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Teams part 3

Getting to know the other members

Discover the team hierarchy

There is a small exercise that the team can do to gauge their own feelings of how much team work actually exists.
Ask the group to arrange themselves within the room, in any manner they wish, that they feel represents the team dynamics. This is best done in silence. When it is complete take a photograph of the group.

Then, ask them to do the same again but this time to arrange themselves as they would like to see the group.
Take another photograph and then discuss the changes. This exercise might be best using the services of a third party.

With any activity, especially any that require acting out, make sure that the exercise doesn’t end in embarrassment and reduced motivation.
If you are not comfortable with some of these techniques them use a third party who has more experience.

Tell others about yourself

Another technique that may prove useful is just to spend, say 1 minute, introducing your self to the others.
This can be extended to one to one talks that can cover your favourite interests, the last book you read, your family background and perhaps a great and not so great moment in your life.

Once people get to know each other, barriers to working well as a team can be reduced.

Tell others of their performance

You can go one step further, if you have confidence and once the team is aware of each person’s contribution style.
You can start to be honest about the other person’s performance.

The team can split into pairs. Each pair then discusses:

  • What good points he or she brings to the meeting
  • How they could improve certain behaviours from your perspective that would help you

It’s a good idea to prepare before hand so that behaviour improvements don’t sound too contrived.
They should come across as a constructive comment rather than a personal attack.

Notice that when you ask for improvement it’s from your perspective. You are not there to fight other peoples battles.
If you have no issues then say so, don’t just make them up for the exercise. This sort of activity needs to handled sensitively.
It’s a good idea to get the buy in of all those involved, don’t just drop it in as an item under the ‘any other business’ agenda item.

Tell others of any worries

At the start of the meeting why not ask members how they feel and allow the opportunity for individuals to identify any problems that may impact upon their own personal performance at the team meeting.
Many people will attend a meeting feeling quite troubled about a work or home related issue.
It is not a requirement to talk about private matters but useful for people to know if you are not at peak performance.
If others are unaware of particular pressures then they may be less than understanding at a lack of concentration or input.
When focus becomes extremely difficult it may be best to get a substitute to attend in your place.

Have an introduction

The initial getting together of the team members before the actual meeting begins can set the tone.
Why not arrange for a drink (coffee, tea, fruit juices etc) and biscuits and engage in general conversation first.
This will tend to put people in a more relaxed mood and improve performance and motivation.

This is not possible to do if you are meeting via telephone or video conferencing.

Departmental focus

A slightly different process to try is having a small time slot for an informative presentation.
A team member might give a 5 minute talk on his or hers departmental activities or a particular topic.
The presentation could cover a particular success that the individual is proud of etc.
Rotating the presentation around the team will give every body an additional insight into each other’s activities.

Trust exercises

Other exercises can engender trust by putting your safety into the hands of others.
This is typically done by falling backwards and allowing your team members to catch you.
Or similarly throwing your self off of a chair or table and trusting to your colleagues to catch you.
Another may involve being lead around whilst blindfolded.

As well as engendering trust you begin to experience risk (The Complete Risk Management package) within the team.
These sort of exercises quickly get members to put their trust in others.
Once this occurs frank exchanges of views are much easier to deal with.

The aim of all of these types of exercise is to improve cooperation within the team.
That is, to act as a team and not as a bunch of individuals.
A lot of time (see The Complete Time Management package) can be wasted by infighting, politics and jostling for position Which is guaranteed to lower motivation.

Without specific exercises that bring a team together it may be a slow process to increase trust.
Some teams never seem to get there and will only show reasonable team work when a crisis arrives.