So, your company is planning a corporate retreat and you’re hoping to employ those dreaded two words that cause your staff to wince at the idea of trust falls or plan their excused absence. Team building.

Let us help your company retreat be a success. We’ve got a few ideas to get your colleagues engaged so they can work more collaboratively and creatively.

First, it’s important to remember the key concepts of team building exercises.

  • Participants should be able to “buy in” to the ideas or exercises in the events. If an idea is too outlandish, silly or pushes people too far out of their comfort zone, they are likely to withdraw and not benefit.
  • Exercises should not focus more on similarities over differences, otherwise, the opposite of collaboration is likely to be reinforced.
  • Some of the skills need to be practiced or revisited back in the workplace.

With these ideas in mind, we’ve put together a list of exercises that meet these goals, are suitable for the winter and help your team relax and have fun while learning to better collaborate while at the ranch.

1. Teach Backs

How they work: Split into groups of two to four. Assign topics for teams to research and present to the rest of the group. Provide presentation materials, which could include poster board, art supplies or a virtual space/website and a time limit for creating and presenting each effort. Bonus points or prizes are earned for creativity, originality or providing new information in an informative or helpful way.

Benefits: Provides a fun opportunity for colleagues to work together; learn about new topics (or refresh old ones); gives folks a break from the standard speaker/audience communication or presentation method. Subjects can be work-related or extra-curricular, depending on your needs.

How to revisit: Bring presentations back and set them up in the workplace (or on your office intranet site or server); have some of the groups give their presentation to a wider group; host new teach back group presentations for work-related subjects; set follow-up goals; schedule a meeting, 15 to 30 days after returning to the office, to follow up on goals or key learnings.

2. Art Break

How they work: This is particularly fantastic if you have someone artistically-minded or can bring in an art specialist. The idea is for teams to collaborate creatively on a work of art that embodies the spirit of their team, organization, hometown, what your company or group does, mission statement or other designated or self-chosen goal. For large groups, employ a mural or break out into smaller groups that will create a different version or smaller part of the bigger artwork. Don’t be afraid to use clay, objects, paints, mixed media (different types of art used together) or company products in a different way than they are traditionally used. Finish by polling the group about what goals they felt were accomplished—and hope will be accomplished—with the “art break.”

Benefits: Your team will be using a non-traditional medium to express a collective vision and provide ownership. Working together on this vision will also enable colleagues to share perspective and co-create collaboratively and purposefully.

How to revisit: Display finished artwork back at the office. Display a sign and/or circulate an email or intranet news post about the ideas behind the artwork and the goals participants shared. Invite a wider group (if applicable) to participate in or submit their own artwork to be included with the main display. Revisit the goals with stakeholders or organizationally several months afterward.

3. Outdoor Rally

How they work: Your group is tasked to find a series of clues, flags or tokens placed at given locations throughout the ranch. Typically, they are placed (and found) based on GPS coordinates, and with consultation from the staff for safety and to ensure the effort level is accessible for all group members. Retrieval can be conducted in any form of winter recreation held at the ranch: Nordic skiing, fat biking, snowmobiling or snowshoeing. (Note that depending on the sport or size of the group, you may need to rent equipment off-site or host several groups participating in different sports. Please consult with our reservations specialists when calling for details and to make plans.) Time spent will depend on the number of markers placed. The challenge can either involve a time limit or with teams competing against each other.

Benefits: This challenge involves cooperation and communication to achieve the goals. Depending on your staff, you can make the challenge accessible and recreational. Catching up over a mug of cocoa or a hot buttered rum by the fireplace after the activity will cement the group accomplishments. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

How to revisit: On the company’s intranet or similar public viewing place, post a map of the ranch that includes a notation of where the markers were found. Include a list of the teams, the scores, photos and videos of the competition.

4. Ad Campaign

How they work: Similar to the Art Break, your team works collaboratively and creatively to make an ad about a designated or self-chosen goal, statement, product, etc. For large groups, break into smaller groups that will create a different version or use a different theme or topic. Don’t be afraid to create, use or tweak real brand or mission statements, company products or slogans. These can be presented in a story board, digital media or video, depending on your time frame and the group’s abilities. Finish by polling the group about what goals they felt were accomplished—and hope will be accomplished—with the ad they have created.

Benefits: Your team will work together to express a collective vision about your organization or how it reaches people. The task will also enable colleagues to be creative, share perspective and co-create community.

How to revisit: Display results at the office. Invite a wider audience (other staff, if applicable, or clients, customers or others outside the organization) to provide feedback, rate or vote on all or the top ads. Feature the top results on your intranet, website or social media. Review the best ideas with an agency to explore committing them to an official campaign. Meet with stakeholders to review the goals set by participants.

5. Real World Challenge

How they work: Yoursnowy-cabin at Turpin Meadow Ranch organization’s leaders pick a “real world challenge,” something that has recently or is currently an issue for the organization, a competitor or another group. Present the challenge to the group and ask them to work in groups to formulate a resolution. It can be as low or high-level of a resolution path as you like, but make sure to assign a time limit for the challenge and the subsequent presentation. Note: if the challenge involves current employees, ask the affected employee(s) in advance if you can use their story and ask they either not let on about their involvement or if they feel comfortable, introduce them at the onset of the exercise. Involve them as much as they would like in the presentation or co-facilitation of the challenge.

Benefits: Your team gets the chance to work together to resolve a real issue. This takes creativity and cooperation and groupthink in a new environment can often lead to uncovering new angles or solutions to a tough challenge that may be able to be used in the future. Your team feels they are working cooperatively and contributing to resolve the company’s issues. Your leadership may also find new skillsets within the organization.

How to revisit: Solutions that are tried or implemented can be analyzed in subsequent sessions. Team members who have contributed successful solutions should be recognized. Possibly, breakout groups can meet regularly to oversee their solution’s handling and future success or course correct as needed.

Whatever you end up choosing for your team building exercises, we have the perfect venue. Our gathering spaces are cozy and inviting. The lodgings are comfortable and close, while providing independent space. Our chef is world-class. And, of course, the recreation and scenery are the perfect backdrop for your bonding experience.

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