How do people learn to trust each other? There’s no easy answer. It often takes time, patience, and understanding. Trust also involves some level of vulnerability and being open to other people.
Trust is central to the performance of teams, and you could make a good argument that it is the central determining factor in how well teams succeed. In our last blog post, we discussed how building an environment of trust can lead to greater team motivation and unity. And we gave you some simple steps for creating that culture of trust on your team.
Just to do a quick review the elements of trust are:
•Clear sense of purpose and goals
We also mentioned the fact that team building activities can be highly effective at strengthening trust on teams, by giving them a low stakes and fun environment in which they can practice working together, supporting each other, and sharing ideas and feelings.
In the following post, we’re going to give you a list of practical trust building activities that you can use to help form more trust between team members. Don’t worry, we’re not going to recommend any “trust falls”, the classic and overplayed trust building exercise where teammates catch each other after falling.
The truth is that you don’t need anything dramatic like that to create a culture of trust. Trust building team activities can be simple and easy to execute. The activities below are all based around communication, empathy, and getting team members to be a little bit more vulnerable with each other (within a safe space of course). We hope you enjoy, and get some new ideas for your team!
1. Human knot
This is a classic trust building activity that literally brings team members closer together. To play, have your team stand in a circle. Each team member reaches their right hand across the circle and holds hands with another team member. Then each team member reaches across with their left hand and holds hands with a different team member. Now, try to make a circle again without letting go of anyone’s hands.
This activity tests teams’ communication skills, especially that of listening to each other in a chaotic situation. And the physical proximity creates a feeling of closeness and vulnerability, which leads to more trust.
2. Trust walk
This trust building activity is another classic and is relatively easy to pull off. Split your team into small groups of 2~3. Have one member be blindfolded. The other member(s) then have to guide the blindfolded member on a set path. Team members have to rely on each other and trust that their fellow members will guide them safely.
The trust walk works great as a quick outdoor activity, preferably in a park where there are no cars. You could also make it part of a larger hiking activity, too. And for a really quick and simple version, you could do it in your office.
3. Blindfolded cooking
This trust building activity is similar to the trust walk, except that instead of walking, you’re cooking. This one might be a little more difficult to pull off without preparation, but it’s worth it since it’s so much fun and really builds a lot of trust and connectedness between team members..
First, choose something to cook or bake. Baking might be easier since it usually doesn’t involve knives and chopping. Then break your team into groups of 2~4. Have one or two team members (depending on the size of the group) be blindfolded. The other team members read the recipe and give instructions, while the blindfolded member carries out the actions.
4. Suitcase Mystery
Invite Japan’s dispatch game series, the Suitcase Mystery, is an excellent trust building activity that creates deep bonds between team members. It features a suitcase filled with different puzzles, challenges, and mysterious objects. By giving teams such a strange and fantastic experience, team members automatically start to communicate and share ideas with each other. This allows teams to experience creating a culture of trust.
5. Icebreakers–two truths and a lie
Icebreakers are quick activities that are easy to play any time, anywhere. One such icebreaker that is particularly good for building trust is “two truths and a lie”. In this activity, team members take turns sharing three statements about themselves (hobbies, talents, past experiences, memories from childhood, etc.). Two of these statements are true and one is not. The other team members take turns guessing which one is the lie.
Part of trusting other people is knowing more about them. So this activity is good at getting team members to share facts about their lives and experiences in a fun and lighthearted way.
6. The 5-minute lecture
In this trust building activity, each team member gets 5 minutes to lecture about any topic they choose (give team members at least a week to prepare). The topic can be something they’re interested about or have a passion for, like history or science. It can be about themselves, too. Lectures can use power points and other visual images too.
Team members then give their lectures to the rest of the team. This can be done all at once or spread out over a few weeks depending on the size of the team and their schedule. This activity can also be easily done online, making it perfect for remote teams.
Again, the goal here is to get team members to share with each other and learn about each other. When someone is passionate about a subject, you get to know a different part of them than you do when they are focused on doing their job. And when the whole team shares their passions and interests, it can lead to a lot more trust and understanding.
7. “And then?…”
This is a really interesting game idea from the improv world that can be very intimate. Break your team into pairs. In their pair, team members take turns as the “storyteller”. This person shuts their eyes and relates what they imagine in their minds. It’s supposed to be whatever jumps into their heads–not stopping to think whether it makes sense or not. When the storyteller seems to get a pause in their thinking, the other member asks them “And then?”
As you can see, this game helps to build trust on a number of levels. The storyteller is opening themselves up to vulnerability by sharing the details of their mind. However, the other team member is encouraging and supporting them in their vision. Not to mention, this is a great activity for spurring creativity, too.
8. Virtual team building games
Virtual team building games, like the ones at Invite Japan, can help add a fun and educational structure to your trust building goals. Like Suitcase Mystery, our two online games–Tabitantei and Secret Agent–unite teams and make them more trusting by guiding them on a strange and exciting mystery adventure.
Using puzzles and stimulating challenges, your team will utilize their communication and decision-making skills, and learn to trust and support each other while exploring this original virtual environment. And of course, being online makes it a good choice for remote/hybrid teams!
9. Sticky notes game
This is a popular drinking game, but it can be used as a fun trust building activity, too. Give each team member a sticky note and a pen. Team members should write down the name of a character or famous person (preferably someone that the whole group will know about). Once everyone is done writing, have each team member stick the sticky note on the forehead of the team member to their left.
Everyone should have a sticky note on their foreheads with a name that they don’t know. Now the goal is for each player to guess the name written on their foreheads. They do this by asking other team members yes/no questions only.
There are actually a few ways you can play out this game. You can have team members “mingle” and walk around the room, asking other team members only one question at a time. Another way is to have team members sit in a circle and one at a time, ask the rest of the team a question. What you do may depend on the size of the group, and how much of a shared experience you want to make this game.
Either way, the sticky note game teaches teams about vulnerability when it comes to information. Team members have to rely on others to get the information they need and to use communication skills to support each other.
10. Outdoor scavenger hunt
The last trust building exercise on this list is one of our clients’ favorites–the outdoor scavenger hunt. You might have an idea in your head about what scavenger hunts look like, but rest assured that Invite Japan’s scavenger hunts are something out of this world.
The scavenger hunt takes players on a puzzle journey through a specific area of a city. The reason that this builds trust is that players are exploring a new place together. Even if they have been to the location of the scavenger hunt before, they will inevitably end up discovering a new part of it. This makes all team members more open to each other and heightens the amount of bonding and connection that can occur.
Plus, it’s just simply fun to be outside in the sun, especially if you’re usually stuck inside the office or at home. And as this list demonstrates quite clearly, it’s much easier to trust others when you’re laughing and enjoying yourself.