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5-Minute Team Building Exercises

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Regardless of the size of your team, quick team building exercises can help strengthen relationships and create a more productive work environment. Spending just five minutes completing a fun activity at the beginning of meetings can have a lasting impact on your team throughout the day, so try incorporating some physical challenges, brain teasers, or impromptu building challenges into your upcoming meetings.

The Human Knot

The objective of the human knot engages team members by testing their comfort with each other. This exercise also tests their willingness to complete a task that involves each team member's input and cooperation. This exercise is best done with groups of seven or more. In this exercise, team members stand in a circle with their eyes closed and walk forward. Each person's arms are extended, and each grabs hands with the first person she comes to. After each team member has a hand, everyone opens their eyes. The team must untangle themselves from the knot without letting go of each other's hands. Add an extra element of difficulty by having one team compete against another. The first team to untangle wins.

Higher and Higher

The objective of higher and higher is for teams to use their partnership and communication skills. Groups of three or more members are given five minutes to erect the tallest tower out of supplies such as tape, paper cups and cardboard. The highest structure wins the challenge.


The objective of numbers is for teams to master group thinking. Five or more players formulate an outward-facing circle. One member will initiate the exercise by saying the number one. Another will say the number two, and the team will proceed to count until they reach the number 35. Only one player is allowed to say a number at one time. If two players simultaneously say a number, the count is restarted.

Take What You Need

To help employees get to know each other better, or to introduce groups of new hires to each other, play a game of "Take What You Need." Place a role of toilet paper or a pile of pennies (at least 10-20 per person playing the game) in the middle of the table. Ask each person to take as many squares of toilet paper or pennies as they think they will need for the activity without telling them what the activity is or how they will use the materials. Once every one has taken some, ask them to share an interesting fact about themselves for each square or penny they took.

Eye Contact

Many people struggle with making eye contact, but eye contact during a conversation or meeting shows trust and respect. To help your team build this skill, conduct an eye contact exercise. Put everyone into pairs, and then challenge them to maintain eye contact with each other for 60 seconds. While this will inevitably cause some giggles or awkward moments at first, over time, your team will become more comfortable with each other and willing to make eye contact in general.

  • "The One-Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams"; Ken Blanchard; 2000
  • "Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization"; Ken Blanchard; 1997
  • "High Five! The Magic of Working Together"; Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles; 2000
  • "50 Activities for Developing Leaders"; Lois. B. Hart; 1994

Kim Walton has been writing for business clients since 1999. Specializing in business topics, her articles also appear on websites including eHow. Walton owns several successful small businesses and serves as an educator and council member with The Gerson Lehrman Group. Walton attended the University of Arkansas and Chicago College of Commerce.

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