Team-building games

Anique van Eijk

Team-building games come in all shapes and sizes, from indoor activities such as an escape room, to outdoor activities such as building rafts or playing sports together. But what is the most appropriate team-building game for your team?

Team-building games

“The most important thing is that the team-building game is related to what you would like to improve within the team,” says trainer Anique van Eijk at Effectory. “This means it has to be customized every time.” Van Eijk helps teams improve their team dynamics. This often happens as a result of an employee survey, which shows, for example, that the team has some work to do on leadership, trust, cooperation or communication.

Business team-building games

If you search online for ‘business team-building games’ or ‘team-building games for work,’ you’ll often find activities like sports, games or making something together. You can find a variety of team-building ideas online, but do these types of games really help you achieve your goal? Van Eijk: “To help teams perform better, you need to focus on improving team dynamics. This is done by getting to know each other better, clarifying your expectations of each other, talking about any festering conflicts and resolving them on the basis of shared values in a safe atmosphere.”

Fun team-building games

Fun team-building games can be used to make group processes clear, outside the context of the office. Van Eijk: “How you do this doesn’t matter so much, as long as you manage to get certain team patterns out in the open. This can be done outdoors, for example, by building and flying a kite together. You can also divide the team into groups indoors then give them a challenging task. For example, you could say, ‘I have an egg here. In a half hour, build or make something so the egg won’t break when I drop it on it.’ Or you tell the team to build the highest, most beautiful structure out of pins and straws while under time pressure.”

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Team-building games without materials

In order to work on the group dynamics, you don’t necessarily need to go stand-up paddleboarding on the sea, go blowkarting on the beach or go herd some sheep together. Team-building can also be done without materials. Van Eijk: “In fact, every time the team comes together is an opportunity for team-building. Good team meetings can be seen as team-building games without materials.” Van Eijk recommends starting each team meeting with a check-in where the team talks about how each individual and the team are doing. The manager can briefly ask everyone, “How are you really doing? And how do you think we are doing as a team? Instead of going straight to the crux of the meeting.” The manager must set a good example during this check-in. “Team members only feel able to open up if you as the manager reveal something about yourself.”


Trust must be built first within a new team. Van Eijk: “That process is described well in Tuckman’s stages of group formation.” To start with, there is little mutual trust. In this ‘forming’ stage, team members are still mainly watching the leader. They avoid conflict. “In the next stage, ‘storming,’ they start opening up more with each other. They aren’t afraid to say what they are thinking and feeling.” This creates more trust. “Then comes the third stage: ‘norming.’” This stage is when standards and values become clear. “Team members are now really learning what they can expect from each other. This creates space for the fourth stage: ‘performing.’” The team is then fully attuned to each other.

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Conflicts must be brought to the table

Sometimes a team does not get past the first stage. Van Eijk: “If teams are afraid to talk about any conflicts, mutual trust will be stifled as well.” Some teams even regress in terms of team maturity. “In this case, it is important to go back to the root of the regression. This requires a new ‘storming’ stage. You can only clear the air once any festering conflicts have been discussed.” 

Discussing expectations of each other

To rebuild trust once festering conflicts have been brought up, it is necessary for team members to discuss their expectations of each other. After that, it’s possible to look for a solution based on shared values. “It is important at this stage to establish a code of conduct together. To do this, you need to talk about your expectations of each other. What standards and values do we share? What do we think is acceptable? And what’s not? It is important for a team to connect with this code of conduct. Sometimes, it turns out that certain rules and standards are getting in the way. Then it’s probably a good idea for the team to re-evaluate them and finetune them a bit.”

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