holiday Scrabble

This is a fun game that can be done during dinner or after. Each table represents one team, and you want to make sure that each table has close to the same number of people.

You can buy Scrabble Games to get enough “letters” for this event, or you can just make them using card stock paper and cutting out small squares. For place settings, spell each person’s first name using Scrabble tiles and put them just above their dinner plate. If there are people with the same first name, also provide a last name initial. 


For the game: ask the teams to make a “Scrabble crossword” on their table and using the letters provided by their names, they must spell as many words as possible. Give them a time limit of 3 minutes. At the end, the table with the most words (all connected) wins.


You can also have multiple rounds. For example, in the first round, every team must spell words that have to do with the holidays (i.e. turkey, feast, presents, Santa, gifts, etc.). Again, there is a short deadline of 2-3 minutes, and the team with the most words (all in crossword form) is the winner of the round. Other rounds could be “Company Products, Services and Trivia,” “Spare Time” (hobbies or what people do in their spare time), “ What’s on Your Desk.” The categories are endless, and you can even have the players make them up.


Fun team games you can play after dinner:

These are available at any toy department and are perfect for teams.

Catch Phrase



Trivial Pursuit


For mid-size groups of 40- 80:

Holiday CLUE

This is a fun mixer that starts during cocktails and finishes at dinner. It gives people a reason to mingle and talk to others. You can use cards from a standard Clue games from the store, or you can make up your own. Basically, each participant gets a clue card and a list of all the clues on the back of the card. The cards have either the name of a room, a weapon or a character on them. Participants mingle and compare cards during cocktails. On the back of their card, they check off the cards that they have seen from other participants (as well as their own). During dinner, everyone sits a round tables. The people at each table also can compare notes. Then, each table submits its Solution on paper (name of the Body, name of the Room and which Weapon was used to do the deed). The teams with the correct answer are applauded or win a small prize.


For mid to large groups 40- several hundred

Share the Holiday Spirit

For every 50 participants, have one Christmas Tree (live or artificial) with lights. If you do this during cocktails, have tables around the room with craft supplies (paper, scissors, glue, ribbon, styrofoam balls, beads, etc.). Ask people to design and make holiday ornaments. Make sure they put their names on any they create. These are hung on one of the trees. People can make as many as they would like, but everyone should attempt to make at least one.


During dinner, a panel of “judges” picks the 3 most beautiful ornaments. These are announced and displayed after dinner. The designers of these are given a prize. The trees are either auctioned off—or given to charity (to a family that cannot afford a tree). 


If you have other company holiday activities that you would like to share, please send them to: and we can post them on our Facebook page – and list your name as the contributor.



Whenever you are working in a team environment, you will have some members who are very committed to the project and pushing it forward, some who are going along with the project but not that crazy about it, and some who just don’t seem to care about the team or the project. Of course, you would get a much higher level of productivity and success if everyone was highly committed and motivated. So how can you make that happen, and whose responsibility is it?


The first thing to do is communicate with your team -together and with them individually. Identify the problem: lack of high level of commitment and motivation among team members. As a group they should answer these questions:

  1. Do you agree this is an area that could use improvement?
  2. What are the barriers to commitment and motivation?
  3. How can we remove these barriers—if not all, what about ONE?


Your team should come up with at least one solution to helping the situation and press them to agree upon it. Awareness by itself is a small step in the right direction. Some people do not even realize that it is a problem. Make sure that team members see that supporting and motivating each other is EVERYONE’S responsibility, and that together your could achieve much more if moving in the same direction at the same speed.


Consider using a visual to demonstrate this.  Something “simple” it can be a powerful example. For instance, think of your team as a bunch of sticks (you can bring 12-20 sticks to your meeting)—different lengths, shapes and thicknesses. These represent all the different members of the team—very diverse. Use a paper plate to represent a “goal” of the team. Some sticks can stand on end -a bit wobbly on their own and support the plate; some can’t do this at all, but either way, the plate topples over easily. Now, bind the sticks together and stand them on end. This represents commitment to the team. Together, they will provide a stable base to hold up the plate. (You may need to trim some of the lengths of the sticks in order to be more uniform—this represents having the same goal; not some loftier than others.)  


Everyone wants to think of themselves as good team players, but in reality, it is a very hard thing to do. Keep making it a topic of discussion with your team, and they can all work towards it together.


When you were a child, didn’t you get tired of having your parents tell you the same thing over and over? However, as we have more “life experiences,” you have to realize the benefits of “over communicating.” This is because when small things slip through the cracks you cannot always cover them up. In fact, some small errors can lead to big problems, both professionally as well as personally. So make sure you think things through very thoroughly, question the details, and reconfirm more than once. It sounds very simple, but it’s not.


Here’s a case in point—when a potential client asks us to provide a team building activity for their group, we need to ascertain exactly what constitutes success for this client. For example, we once orchestrated an event for 1400 people in Europe. We had only three weeks to put every detail of the event in place, and participants had a great time. However, our client did not ask for our assistance in “marketing” the activity and we assumed that they were taking care of getting people to participate. Wrong. What little information given to attendees about the event plus very poor weather left many wondering if it was worth the effort or even necessary to be part of a team building activity. We ended up with very good attendance, but know that it could have been great if we had asked about this detail and questioned our client more thoroughly about what they were doing to generate excitement about the event. Lesson: Get your vendor partners more involved, and as vendors, be more involved in every aspect, because each part of the meeting affects every other part.


Don’t make assumptions! Just because you have an excellent activity for your meeting in place, does the space and venue really lend itself to the event? You need to consider what the best set-up is for the activity and can this actually be accomplished in the time frame given. If an air wall needs to be pulled or tables and chairs moved, is there time and will the venue’s staff take care of it when needed?  Ask the question. Sometimes hotel staff is not available to make these changes because of other meetings and commitments, and sometimes, what you are requesting is just not realistic (like turning a huge ballroom in 15 minutes).


Ask about every detail. Some of our activities require something as simple as a pen. Many hotels and meeting places provide paper and pens, but you can’t assume they will automatically have them for your activity. Ask them. If unsure, bring your own.


Don’t wait until the last minute and do push people for answers. Everyone is very busy, and sometimes people take longer than expected to return calls or answer questions. But you can nicely press them for answers. You do not want to find out that something can’t be done on the day of your meeting or event. You may step on toes if you have to go directly to the source for an answer (we all have to work through layers of people at times)—but it is better to get the answer and know what you have to work with when there is plenty of time to make adjustments rather than be scrambling at the “11th hour.” Apologize later for doing the “end around,” but assure everyone that it was in the best interest of the event’s success… and that reflects on all.


  1. Make detailed lists and ask questions about every aspect of the function.
  2. Recap in writing the conversations and agreements. Just because someone “said” something doesn’t make it so.
  3. Don’t make assumptions that someone else is taking care of it. Check and double check.
  4. Be supportive to all who are working with you (colleagues and vendor/partners). A positive attitude will get you more than finger-pointing. 

In this roller coaster business climate, people need “team building” more than ever, but budget is a big concern. What can you do to get the best team building experience while saving money? Here are some options—obvious and not so obvious.

  1. Stay local and use community resources to save on site rental fees and transportation. City parks are excellent places to have team building activities. They are often either free or offer very reasonable rental rates for local businesses and residents. Community Centers have meeting rooms for rent at great prices, and some come with AV extras (screen, sound, projection). You can also have incredibly fun, effective team building events right in your own office complex. Use of the parking lot or lawn areas are options too.
  2. Be flexible on dates if possible. Just like hotels and event sites, team building companies have peaks and valleys in bookings. If you are willing to hold your event during slower times, the company will be more likely to be more flexible on pricing.
  3. Negotiate. What can be done to help the cost, if anything? Don’t be afraid to ask. Some of these items have helped our customers stay within tight budgets:
    1. Switching to an event that takes less time or staffing.
    2. Providing assistants to help set-up or run the event. This works in some cases, when “extra bodies” that don’t require specialized training are needed.
    3. More participants. Combine a couple of department meetings. It costs a team building company about the same amount of money to provide an event for 8 as it does for 20. 
    4. Barter. Can you offer the team building company a service or product in exchange for their services?
  4. Do-it-yourself. You can get manuals or books with team exercises. Additionally, some team building companies provide simple, small scale activities that can be custom packaged with a facilitator’s manual provided. It does require some time to go through the event details, and it takes someone with experience running events and giving directions. But many companies have people who are qualified to do this.

What does it take to be a team? Just because you meet with or work with the same people on a regular basis does not mean you are a team. Can you transform a group into a team? Certain conditions must exist. Here are the primary requirements:

  1. A team needs a reason to be together. A common goal, project, or plan that requires forward movement and results.
  2. Team members need to be committed to working with each other to achieve the goal(s). This also means being able to cooperate and put aside personal agendas for the good of the team and its goals.
  3. All members need to contribute and be accountable. This does not mean they are all alike or contribute equally. However, it does mean that members are actively a part of achieving the goals established.
  4. Change and continuous improvement are what teamwork is all about. Stagnate, do nothing and the team will cease to exist.
  5. Leadership. This is the person or persons who will keep the team together, focused and moving forward. It is not a dictator so much as a facilitator and person who will insure that everyone is communicating and on the same page. It is the person who will gather results, help the team to analyze them, make adjustments and incorporate them into future plans.
  6. Time. More teams fall apart because people could not find the time to make it work. They did not see that the long run benefits were worth the time commitment.

You may have used a professional team building company in the past, you may have organized fun excursions and activities for your group in the name of "team building," but how do you know if it is really working. If your goal is just to go out and have fun, then just about any social activity will suffice. However, if you are really trying to build a more effective team, a fun activity alone will not do it. It is going to take concerted effort over a long period of time.

After nearly 20 years in the team building arena, we see that there are all sorts of companies that purport to do "team building." Some companies do their own team building -- with varying degrees of success. But it is evident that "team building" falls into several different categories:

\Level 1: Party, picnic, excursion. These are fun, group events that are typically planned internally. They may or may not include organized games (like volleyball, bocce or picnic games). The result is that people get to interact with others that they don't know-- helping to increase camaraderie and create a better comfort level at work.

Level 2: Organized team building activity. These are events that are engaging and fun, but also require people to use the skills that they need to be successful at work: communication, group problem solving, building consensus, etc. It is a more pointed team building experience. It is a step up from Level #1, but it's value is highly dependent upon the person or persons facilitating the activity. If the facilitator fails to make the connection of the activity to the workplace, it is a huge opportunity lost. Good debriefing provides incredible value. 

Level 3: This is what we call "serious team building." It is a combination of training and practicing using relevant game activities. Encouraging participants to share their own experiences and ideas, brainstorming, listening and being committed to moving forward-- these are all key elements of a Level 3 Team Building program. If a team is having serious obstacles to working together effectively, we suggest a number of tools, including one-on-one interviews prior to a team building program. These "conversations" seek to discover the perpective of each team member individually. This allows a facilitator to understand the dynamics of a team and why they are failing, before trying to prescribe something that will help them. This is the most professional approach to team building.

Most businesses usually request a Level 2 team building activity. However, as the economy has become so uncertain and teams are "right-sizing" everywhere, companies are finding a greater need for a Level 3 approach. This is more hard-hitting, encouraging immediate change, and is longer lasting. It is also an excellent use of monetary resources and provides a better return on investment.  


Scavenger/Treasure Hunts—when are they the right event?

When people call us for team building, they often say “we want something really interactive where people get to know each other better.” Sometimes that is followed by “What about a scavenger hunt?” These days, many are caught up in the intrigue and fun of reality TV’s “Amazing Race,” and “hunts” can be designed to have that theme and flavor. However, it is not the right type of activity for everyone, and sometimes they just defeat the purpose of team building and interaction.


Scavenger hunt-type of activities are great for:

  1. A group that would like to explore at new city, resort or amusement park while doing some team building at the same time.
  2. Moderately active to very active groups. If you have people that have trouble walking, it can deflate their spirit and their team’s spirit. Take pregnant and over weight people into account too.
  3. Learning to plan, coordinate and communicate. If these are your team building objectives, a hunt can be perfect.
  4. Providing variety in the tasks required.
  5. Getting outdoors.
  6. Having a less structured event, since people can choose where to go and when, what to do and how.


Do not choose a hunt activity if:

  1. Your objective is having people interact and get to know each other. A hunt splits up the teams for the most part. We do have some that require inter-team collaboration, but for the most part, the teams are operating independently.
  2. The design of it creates too much risk for participants. Do not allow participants to drive themselves around if the event fosters a “race” atmosphere. There are ways of making it safe while still being competitive. 
  3. Your selection committee loves the idea, but are not taking into account all the other participants. You want to insure that everyone feels comfortable participating and that they can.
  4. The area you are covering in the activity does not really lend itself to a hunt.
  5. Your group just did a scavenger hunt last year. There are so many team building activities to choose from; wow them with something new and unexpected. 


For more information on the wide variety of scavenger hunts available, contact Corporate Games at 800-790-GAME (4263).


This is a fun way to start a meeting and an effective tool to start building a team. It allows people to find out what they have in common. When the exercise is over, often people will continue conversations about the shared experiences and interests that have been revealed.
   Here's how it works. Everyone stands in a circle. One person is selected to start talking about him or herself. The person can talk about their job, where they grew up, went to school, etc. All the other people are instructed to jump into the "conversation" by raising their hand --as soon as the speaker says something that they have in common. The speaker will point to someone (who has raised their hand)--to continue the talk, using the subject that they have in common as a starting point for talking about themselves.
   Try it! It is a great way to encourage "bonding." 

Whenever we ask teams to choose a "leader," that person inadvertently believes that s/he must tell people what to do and how to do it. This is not the role of a good team leader. A team leader is someone who
1. Facilitates discussion among the entire team. Insures that all members have a chance to share their ideas.
2. Is able to summarize the wide variety of ideas from team members.
3. Helps the team to focus in the strategy session and not get side-tracked.
4. Facilitates the group problem solving process and brings the team to a decision on a plan of action.
5. Keeps track of time and deadlines and helps the team move forward accordingly.
6. May make some decisions if appropriate. In some cases, it will be a group decision, in others, the team leader will take stock of all ideas and make a decision. It depends upon the situation.
7. Insures that every person on the team understands the project and the plan in exactly the same way. This will avoid error, confusion and duplicated efforts.
8. Treats all team members with respect and makes sure to value each person's contribution.
9. Operates as a member of the team.
Great team leaders are people that others will want to follow.

If you are truly interested in fostering a great team, you need to have a starting point. This is especially true if you have "inherited" someone else's team, which is quite common in business today. Where do you begin?
     Whatever you do, please do not just sit back and "observe." That may have some merit, but the best and easiest way to find out about how a team is doing is to ask them. This can be in the form of one-on-one or group "interviews" as well as team meetings. However, one of the best tools that we have developed at Corporate Games is our Team Assessment. It is easy to administer and it will provide loads of valuable information. Here is a streamlined summary of how to do it:
1. Explain to your team that you are meeting to take stock of how the group is functioning as a team, and to ask them to assist in creating ways to improve the team.
2. Divide your team into small discussion groups (3- 10 people each, depending on the size of your total team) and ask each group to come up with a list of adjectives that describe a successful team. Each discussion group will have its own list of 10- 20 descriptors-- such as "Trust," "Clear Goals," "Openness," etc., etc.
3. Ask the first group to read their list as you write down the words on a flip chart. "Post-It" flipchart paper is best. Then, ask the other groups what they have --and add any new words that have not already been mentioned.
4. Next, ask each group to take a look at the whole list of words and based on their own experience with the team, to rate the entire team against each of the adjectives-- on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 is the best, with 1 being dismal. This means that each discussion group will have its own set of ratings-- though they are scoring the entire team.
5. Give each discussion group a colored marker (each must have a different color), and have one person from each group post their scores, using their colored marker, on the flipchart list of words. So, for example, if you have 3 discussion groupss, next to each one of the words on the flipchart, there will eventually be 3 different scores-- one from each of your 3 groups.
6. Everyone will be very interested in how all the scores compare. Some will be close or similar, and others will vary widely. Facilitate a discussion on how the groups came up with some of the scores. Focus particularly on scores that are widely divergent.
7. Finally have each group decide what ONE area could use improvement immediately-- and how they would go about it. 
8. You need to follow up on their ideas. Hopefully these are suggestions that you can all agree upon and act on fairly easily and rapidly.
9. The "Assessment" scores that you collect will now serve as a benchmark for the future, and help you determine how your team is doing. You will ask them to score these items again in 6 months to a year. 
    The "Team Assessment" is the perfect way to determine your teams strengths and weaknesses --and provide direction as to how to improve.

When we ask our prospective clients what their group did for a team building exercise in years past, we sometimes hear "We went to a baseball game." or "We went wine tasting." or " We did a jazz aerobics, but some people couldn't keep up." or "We wanted to do paintball, but some of the team members did not like that idea."
    A corporate team building activity must be something that EVERYONE on your team can participate in and enjoy. Yes, they may feel uncomfortable at first, but it should never be an activity where someone is downright scared or negatively singled out because of their lack of athleticism or daring. The people on your team were presumably hired, because they bring value and expertise to the team. Real team building should build on those skills and increase the ability of team members to interact and solve problems together. You do not need to belittle people or force them into something that goes against their nature in order to build a good business team.
   So-- consider that not everyone likes to drink wine, not everyone is physically fit, not everyone feels comfortable with ropes courses or war games like paintball. These have their place, and small "homogeneous teams" with members that are very similar and have the same tastes can get a tremendous amount of enjoyment from them. However, 99% of the time, teams are very diverse.
   Additionally, a good team building activity requires communication and interaction among the team members. Going to see a baseball game or on some excursion does not require people to talk to each other. Typically, people will sit with their friends and talk to them. They will not go out of their way to be with team members they really don't know well (which is the point of team building).
   The best team building events, therefore, must have broad appeal, be an activity that every team member can participate in, require communication, interaction, encourage getting people to know others they are not familiar with, be fun and engaging, and ultimately perceived as being a good and valuable use of time. If the event or activity you select does not meet these criteria, you should rethink your choice.