Facilitating Team Building for New Teams


Facilitating team building sessions is a hot topic right now!  In the age of tele-commuting, video conferencing, webinars and e-mail, teams are often decentralized and getting less face-to-face time. That, of course, makes the time spent together more valuable than ever before. If the team is not yet in a high performing mode, it’s essential that a portion of that face-to-face time is spent building the foundational elements of the team — trust being the most essential, followed by shared processes to resolve conflict, clear accountability and shared commitment to the team and the team’s objectives.  


I recently facilitated a team building session with a large group that shares accountability for increasing the reading standards in the state of Minnesota.  This is a new team that will meet most often in sub-groups and only infrequently as a large team. The team building exercises I’ll discuss in this post can be adapted to a variety of group sizes and team situations.

Because this was a large group, we began by dividing up into smaller teams. We grouped participants by regions as they will most often be interacting with their regional team members. Regional teams were grouped at round tables and given the following simple warm up as the opening trust building exercise:

Go around the table and share the following with your group. You have 2 minutes to talk about yourself!

  • Name
  • What is your role with the organization?
  • What were you doing before you became active with this organization?
  • How so you view your role on the regional team?
  • What are you most excited about for the upcoming year (anything at all!)

During this opening exercise, team members had the opportunity to see each other as individuals. The next two exercises set the stage for team members to see how they as individuals come together to form a team. For this next exercise, each table of participants was given a picture of a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces. They were asked to create a list of all the ways in which the jigsaw puzzle is similar to the composition and operation of a high-performance organization (this exercise was adapted from an exercise in the book “Even More Games Trainers Play by Scannell and Newstrom).  Once all the teams had completed their lists (set a time limit!) we went around and collected the ideas from each table in a round robin style (each table contributes one idea and then on to the next table).  Here are the types of responses we got:

  • There are boundaries
  • Each pieces has a role in the solution
  • Pieces are highly interconnected
  • The whole is greater than the sum of the parts
  • etc. (these teams came up with over 30 unique responses!)

This opened up the floor for a great discussion of how to work together more effectively.

The final exercise was created to help team members understand their individual role on the team and the roles of other team members. Role confusion is one of the largest sources of conflict for all teams – but particularly for new teams. For this exercise, we created in advance a number of scenarios in which role confusion is likely to occur (these were based on prior experiences). The regional teams went through each of the scenarios and discussed how they would resolve each of the scenarios. Any scenarios that the teams could not resolve in their small teams were discussed during the debrief with the larger group. After the debrief, each sub-team drafted role definitions for each of their team members.

The team building session I describe here was a 2 hour session. It had the right amount of energy and movement to keep participants engaged and energetic. By the end of the 2 hours participants understood the benefits of working together with their team, felt a higher degree of comfort with their role on the team, and had begun to build trust with their new team members.

Cindy Diamond, Principal and Founder

Diamond Marketing Solutions / Ignite

Fueling Creativity and Innovation



















4 thoughts on “Facilitating Team Building for New Teams

  1. I tried this exercise with my team and it was a hit! They loved it. I think the reason it was so successful was because of the interaction. Highly recommended!

  2. facilitation of boudaries is challenging when the boudaries are readily entrenched and the trenches are armed!
    The jigsaw images you mentioned create an applicable transference to the needs for accountability and responsibilities.
    Often time i give teams actual pieces of a large all white jigsaw puzzle and have them reflect on their “piece” of the puzzle and how they (individual and teams) fit into the puzzle.

    happy to have found your blog

  3. hi mike
    was really interested in reading your response above – would love to hear more about what you do with the large white jigsaw puzzle pieces – ie. do people draw on them? how do they all fit together – ie. do the smaller groups fit with the larger groups and so on? any more info you could provide would be appreciated! thanks

  4. Thanks for this Cindy – these guys got good value for their two hours.

    Michael – thanks for your ideas too – Like Anna I would love to hear more.

    Cheers all


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