December 17, 2017
    Better together: Execs share best team-building activities

    Team-building exercises - some people love them, others dread the mere mention, but when done correctly, they can truly be a bonding experience.

    These programs do more than just teach staff how to work together. Your staff members discover who are the alphas, who are the analysts and out-of-the-box thinkers, and a little about themselves, too. 

    There are the detractors, the ones who muddle through because they have to, and would rather be doing just about anything else. They’re the ones for whom team-building is needed most. A good exercise will draw them out and hopefully the lesson of team togetherness will stick with them.

    We asked association professionals what was the best team-building experiences they’ve participated in. They all sound like a good time! If you know of a company that provides services for any of the below, please send a email to

    Cooking class. One executive cooked up unity among his board members at a local bakery. “It was fantastic!” he said. There are all kinds of ways this can be done: For instance, people are divided into smaller groups and are charged with making a course for a (hopefully) delicious dinner. Or, everyone makes the same thing to see whose final dish is the most delish! Longtime association consultant and TRENDS contributor Rhea Blanken, FASAE, conducts a cooking class for executives. You can reach her at

    Improv anyone? For membership expert Cynthia D’Amour, MBA, of People Power Unlimited, staff togetherness IS a laughing matter. She suggests the staff can go to an improv show together. But recently, D’Amour led improv exercises at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference. “Lots of fun, bonding and can even include some content,” she said. Contact her at

    Escape room. “Perfect for a small staff organization,” one executive said. You’re locked into a room full of clues on how to get out, and you have a certain amount of time in which to do it. Have a phobia of being in small spaces? This is not for you, but this is the perfect way to find out who has an inquisitive mind, who has a logical mind, and who is a great sleuth. 

    Mystery evening. You might have done a murder mystery dinner among friends. There are now companies that design such evenings as a team-building exercise. People are grouped together to find clues to solving the mystery.

    Citywide scavenger hunts. A great way to find out how your team works together. These are perfect as an icebreaker for board or council members, or for bringing together staff members who don’t routinely work together and can benefit by knowing each other better. Design the clues so they have to interact. One executive suggested adding limousine service to get to each clue. That works for us! There are many companies that provide scavenger hunt services.

    Outdoor adventures. For the athletically inclined staff! Many outdoor adventure companies now offer corporate team-building programs that can include zip-lining, and rope bridges and swings. Here’s one in the DC area: Such companies may also offer ground activity like group hiking, where courses are designed to force human interactivity. For the water-inclined, kayaking and controlled whitewater group activities also are a lot of fun. Save time for the staff picnic afterward where physical and pride wounds are swiftly healed.

    An emerging outdoor team-building experience: Many farms now are opening up to corporate events and retreats. Check to see if there is a nearby farm or ranch that offers corporate training via farming activity. For instance, Unbridled Lealrning Solutions offers “super cool equine assisted leadership and team building programs,” one executive suggested.

    Indoor sports activities. There are many places that bring the outdoors indoors. Find a center that has a rock-climbing wall, where activities are designed for interactivity. Create a staff air hockey tournament at a local sports bar, or plan an afternoon of laser tag. “Let's be real. Everyone on the team needs to be pretty competitive, or else it could be a disaster,” an executive said with a laugh.

    Karaoke night. Here’s one executive singing this experience’s praises: “We did team karaoke at one association where I worked. When we first suggested it, people were horrified and intimidated, but it remains one of the best activities we did.” 

    “We've actually talked about doing karaoke as a fundraiser for my current association, that people could bid on certain people singing. Haven't worked out the logistics of that yet, but if there's a microphone, I'm there!”

    Before you scoff, remember how much fun live band karaoke was at the ASAE annual meeting in St. Louis?

    Staff happy half-hours. Designed to last only a half-hour, these breaks near the end of the day can include just mingling among chips and dip, and beer, but also include a team-building experience. Create guessing games based on staff members, or break into small groups for a team building mini project. Control who is on the teams, so work friends don’t break into their regular cliques. This is designed to help staff get to know other staffers better and to work with those who they normally do not work with.

    Association TRENDS