People laughing at a team building lunch

I know I’m biased since team building is what I do for a living, but I truly believe that team programs should be at the top of every company’s priority list. I think my bias is warranted because I’ve seen tangible results; with improved communication among teams and the power that comes when co-workers have fun together. But, I get it – life is busy and work is even busier. So it’s hard to find time for team building.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could plan a team building lunch?

Team building during lunch is a great solution because it fits into a set time limit and it can be DIY or professionally facilitated. And very importantly, everybody gets to eat a good lunch! If done effectively, your colleagues will love this. This could be good news for your talent retention rate, employee engagement, company culture, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Delectable Ideas For A Team Building Lunch

So let’s cut to the chase and get you on your way to a successful luncheon. I’ve curated two lists to help you choose the right approach for your group, DIY ideas and professionally facilitated team building programs. Both lists can be customized to fit within a lunch timetable.

DIY Team Programs

The “Yes” Game – There’s not much worse than being told your thoughts or suggestions are bad. This game illustrates the innovation that can occur when we work together and consider what’s possible, instead of focusing on the negative challenges. Here’s how to play: Divide your team into sets of three people each, have them choose who will begin, and put 2 minutes on the clock for each round.

  • Round 1: The first person describes a party they’d like to plan. After each idea is verbalized, person #2 says “No, because…” and gives a reason that idea won’t work. The two players carry on a conversation like this for 2 minutes.
  • Round 2: When time’s up, person #2 has a chance to describe a different party they’d like to plan. After each idea is verbalized, person #3 says, “Yes, but…” and gives a reason for their hesitation. This continues for 2 minutes.
  • Round 3: Person #3 describes their party. After each idea is verbalized, person #1 says, “Yes, and…” then gives some more creative ideas. They converse for 2 minutes. Debrief by asking each group to describe the difference and results with each round to discover how “yes and” can be implemented more often at your company.

Think, Write, Share – This is a popular facilitation technique that can be extremely useful for team building exercises. But it’s also effective in every day group meetings because it allows introverts and extroverts alike to utilize their strengths:

  • Here’s how: Provide paper and pens for each team member. Pose a work-related challenge to the entire group. For example, “Consider ways we can attract more customers to visit our website.” Put three to five minutes on the clock, and ask the group to quietly write down as many ideas as they can in the time allotted. Then, go around the room one at a time and ask each team member to share just one idea. If time allows, go around the group again and ask for a second idea. Set a ground rule: no idea is bad. So tell everyone that sarcastic or negative remarks aren’t welcome.
  • Here’s why it works: Extroverts often like to externally process. This can be interruptive to introverts who need to sit with their ideas before expressing them. Writing first allows extroverts to process immediately and allows introverts to sift through and prepare their thoughts. Setting a rule to share one idea at a time ensures that extroverts don’t take over the brainstorm session and challenges introverts to be heard. When you do this, you’ll get to hear your entire team’s creativity and innovative ideas. That’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Green Light/Red Light – This is a two-part activity. Similarly to Think, Write, Share, everyone’s ideas are heard. The best part is the solution is created together!

  • Step 1 (Green Light Thinking): Pose a challenge or problem to the entire group. For example: “Our sales were down last month. How can we ramp up our prospecting to fill our pipeline?” Go around the room one at a time and ask for ideas. Embrace the spontaneity; the metaphorical green light is on! Write every single idea down on flip chart paper or a white board for all to see. Ask your team not to filter or self-edit their thoughts. Even if the only thing in someone’s head is, “Gobble-di-goo, “ encourage them to say it aloud and write it down. It’s important to brush the mental cobwebs out so that the creative juices can really start to flow. Sometimes, the cobwebs turn out to be happy accidents. If you’re the boss and you have ideas, add them last. After the brainstorming session is over, leave it alone. Don’t judge any ideas or come to any conclusions. Thank the group and end the session. At least a 24 hour window is required to let Green Light Thinking marinate. Keep the flip chart paper or white board in full view for all to see until you return for Step 2.
  • Step 2 (“Red Light Thinking): 24 hours to a week later, come back together for “Red Light Thinking”. Ask the group to review all of the ideas and speak aloud which ideas seem most viable. Put a check mark next to each suggestion. Then, as a team, whittle down to the best possible solution and make an action plan. If multiple ideas are best, decide how to implement them all. Place any contentious or tangential ideas in a “parking lot” by jotting them down to the side. You can always come back to ideas as long as they’re written down and not lost! This two step process also gives you a great excuse for yet another team building lunch.

Professionally Facilitated Team Programs

If the pressure and accountability of DIY isn’t your thing, no sweat. There are great choices available for professionally facilitated team building during lunch. Sit back and invite a professional in to plan and facilitate an effective lunch time activity.

Here are a few programs at the top of my list:

  1. Cook Your Own – Cooking programs are engaging, delicious, and a natural team activity. As your people work together to create recipes for lunch, they’ll also be creating a recipes for success as they solve problems, delegate, and collaborate. And the pay off is great too. Sharing a meal together is important because it allows time for relaxation, bonding, great conversation and good food.
  2. Sing (and write) For Your Supper —  Full disclosure; this is what we do here at Kidbilly Music. Our team building events are all music, all the time. And honestly, for a lunch program you can’t beat music. Music is already an integral part of every social activity, be it a concert, a day at the beach or a sporting event. Through songwriting, you and your team members can create your own musical memories and party like rockstars! We’ve developed a team building lunch program that’s fun and still gets real results. Our facilitators will guide you with questions to get you talking and sharing. You’ll turn ideas into themes, themes into lyrics and then you’ll make your own music.
  3. Lego® of My Lunch — Legos® aren’t just for kids anymore. Using Lego blocks you’ll build models that illustrate the current state of your team or your company and then you’ll build models that illustrate where you’d like your organization to go. Everyone works individually with their own bricks at first. Then, working with the people at your lunch table, you’ll pull the best pieces of each person’s model to create an ideal model of what you’re all visioning. Talk about building the future; this is it!

Everyone’s always busy. Agenda’s are squeezed and we tend to get overwhelmed, with no time to engage and relax together. When you create opportunity for team building over lunch, you’ll feel like you’re optimizing your time well. But most importantly, you’ll recharge and energize, setting the stage for a great rest of the day and ultimately; a better work culture.

Here are more resources for lunchtime inspiration from my previous blogs:

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.