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Putting the team into teambuilding: 6 ideas that work

Looking for a unique and intriguing way to energize your staff and colleagues? Here are some options that are not only effective—but a lot of fun too.

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Co-workers dressed casually talking and planning togetherwhile standing around a large table with different documents.Teambuilding workshops are a great opportunity to network with more senior members of the organization, says Roxanne Cramer, a career coach and founder of CCC Academy (Getty Images/Hero Images)

Heard of any new teambuilding activities lately? From treasure hunts to axe throwing, it seems every season brings a new crop of ideas for forging bonds among employees. And while the goal is laudable, it does mean you have to keep your idea machine humming, because many companies would never think of rolling out the same activity year after year.

So with that in mind, here are some novel ideas that should get everyone on your team rowing (sometimes literally) in the same direction. And while some are made to order for summer, others can be done in any season, from the comfort of your own boardroom—or even your own desk. 


What happens when you take a Raptors-friendly firm and match it with a team that’s on its way to netting a championship win? You get an incredible opportunity to build rapport between staff members, while having a lot of fun, too. As Toronto’s beloved basketball team headed into the finals, KPMG’s Toronto office kicked into high gear, organizing potlucks before games and buying wristbands to wear as a team. It even declared June 5 (Game 3) Raptors day. Best of all, it installed red lights in every window around the 46th floor of the Bay Adelaide Centre, its head office. This showed up as a red stripe when lit at night. 

As Kevin Dove, director of strategic communications at the firm, explains, the firm’s enthusiasm was infectious: toward the end, even non-watchers got into the game. “We even had clients talking about it when they came in. It really pulled the city and country together,” he says.


What better way to build team spirit than to actually build something—together? For Auvenir, an early stage venture located on Richmond Street in Toronto’s downtown tech hub, it was going to be a real challenge to have a large boardroom table delivered to its four-storey walk-up office. So the firm got creative and built one, right in the office. Using pre-cut wood, round steel legs, and a lot of determination, the team’s 15-plus members broke into groups of three to construct the table, piece by piece. The smaller groups then joined together in larger groups to put it all together. Total time taken: about 30 minutes.

“It was really interesting how the team came together to make it happen,” says Pete Myers, CEO of Auvenir. “Once the table was built, everyone signed it. Now it’s a real symbol of our company values and a great talking piece for anyone who comes in.”


For EY, there’s no reason to let a little geographical distance stop you from building high-performance teams. Using virtual technology such as Zoom, videoconferencing and telepresence (which makes you feel you are sitting right across the table from your colleagues), the firm conducts various types of workshops with attendees near and far. As Jeannine Pereira, CPA, talent development and learning leader with the firm, explains, the firm will often combine the technology with interactive tools such as GlobeSmart, which allows participants to assess their cultural awareness. 

“Once people complete their assessment, we all meet ‘onscreen’ to compare notes and learn how to operate better as a team,” says Pereira. “It’s a really powerful way of building better communication. And we can do it without ever actually being in the same room.”


For Roxanne Cramer, a career coach and founder of CCC Academy, teambuilding workshops are a great opportunity to network with more senior members of the organization. “They give you a chance to move beyond hierarchy and share ideas with people of all levels of the organization,” she says. 

With that idea in mind, she particularly remembers attending a learning workshop where everyone was told beforehand to dress casually. Once there, they were asked to participate in activities while sitting on the floor. “Both symbolically and physically, that was a great leveler,” she says. “Everyone found it incredibly energizing. It completely changed our perspective.” 


When everyone on your team works remotely, it’s almost a novelty to get together in person. For example, during LiveCA’s early years, founders Josh Zweig and Chad Davis organized an annual multi-day retreat for the firm’s 60-plus members in a unique location where they would engage in teambuilding while soaking up the local atmosphere (and delicacies). One year, they rented out the entire Dalvay By The Sea compound in PEI, where they spent their days engaging in activities such as walking along the seashore, going on a lobster fishing expedition, and indulging in a five-star oyster hour and feast orchestrated by celebrity chef Michael Smith.

As Davis explains, these kinds of trips are ideal for fostering a greater connection to each other: “We wouldn’t be the close-knit, respectful and supportive team we are today without events such as these,” he says. (The firm also uses videos of these excursions as a way to attract potential new employees on their team page.)


As any good team member knows, cohesion has a lot to do with recognizing and appreciating one another’s unique strengths and talents. “Everyone has superpowers, even if they don’t know it,” says Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching. “You have to find a fun way for them to uncover those powers.” 

In that vein, Chadnick (who facilitates a variety of workshops for organizations) says a fun idea would be to incorporate the superpower theme into a talent discovery session. “The players could be loosely patterned after superpower characters from movies in the genre,” she says. “Say, for example, that Joe, one of your team members, is good at responding to quick changes in direction. He could become Pivot Man. Someone who is good with words could be Word Genius. You could even create your own superpower team. You could really have a lot of fun with this, and it would be a powerful way to discover and remember your individual and collective strengths.” 


Try making your next meeting a standup one. And employ these time-saving pointers to improve your own efficiency as an accountant.