Take one (or more) for the Team: 5 group activities that build trust, commitment & accountability


In his bestseller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni describes five primary reasons teams fail. (To which some will say, only half-jokingly, “What, only five!?”)

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings

Using these dysfunctions as a framework, I’ll profile corresponding team building exercises that turn the dysfunction into engaging, purposeful function. Each one has been designed by top team building design consultancy Wildly Different, and proven in the “wilds” of corporations and associations nationwide.

  1. Absence of Trust

We know trust is the cornerstone of solid teams.  A ropes course is a classic and now-tired way to instill team trust. Here’s a fully fresh and fun approach.

Team Dynamics Dash: This activity requires teams to work together and open up to one another to complete tasks. EG: In one task, teammates share what they see as each person’s main strength. In another, they must agree on the critical items to choose if “stranded at sea.” Such discussions can get heated as perspectives differ. Lessons learned are covered in a closing debrief to help everyone recognize “a-ha” moments. Indeed, when team members open up and raise awareness by putting team dynamics to the test, they become stronger.

  1. Fear of Conflict

Unlock The Mystery: In this tabletop Escape-Room experience, teams use a series of clues and props to break into a locked box before time’s up. Teams decide whether to split up and solve clues, or work on them together. Often, those who tend avoid conflict state a correct answer, yet do so in a very quiet voice, while others ignore them. So, part of the learning is reinforcing the need to listen to one another. After all, it takes courage for some to step forward and say, “Hey guys, I’ve got this” for fear they’re wrong. As participants realize they can overcome differing perspectives and collaborate to beat the clock and solve clues together, they grow stronger and more cohesive.

  1. Lack of Commitment

With so many distractions and choices at work, one challenge becomes committing and sticking to projects and goals. In The Pitch game, teams strategize to complete a series of tasks required in this “Shark Tank”-like pitch for a brand-new product or service idea. Different roles are assigned: team leader, financial manager, marketing director, etc. Each person must commit to the scope of their individual roles and then work together cohesively as a team to pitch and to win.

4. Avoidance of Accountability

In Success Factor, individuals form two teams to complete in two very different tasks. Given the range of responsibilities, everyone must be accountable for their individual roles AND as members of a team if they wish to succeed. At the end, participants vote for who they would most likely hire based on their teammates’ involvement in each activity. The one getting the most votes wins.

5. Inattention to Results

Achieving relevant outcomes is a successful team’s cornerstone. Yet many fall short when individuals’ personal needs take over the group’s collective process.

Enter the game Float Your Boat. This powerful team building activity shows participants how to overcome what at first seems like an impossible task: building a boat out of sheets of cardboard and duct tape—large and strong enough to accommodate two sitting adults. If they don’t pay attention to the details, things can, um, “sink” quickly. Is your canoe tippy? Once people sit in it, they’re going overboard. Sides not high enough? Water gushes in over the top! Everyone must contribute to building the boat before the races start, and if you spend too much time debating WHAT to do, you’ll run out of time to do it!

Are you conflicted about how to best serve your team? You can trust that committing to any one of these five teaming solutions will account for the results you’re after.

Go ahead: take one for the team!

Contact us to explore integrating one or more of these activities into your next meeting or conference.

And for five MORE team building activities, see our uber-popular blog post from a couple years ago.