A Team Building Exercise That Works

Many years ago I did a workshop for a group that had 10 employees/team members who’d worked together for a couple of years, but who did not really know each other. I was brought in to help the team meet a new leader. As I saw it, my project/mission was 3 fold: (1) to get the team to celebrate each other; (2) to get the new leader to know the team; and (3) to forge new relationships and team spirit for the new tasks ahead.

I’m happy to say that my project/mission succeeded in large part because of a very simple but powerful “show and tell” icebreaker exercise. I asked everyone to bring something to the meeting to show and tell that they have had for more than 5 years. As you can imagine, each person came with something special, meaningful and important to their life and who they are. One of the participants brought an x-ray to show a fragment of a bullet he had lodged in his shoulder. He told the group that in his youth he had belonged to a gang and that bullet saved his life because it took him away from the influence of the gang and toward a nurse who mentored him. Another person brought a photo of her 5 year old daughter who she had decided not to give up for adoption.

Each item and each story was unique. The overall effect though, was connection and harmony, and above all respect. The new team manager got to meet each person in a very unique way that made them memorable and the team members now understood a lot more about each other.

I have used this exercise many times over the years and each time it is as powerful and meaningful for all participants.

How well do you know your team? 

How well do they know each other? 

How well do they know you? 

Want to do a team building exercise like this? It’s easy and quick to set up:

  • Select a date when your team can meet.
  • The time frame for the meeting should take into consideration that you want to give each participant about 10 minutes to share their story and item and also to be able to answer questions.
  • Inform the participants that the date and time have been set aside for a special program.
  • Ask the participants to bring in one item that they have kept or have cherished for 5 or more years.
  • Let them know that they will have a chance to share the story of this item with the group. You can prompt them by telling them:

–that they will show the item

–they will tell everyone what it means

–they will say how long they have had it and

–they will share why they kept it.

  • At the meeting, you can start with your item so you can model the process or you can ask for a volunteer to start.
  • Each person will get the same amount of time.
  • After each person has shared, the team leader should say thank you ____ for sharing and lead the group into applause.
  • Take a photo of the person and the item they shared after each presentation.
  • Take a group photo with the items.
  • Give each person their photo and the group photo.
  • The time frame for this exercise should also allow for time for your team members to continue to connect after the presentations.

Of course, there are more options for team-building games than there is time to do them {resources}. Please share if you’ve ever done any team building exercises and how it worked. We’d love to hear your ideas!


G. Nancy Allen is an international speaker, coach, consultant and expert on women’s business issues. Nancy has over 30 years of experience helping small business owners at all stages of growth. As President and CEO of WBDC Florida/Her Company Incorporated, Nancy manages and leads an incredible team of staff, sponsors, partners and women business leaders who are dedicated to certifying, connecting and championing women in business. Nancy has been recognized for her work on behalf of women in business through numerous prestigious awards: -Nancy was recently honored by the International Career and Business Alliance (ICABA) as one of South Florida’s 100 most accomplished Caribbean Americans. She is especially proud of this award because it highlights her heritage as well as her professional accomplishments. -Nancy is the recipient of the World Women Leadership Achievement Award from the World Women Leadership Congress -Nancy is also the proud recipient of the Association Marketing Award from Women in ECommerce. -Most recently Nancy was named Honorary Ambassador of Cascais, Portugal by the Ambassador’s Club of the Industry Sector of Cascais and the Estoril Coast. Nancy’s personal motto is Connections, Creativity and Courage in all endeavors. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS, 1982). She was born in Haiti and raised in South Florida. Nancy is bi-lingual in English and French and is fluent in Spanish and Creole.