best-sellerParticipants: 8 – 32
Location: Anywhere
Activity Level: Medium
DIY Team Center Access:  Videos, photos, tips and tricks and more for this activity
Time Needed: 15 to 20 Minutes plus debrief – 45 to 60 minutes total
Objectives: Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Communication

The purpose of this exercise is to challenge a team’s beliefthat something is impossible.

It is also a great way to explore people’s willingness to ask for help or give help if it will benefit the whole team. In many cases, groups will NEVER ask for help because the ‘rules’ did not say you could. Nor will someone who has figured it out offer to help. It was not in the ‘rules’.

How often does this same situation happen at work? People do not feel they can ask for help and others do not offer it. This simple exercise allows the group a safe way to explore the unwritten rules their group abides by, and allows them the opportunity to change the rules to benefit the team.

This exercise is also very simple in setup but offers a great challenge. It is great for senior executives who have difficulty getting into ‘fun’ mode.This exercise can be run absolutely ANYWHERE.

Brief Outline of Team Shackles

Each participant picks a partner to be ‘handcuffed’ to. The two individuals must get our of their Shackles and the entire group must become unhandcuffed in ‘X’ minutes.


As we keep mentioning, this event shows the value of sharing information, both giving and receiving. How much better would your workplace be if everyone freely shared information? This exercise cannot do that for you but is a great place to start talking about how that can happen.

Interesting Results:

  • Eventually, one of the pairs will figure out how to separate themselves. Although the entire group must become unhandcuffed, this pair will not offer help to other team members until time is running out or not at all.
  • Additionally, other pairs will not ask for help from other pairs.
  • If no one can figure it out, no one asks the facilitator for help. It was not in the rules anywhere that the facilitator cannot help show the pairs the answer.

Key Questions:

  1. How often at work do we have information that could benefit other people, but we do not give it?
  2. How often do we need help, but don’t ask for it? Why not?
  3. What other ‘unwritten rules’ exist that prevent us from performing as best we can?

These scenarios are extremely common at work (and at home), but we continue to behave the same way. This exercise is a way to discuss some of these difficult scenarios and then transition the changes back to work.

It is a great leverage point to come back to if other paradigm shifts need to happen within the group or if the group finds itself operating under rules that were simply assumed.

Paradigm shift may result, but if not, it will certainly open some minds.

Overcome challenges by ‘unlocking’ the compartments in the mind!

If people in your organization tend to work in isolation or in ‘compartments’, if information sharing or seeking a co-worker’s counsel is non-existent, then you need Team Shackles. Team Shackles can bring about a paradigm shift in attitudes toward fellow workers. The game demonstrates how the whole team can benefit if there is willingness to seek and give help. It will also build confidence within the group and disprove the notion that some things are impossible.

A glimpse into Team Shackles:

This exercise has a simple setup but offers a great challenge. Within each team participants are ‘handcuffed’ to each other. The challenge is not only in each pair untangling the Shackles but in the entire team getting disentangling within a given time limit.

In this game you will notice some stereo-typical behavior among participants. Although the game requires the entire group to untangle, pairs that have managed to un-cuff earlier than others will usually not offer their help to other team members until time is running out or sometimes not even then. It was not in the ‘rules’!

The game attempts to correct this behavior and develop a more supportive and helpful attitude among participants.

Who should go for Team Shackles?

At the outset, this game can help your group to be more analytical and systematic in their approach to solving problems.  If you want to create confidence in people to face challenges then Team Shackles is the game that can establish a sense that anything is possible.

However, another far reaching influence of this game is in the area of people-to-people interactions. It will help you to explore people’s willingness to ask for help or give help. You can educate the group that unwritten rules and blinkered attitudes in the workplace can hamper team progress.

What will your group learn from Team Shackles?

  • That no challenge is too difficult to overcome.
  • Help is always at hand. You only have to ask for it.
  • Your team is your extended family in the work place and you need to help each other and share information for the better performance of the group as a whole.

The insight gained from the activity usually gets articulated by the participants in the conversation initiated by the facilitator after the exercise. It is critical to have this dialogue with the group because the thoughts vocalized after a team building exercise will ultimately drive home what the exercise sought to accomplish in the first place.

Issues for the group to ponder-on in the learning process:

  1. How often at work do we have information that could benefit others but don’t share it?
  2. How often do we need help, but don’t ask for it? And why not?

What comes with the activity?

The team building activity comes in an easy-to-use storage bag and includes the following:

  • Comprehensive information on purpose of the game, how to set it up and the safety measures necessary during the course of the team activity.
  • Suggestions for a great debrief of the activity including some possible questions that you could ask the team.
  • Professional materials necessary to conduct the activity.

It includes everything you need to provide a good quality, well thought out and meaningful learning opportunity.

With each team building purchase, you also receive:

  • Unlimited Support Monday through Friday from a Professional Facilitator.
  • Two-Year No-Hassle Replacement Warranty

And what’s more, you are also entitled to 100% Lifetime Money Back Satisfaction