Retreat Team Building Exercises

Like any organization, local governments need to build strong teams to get important things accomplished.   Even the mundane tasks are done with greater ease when we operate like a team.  

We recently completed a LinkedIn poll and asked local government leaders what key topics they liked most in retreat. By large margin the top two most popular aspects of retreats were team building time and goal setting time.

Team-Building Exercises

Next time you plan an offsite retreat for your Department, City or County staff, City Council or County Commission, we encourage you to include exercises that bring the team together and grow the level of trust and understanding among individuals.

Here is a list of several exercises you can consider. Let us know if we can help you think through the rest of your offsite retreat needs. 

  1. Two Truths and a Lie: Have each team member share three statements about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is a lie. The rest of the team must guess which statement is the lie.  This simple exercise will help people get to know each other quickly and will also provide some humor and levity.

  2. What I Value:  Give the team examples of personal values, such as honesty, dependability, and work ethic. Ask each team member to make a list of their top five personal values that also apply at work. They can Google a list if they would like. Have them write their most cherished values down, and then ask them to share them with two other people at their table. This exercise will allow people to get to know each other, and learn what’s important to others in a very non-threatening way.  

  3. Newspaper Tower: This exercise requires 3 to 5 people per table. Each table gets one local newspaper, and a roll of scotch tape.  The instructions are to use the newspaper and tape to build a free-standing structure (like a building) as tall as you can in 8 minutes.   This is a great exercise as it teaches teams to pause before they jump in to solve the problem, to plan, try new things and communicate as they experience successes and failures in their efforts.  Secret: The key to success with this exercise is rolling up pages of the newspaper very tightly so they can act as "beams".    Participants should always be asked to share what they observed and learned.
  4. Human Knot: Have the team stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Have everyone reach across the circle with their right hand and grab the hand of someone who is not standing next to them. Then, have everyone reach across the circle with their left hand and grab the hand of another person who is not standing next to them. The team must then untangle themselves without letting go of each other's hands.  This exercise will help the team learn to slow down and think and work together in a collaborative way.  Participants should always be asked to share what they observed and learned.

  5. Blindfolded Obstacle Course: This exercise will take a little bit of preparation but might be worth the effort.  Divide the team into pairs, with one person blindfolded and the other person guiding them through an obstacle course.  The two participants will learn valuable skills around communication and feedback. Audience members can later be asked to share what they observed that was successful or unsuccessful.  Participants should always be asked to share what they observed and learned.

  6. The Marshmallow Challenge: Give each team a set of materials (such as marshmallows, toothpicks, and string) and a time limit (like 15 minutes), and challenge them to build the tallest free-standing structure they can.  As with the newspaper structure exercise, this exercise helps team members learn to collaborate, be creative and adjust as they go along.

We hope you enjoy using some of these simple exercises at your next retreat (or even staff meeting) to build trust, camaraderie and better relationships on your team.

Let us know if we can help you with your professional development needs, staff retreats, culture efforts or succession planning challenges.


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