Hi all, I am a nurse manager (I know, a bit out of the ordinary for these forums). It's public health and I have a wonderful team, but most are still a bit new to the job. We had a day away last year to review our philosophies and strategies. The team wants "team building" this year, but I am violently opposed to trust walks and rope courses (as, I think, are they). They don't want 8 hours of lecture. I would like more awareness of the manager tools way, as I am a big devotee. I have little cash for training, you have resources, games, websites, other things that might help organize a day long experience that is worthwhile? I have consulted with HR, it is $2500 + for a consultant to come. I don't think I need that, manager tools/career tools is where I want them to be in their understanding. I just don't want death by powerpoint. Thoughts? And thanks.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


I've contacted a member who I hope will be willing to share her similar experience, at least as a start.


jhack's picture

Have you listened to the podcast on team building?

There are also some team building ideas in this podcast (when Mark and Mike discuss getting the team together):

(That cast references the "meetings introductions" which is a great tool  

Perhaps your team building day could be focused on process improvement?  You could have a brainstorming session, a "hot wash" about some project or initiative you undertook recently, that sort of thing. 

Spending time getting to know one another, and focusing on being a better team in what you do could just work.  

And please let us know what you do that works and what doesn't.  Many of us are in the same situation.  

John Hack

jen_wren's picture

 I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of kitschy team-building stuff. And, don't like the idea of paying a lot of money to consultants. However, I've run activities for my teams from a couple of books and they've gone really well. I think the key to success is knowing the "personality" of the team. Each team has a different personality when they're together in a room.

430jan's picture

I appreciate the help, your podcasts have been revolutionary in a county health department!

430jan's picture

Thank you very much for sharing the links and information. I will go back and listen to the teambuilding podcast and see what else I can glean too. JHack I will let you know what I decide and post how it goes. 


ashdenver's picture


Here are some of the ideas we'll be using for this year's "Take Our Children to Work" day.  I think I subbed out "kids" in all

Hula Chain
Line the people down opposite walls, facing each other. Have the team members hold hands, creating two long chains. Start the hula hoops at one end of each team. The object is to maneuver the hula hoop down the chain without letting go of hands. They just have to wiggle and squirm it over their arms, shoulders and head!
Obstacle Course
Set Up:
1.      Tie 5-7 strings to the large metal washer
2.      Setup start and finish line
3.      Setup course with cones
How to Play:

  1. Place each person onto a team.
  2. At the starting line the teams must place a tennis ball on the large washer and support it by holding the strings attached to the washer. Cannot hold the ball itself.
  3. They then work as a team to walk through the course as quickly as possible with out dropping the tennis ball. If the ball drops they must go back to the starting line and start over. 
  4. Teams will go one at a time and they will get timed with the stop watch.

Tennis Ball Production

  1. Separate people into groups.
  2. Have them form a circle
  3. Explain rules and handout tennis ball

 How to Play:

  1. Explain to people that their production is to keep the tennis ball moving around the circle.
  2. People work as a team, and to begin have them pass a tennis ball around the circle in order. Completing a circuit which is 4 times around the circle.
  3. As time passes have the facilitator add different rules.
    1. 1 or 2 co-workers call in sick: Remove one or two group participants and tell the group that the participants called in sick today. What that means is that production still has to be done and that someone has to do their work. So the first (if 1 is out) or first 2 (if 2 are out) must handle the ball twice for it to count as one time around.
    2. Double production: Explain that the company wants to double production so add a second tennis ball to the group. Only one ball can be held by any one person at a time. You can even add a 3rd or 4th ball if you wanted.
    3. Diversity: Explain that new legislation is requiring we add more women so only women can handle the ball for this circuit. 
  4. Can use your imagination to come up with other rules.
  5. During discussion explain how these rules do come into play at the office. 
430jan's picture

I appreciate your time as I sort through the options. Thanks for weighing in.


kima's picture
Training Badge

Know you've already gotten some great input here but can't resist adding my two cents.   My view is that two things make a team:  shared objectives/vision and shared history.  Ropes courses, trust walks and the like are all attempts at creating shared experiences so that you quickly get to having a shared team history.  However, you can accomplish the same thing by making your day an interactive working day.  Use your need to create the former (shared objectives/vision) while doing the latter. 

Do it by involving the whole team - involve them in the planning, getting the food and in running interactive, working sessions.  For example, if you're doing yearly planning, you might have some people do the pre-work of gathering and summarizing customer input.  During the meeting, break them into small groups, give them group assignments (and tight timelines) and have them work together rather than be presented to.  Throughout the day, mix up the groups.  That way, you accomplish your planning goals and you get team building along the way through interaction they have with each other. 

My one caveat would be  never assign work to the group if you are not going to act on or listen to their ideas.  For example, if you already know your project priorities, you wouldn't ask them to prioritize the projects. 

And one final thought (though I think you already know this) -- if they sit in chairs and listen all day, it really isn't a meeting. 



430jan's picture

Many wonderful insights in your post Kim. We have shared goals for the most part, but almost all of my staff was hired within the last 3 years (a mass exodus before I came on board). So the shared vision and history is still developing.

With all the input I have gotten I am forming a bit of a sense of where I need to go. Basically the same place I go to every day. They are a green staff, so I need to lay out clear expectations and goals. I have to be careful that I don't make the issues so wide that they have to synthesize beyond their current ability without vision and guidance. I need to absolutely give away every area that doesn't require management perspective (so VERY easy for a high D high I woman, right??).

It's really a trust issue too, isn't it? I know in my mind what I want, but I can't do it all, so I have to move them through a meaningful day that is only a continuation of the everyday experiences before and after. I have to trust that as professionals they are capable of this. They are just going to do it like a staff that has been at it 3 years and not 30.

I hope that is making sense.

kima's picture
Training Badge

Your comments make a lot of sense.  That's one of the reason I like to structure my all day meetings into several smaller breakout sessions.  It gives the team smaller bites to take on and if you're fairly explicit in what you expect from each breakout group they can't get too far off track (good for your high D need to control.)  Of course it means more work for you up front, but I'll bet they deliver the goods.

By the way, that shared history thing is my theory on why Mark's intros (someone else referenced it above) work so well.  Seemed corny to me at first but it creates a team/group feeling very quickly because:

* everyone starts out slightly uncomfortable (you want us to draw?)

* there are shared bits of humor along the way

and everyone goes through it together.  It works.


Best of luck to you.



thaGUma's picture

Team building is about trust and relationships. Give someone a charity building project and you will see individuals working together. Pond, play area whatever. You find a natural pecking order and ID those not contributing or shy at  pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.

I don't like away days, but if you have to have them - at least derive benefit for others.


430jan's picture

Thanks for your response Chris. We are in a bit of an unusual circumstance because our days as pubic health nurses are all spent in service. Hauling in baby clothes, rushing formula to clients that have run out, phoning clients with clients with communicable disease, etc. It makes their days challenging and selfless.

I do thank you for your suggestion. It would ring true for the nurses to have an element of service to others in our day away and maybe we could do something a bit different. Maybe something for our service men and women, or a sister agency in a different country. Believe me, we are very well sick to pieces of Americans at some points in our day! Especially at this time of need in our country. We are pulled in many directions. It was great of you to look at reaching out to help others as part of this day.

I love the boards here to see what others are doing. We are very isolated in government work at times, and I need a reminder that the kind of management reflected in these boards is relevant to our work in public health. Sometimes it seems so, other times not so much.

I had not considered adding an aspect of service, but fitting that in would be, I think, kind of fun to nurses. Thank you.

430jan's picture

Guess we'll chalk it up to a long and brutal week.


430jan's picture

Guess we'll chalk it up to a long and brutal week.