It seems as association professionals, we attend multiple retreats a year. Staff retreats, board retreats, strategic planning retreats…and on most of those agendas is the dreaded “ice breaker” exercise.
While the intent behind these activities is good – team building, getting to know one another and improving communications – the execution can get a little stale. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them though. Instead, we need to melt the preconception (see what I did there), avoid the use of the word “ice breaker” and shake things up.
With that in mind, here are four unique team building exercises to try out at your next retreat:
- Salt and Pepper. Write down one half of well-known pairs on pieces of paper (peanut butter & jelly, Yin & Yang, Sonny & Cher) then tape one paper to each person’s back. Everyone must travel the room, asking only yes or no questions to discover their word and find their pair. Once a pair has found one another have them sit down and find a couple things they have in common while the rest of the group continues.
- Group Timeline. On a bulletin board or other surface that you can use thumbtacks or tape on, create a blank timeline. It should begin when the oldest member of your team was born or when the association was founded – whichever came first. Make sure to mark each year on the timeline adding up to the present. Add important dates for the association (i.e. founded, changed names, etc.). Then give each team member a few slips of paper and ask them to mark down important moments in their lives and add them to the timeline. This exercise gives a visual representation of the different generations and experience levels within your organization and can lead to discussions about those differences and how that impacts your work environment.
- Obstacle Courses. The application for this is obvious—overcoming obstacles and communicating as a team. Either set up your own obstacle course using things around the office such as desks, chairs, organizing bins, etc., or take an office field trip to a local leadership course. Obstacle course events can be booked specifically for team building exercises at Bradford Woods, Jameson Camp, Dagaz Acres and many more. If you are feeling daring, blindfold the participants and have their teammates guide them through.
- Jeopardy. Create a Jeopardy board using PowerPoint, poster board or an online builder like Jeopardy Rocks. Use different program areas of the association, facts about the company, staff, events, etc. to see how much your teams know about the group and what you do. This can be interesting to see if your group is collaborative or works in a silo environment.