As we all get ready for the busy fall season (just around the corner!), many employers are looking for a unique team-building activity as part of their staff professional development efforts. 

Here’s a totally inventive idea: use upcycling as a way to connect your staff members and to inspire them to think outside-the-box. Your people will leave energized and enthusiastic with their own transformed item to remember this meaningful time together!

Many thanks to Wiley Rein LLP’s Marketing Department for being open to trying my “Art of Possibilities Workshop” and for letting me feature your creative efforts in this week’s DIY blog!

Age level:   Fun for your entire team, from top dog to college intern—and everyone in between!

Ability level:  Smooth sailing with a skilled facilitator

Items needed:

1.      Simple items to transform

2.      Paints of various colors and tones

3.      Tools like screw drivers, drills, hammers, hairdryer

4.      Glue guns and glue sticks

5.      Collection of papers

6.      Mod Podge

7.      Scissors

8.      Paint brushes

9.      Water bucket for used brushes

10.   Items to embellish like ribbon, plastic jewels, buttons, more

11.   Stencils, stick-on letters

12.   Sandpaper

13.   Paper towels, wet wipes

14.   Painter’s tape

15.   Rolls of industrial or craft paper

16.   T-shirts

17.   Refreshments

Time requirement:  Two and a half hours, not including paint drying time

Cost: $35 to $50 per person

  • $3 to $10 per item to repurpose
  • $35 for supplies
  • $10 to $15 for refreshments
  • $7 for team T-shirts

1.      Pick at date and place, promote to your peeps

Lock in the date and time on your team members’ calendars, giving them as much notice as possible to ensure all can be there to share and connect. 

Ideally, select a late afternoon to allow the “bonding” to continue over dinner or drinks after the session has concluded. 

Find a meeting room where all may gather around a big table or with tables that are movable so people can work together as a group. 

If your organization doesn’t have the space onsite, consider securing space at a school, university or religious entity as they often have plenty of rooms with tables and chairs since they host gatherings often.

2.      Invite your team to shop for items at Goodwill 

With its great items and great prices, Goodwill is the perfect place for your group to shop for items to transform as part of the team-building session. 

Encourage them to look for items with lots of flat or smooth edges to provide places for them to express their creative, left brain sides.

Also, they need to be easily moved so should not be too big or heavy and already in good shape so the time is spent upcycling and not repairing.

  As you are able to see from this blog posting,

Wiley Rein team members transformed things like spice racks, stools, serving trays, frames, side tables, small lamps and even a basketball!  

3.      Do the planning and prep work

Based on your organization’s budget, you might want to order T-shirts for your team with your company logo on them along with the date and name of your team-building session. 

In addition to being a wearable memento from the time together, the T-shirts are great as smocks to catch any paint spills and keep clothes looking good. 

Also, you could invite your team to dress casually the day of the session so they can move around easily and so the day feels extra special.   

Before the staff members arrive, prep the meeting location. 

  • You might need to move tables around to be arrange in a way that everyone is facing each other and can easily see one another in action. 
  • You will want to protect tables tops and other surfaces with rolls of industrial paper or craft paper. 
  • Arrange the supplies, paints, tools and materials for upcycling together along with paper towels and a container to hold water for used brushes. 
  • And if food is involved, you will want to make sure that is in a separate but easily accessible location in the room or nearby.  

Also, consider having cardstock paper available for table tents for people to write their names on them.  Based on your staff size, don’t assume everyone knows everyone.  Also, your facilitator will want to refer to people by their names, too, to create an inviting and welcoming tone.

Turn on the upbeat music and you have set the stage for a fun time for your team!

4.      Design a well-thought out, well-choreographed agenda

Part of the “secret sauce” for any team-building session is a thoughtful agenda. 

  • Add intros with relevant job information along with sharing things like “fun facts” about each person or a recent vacation spot. 
  • What about everyone sharing something they could teach a young person that has nothing to do with work? Your intent is to allow folks to open-up, share more about their lives outside work and give them a chance to show other dimensions of who they are. This helps to build trust and enhance relationships.

As I guided the Wiley Rein team through the session, I showed them all the materials available for their projects and I invited each person to show their piece before its transformation and to describe it in its current form.  Also, as a leadership/executive coach, they were asked to share past successes and future accomplishments which helped to deepen the conversation and connections.   

Of course, you want to plan for as much time as possible for the creative, fun, transformation process. 

Encourage folks to take breaks, step away from their piece for a minute and check out their colleagues works in progress.

5.      End on a high note with “show and tell”

Factor in time at the end for the big reveal.   Each participant shows off their repurposed piece, tells a little about what they did to upcycle it and offer or phrase a word to describe it post-transformation.  This is step is certain to attract lots of applause as the team considers the amazing transformations which happened in just a short while!  

Be sure to take lots of photos to capture the shared experience and to post on social media and in your company’s next newsletter.

You will be truly amazed at how quickly the time goes. And you will be inspired by the talents of your team, even those who don’t see themselves as creative!

Thanks again to Wiley Rein LLP’s wonderful Marketing Team for their willingness to try something new and to consider new ways of looking at second-hand items, themselves and what is possible to make happen in their respective worlds!


Tim Kime

Tim Kime is an artist, life coach, connector. He is President of Kime Leadership Associates offering executive coaching, meeting facilitating and motivational speaking. He is also Chief Creative Force of Transformation Junkies which upcycles furniture and other household items into functional works of art. He combined his two passions—unleashing the potential in people and transforming items with the launch of the Art of Possibilities Workshops. These workshops are part upcycling, part dreaming, part goal setting.