Team Building for Toddlers

team buildingSent: August 8th

From: CEO

To: Extended Management Team

Subject: Leadership Retreat

To all,

I’m very excited to share the agenda for our leadership retreat coming up in two weeks. First of all, our destination is a total score! We were able to schedule this year’s retreat at Haley’s Dude Ranch in Idaho, which will be great to take us all back to our cowboy roots! Can’t wait to get into my boots and feel the horse between my legs. For those of you who have not ridden before, get on board because you’ll all be doing it—it’s a requirement!

Everyone should be prepared to bring rough-and-ready clothes, jeans, shorts, and boots or whatever you feel comfortable wearing. Just remember that we’ll be getting up close and personal.

The consultant we’ve hired has crafted an amazing agenda for all of us. We’ll start off by doing our usual “trust fall” exercise. Be sure to pick a partner that you haven’t done this with before. If you can’t trust your teammates to catch you, how can we be successful as a team?

We’ll be doing more than one, and after the first one your partner will be chosen at random, so be ready for a few falls!

Then we have a great exercise in the barn: You’ll all be stuck in a dirty horse stall and partnered up with a couple of your peers. Your job will be to clean it up with whatever you find in the stall, and the door won’t open till you’re done! Should be a lot of fun! Be sure to bring clothes you don’t mind getting dirty because there will be no avoiding the filth! Our version of a little reality show!

Then it’s off to the horses. You’ll all be charged with taking your horse on the full trail ride, and no dinner till you get back. We will have a few guides to help us along the way, but don’t count on them for much as this will be more of a survival exercise than a feel-good excursion.

That evening we’ll have our usual dinner roast with everyone sharing the most embarrassing story about themselves—the funnier the better! And feel free to share one about your peers too. Remember, raunchy stories are good stories. HR will be nowhere in sight for this one! We’ll be sure to bring the anatomically correct blow-up sheep we had last year, just in case anyone needs inspiration for some fun!

The following morning we’ll have our regular business meeting, and each of you will be invited (required) to share your most memorable lesson learned from the previous day. We might get to the strategic planning if we have time.

The whole point of the retreat is to bond and develop a level of trust that will take the team to new heights of success. Bring your true, authentic self, and let it all hang out. You will be judged on how well you’re able to let your hair down and be real.

What happens at the retreat stays at the retreat! (Until it doesn’t—remember Pete from last year?? I’ll never forget when his wife found out about it at the holiday party!)

See you all there!


Take a lesson from Chris, CEO of cutting loose:

I always believe in inspiring the team with these free-for-all retreats. No bullshit exercises built for toddlers here; these are bonding exercises for adults. And we need to start acting like adults—who knows what will happen when everyone is forced to reveal their secrets! It’s always been great, although lately we usually lose someone.

But hey, survival of the fittest. Last year, more people than I expected came down with the flu right before the retreat. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen this year. I’ve noted who those folks are.

The board was on me to explain what results I was hoping to get by spending all the money on this retreat, but I simply told them that teams that play together stay together, and they bought it. Really, I just want a getaway that let’s everyone cut loose without all the damn HR rules and regulations on us. Everyone always has a great time, and if it doesn’t really accomplish a business purpose, who cares? We are bonding and forming tighter relationships, so it’s all good.


Team building has gotten a bad rap over the years because the “purpose” is generally ill-defined and/or has nothing to do with the actual activities. Our CEO, Chris, is designing a retreat that is bound to fail and could result in lawsuits because of so many over-the-line requirements or suggestions that are really directives.

Go back to basics. Why is it good to cultivate the team? Because they work better when they get along and respect one another. Encouraging a sense of belonging is a good thing and increases overall employee satisfaction. However, how you do this will depend on several factors: What are your values? What are you trying to achieve? Do you have some team issues? A new program you’re trying to brainstorm? A strategic plan that has stalled? Whatever the reason, figure it out beforehand and design an agenda that supports that purpose.

Once defined, it’s important to make it overt, not covert. State what you are trying to achieve and ask everyone to help you achieve that. That’s the team in teamwork—it’s not solely up to you. They may likely have better ideas than you, so let them chime in. Incorporate fun things that have nothing to do with work but make them optional. Not everyone is comfortable with what we deem fun or interesting.

It’s important to have options because males and females, or people of different ethnicities or faiths, may not think everything on the list is appropriate for them, but you don’t want them to feel excluded. Going to a dude ranch may not feel great for women, telling embarrassing stories could cross the line into harassment, and anatomically correct blow-up animals are just plain wrong in any work setting. Even when you are not on company premises, the rules of the company still apply. As do those of common sense and decency.

Team building should be happening every day in the work- place—encouraging good behavior, recognizing contributions, and guiding others to success. Great teams lead naturally and inject fun and comradery into everyday interactions. It doesn’t need to be an artificially staged event that most adults will think is childish. Encouraging people to stretch beyond what they think they can do is one thing; forcing them to participate in childish and pointless rituals is completely inappropriate.

To purchase a copy of How (NOT) to Build a Great Team click here.