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Stephen Taylor

Taylored Training Ltd

E-learning developer and instructional designer

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team building exercises for a remote team


I am putting together a training course on a new database our company will be using. The database users will be drawn from different countries across Europe and will be expected together as a team although after the training they are unlikely to see each other very much. Communication will be via e-mail, telephone and the database itself.
Can anyone think of any good team building exercises to start the training, that would be suitable for (A) a multicultural team with different levels of spoken English (B) a team that is going to be working remotely from each other most of the time?
Stephen Taylor

12 Responses

  1. When is a team not a team?
    I’d obviously want to know more about the specifics – but I’ve worked with many teams where there hasn’t in fact been any task related need for the team to function as a team – rather it is meeting a social/ belonging need. This certainly helped us pin-point issues to work on.

    We’ve worked recently with remote coaching – practicing in training sessions by getting used to coaching without eye-contact etc. Happy to tell you more if of interest….

    Conall, Working Psychology.

  2. Virtual Team Building Activity
    I adapted an activity created by Thiagi ( that could be used to explore virtual team issues. Thiagi calls the activity the Email Game, and it is ideal for gathering and comparing information, opinions, points of view, etc. from people who never see each other. Entire activity handled via email (ergo the name). If you need a virtual activity, this should be adaptable to meet your needs.

    Bob Rice, AchieveGlobal

  3. Remote Team Building
    Stephen – I have found greater (non-threatening) self understanding followed by group understanding invaluable in your situation.

    Some European cultures are quite unused to psychometric profiling (eg Germans: ‘what has personality got to do with my job function?’; French: ‘my personality is my own affair – entirely job unrelated!’) – but sensitively introduced, reaps rich dividends if the psychometric profiles are ethical, well researched and well validated.

    My favourites are Myers-Briggs, probably the best internationally researched profile of all and quite non-judgmental if applied ethically, and FIRO-B, which adds a very helpful and complementary dimension, and even Belbin Team profiles if it is understood that these reflect current work roles rather than an inate set of preferences….

    Happy to discuss further off-line, though please note you need to be licensed to use MBTI or FIRO-B, for example – although ‘well worth the journey’ as the Michelin Guide would say, if you are not familiar with them!

    Good luck!


  4. Remote Team Building
    I have lead remote multicultural teams for over 10 years and enjoy it immensely. Suggest that you think about teambuilding in this face to face training as a chance for team members to get to know each other as “people” (hobbies, likes, dislikes,etc) and appreciate the unique attributes of the differnt cultures. This could be done in various short activities throughout the day(s)and could also include something outside of the training room such as dinner, sightseeing, sport, etc. Happy to discuss in more detail…Mobile – 07810-565-626.
    Diane Atkinson
    D Atkinson Associates

  5. A quicky to kick off
    a nice exercise to use early on, which requires no language (it’s carried out in silence) and restricts communication and behaviour options (as a parallel to being ‘remote’) might be ‘broken squares’, which is a pretty well known and much loved exercise. It takes about 20 minutes and can be used to stimulate discussion about the problems and behaviours we encounter in all manner of situations. I think it would be easy to carry ut the exercise and then ask, “what are the parallels with our experience of working in ‘the real world’.
    It’s a compelling and enjoyable exercise and could make a good ice breaker and scene setter.
    e-mail me if you wish to know more …

  6. user manual
    It can be useful to let each team member write his preferences, his do’s and don’ts by which he or she wants to be handeled by the groups individual members, his own user manual so to speak.

    This user manual can contain remarks as: I don’t want to talk about non-shop items, or: I look angry because of my frown but I usually am very friendly.

    For instance a sentence like I am known to be a very brisk telephone answerer give people a better insight in one another.
    It might lead to some general insight what makes individual group members tick.

  7. a couple of ideas for you
    I ran a similar event last year; 24 people from 11 country groups and seven nationalities.
    As an intro I got them each to interview one other person who they hadn’t met before and then introduce that person to everyone else;name, location, role, personal circumstances hobbies and one “Little Secret” (this produced a lot of interesting responses some of which proved useful later eg “kareoke aspirations” the bar later.
    I also introduced them to the GRIPS team metric and got them to do a team charter. It really worked well.
    Feel free to call if you want to know any more 07812 170391

  8. International English and Native Language Support
    Dear Stephen,
    From experience of running many such events I would echo some of the points below.

    However I would urge you to make certain that whoever is training can communicate in International English, and often an English native speaker is not the best person to deliver. Check with your English as a Second Language speakers and offer them support – many will feel very nervous about attending an event like this, especially if they consider that their English is not very good. And if English is their 3rd language, then offering them the support of a colleague or facilitator who can speak their language as well as good English can make all the difference.

    I’d recommend that you also explore the cultural aspects of behaviour with them – whilst it’s quite normal for Southern and Eastern Europeans to hug and kiss cheeks on meeting, this won’t work well with Northern Europeans. Similarly some cultures expect to ‘catch up’ on personal issues before getting to business, even in virtual team situations. Believe me I run a virtual team of international trainers, and the cultural issues shouldn’t be dismissed.

    If you’d like to discuss any of these areas please get in touch, the like below will give you my details.

    Very best regards, and good luck,


  9. building a database for European Use
    Hi Stephen, following on from your question, have you thought about the data protection issues (legislation) concerned with sharing/shifting info around Europe? If the database contains personal data, you might wish to provide guidance to delegates as to what they can and cannot do with data, as part of the training programme. Need further info – email me at [email protected]. Good Luck!

  10. Team-building suggestion
    One resource for team-building that I’ve used is Team-ing with Success, a company in Baltimore, Maryland, US. Lorraine Ukens, the principle is a prolific author and has written many team-building games.

    Lorraine has also developed a comprehensive three-phase training program, titled Team-ing with Success™, to help in-house facilitators build and maintain high-performing teams. Her email is
    [email protected] and her website is

    If you contact her, tell her Scott Stein referred you.

  11. How about partner dance as a metaphor for leading, following, &
    Stephen –

    I use partner dance as the metaphor to get people working experientially with concepts like strength of connection, communication skills, listening, as well as leading, following and the ability to switch between those two roles. This is particularly effective with different levels of common language, as music and dance are universal. Seems to me that if people are going to be working remotely, establishing a strong connection during this face-to-face opportunity is very important…

  12. Some Ideas

    If this team is to work together as a team in the future you need to get them to explore what issues they may have working as a remote team, such as the benefits of working this way and the challenges (and how they will deal with these). It’s useful to get them to agree things like how they will work and communicate together, their team values and objectives, each individual’s role and responsibilities as a team member, what support the team needs from each other and when and how they will review the performance of the team.

    I echo Jeremy Thorn’s suggestion that self understanding followed by group understanding is useful to help build team relationships. If you want to use a psychometric profile approach to this training, I’d also recommend the Team Management Profile which helps both self and team understanding or the Thinking Styles profile which can be used to identify potential strengths, weaknesses and issues that will need to be addressed to build high performing teams. I’ve also used Myers Briggs for remote team building and have found this effective as well.

    As well as learning about each of the team members as individuals, an exercise aimed at developing more understanding and appreciation of each of their different national cultures may be useful. How about getting each team member to bring something from home that they feel metaphorically represents what it means to be English, Scottish, Spanish, French, German etc. This doesn’t have to be a well known national symbol (such as a daffodil for Wales, or a shamrock for Ireland). Instead get them to use their imagination to come up with something that may surprise their team members. And ask them to explain why they have chosen their particular symbol.

    Feel free to give me a call if you want to discuss further – 01427 875156.


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Stephen Taylor

E-learning developer and instructional designer

Read more from Stephen Taylor

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