Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Team Building Lessons That Blew Me Away

As a team building facilitator, I am blessed with so much life learning each time I go out there and facilitate. There are a number of precious moments when participants would share important realizations or insights that would blow me away. There are also moments when I learn more than I expect to and I am sharing those moments with you today.

Argue and then Commit.

A couple of years ago, I was facilitating this learning game called spiderweb where participants would be asked to go through a web without any parts of their body touching the web. It's quite a physical game that cannot be completed on time without collaboration and commitment among team members. At that time, I have already facilitated this game a number of times and I already have a canned idea of what should be learned in this activity. This one was going to be more powerful than the previous experiences. The size of the group was too big so I decided to split them into two. Accidentally, all the formal leaders went to one group. I worried about the group with no leader because I was concerned that they won't be able to finish on time but I was wrong. The group without formal leaders finished very early while the group with leaders failed to complete the task after several attempts. What happened? In the group with all the leaders, the most senior called all the shots. Assigned tasks to everyone and took command of the group from step one. Unfortunately, his strategy was wrong and I supposed a lot of the members know this. They however kept mum and just followed the instructions. Each time somebody makes a mistake, the leader would scold that member and come up with a new instruction. They ran out of time before they could finish. The scene was totally different with the other group. They started by arguing about the best way to solve a problem. Somebody played the role of a leader but only to facilitate the implementation of the idea. When someone in the team thinks that one strategy is going wrong, she would speak out loud and the rest would listen and maybe argue. Each time they would execute however, even the ones who initially do not agree with the strategy would do her best to pitch in.

When we sat down to share the experience, the two groups recognized the stark difference between their approaches and then revised their ideas of how to assimilate a leadership role. They realized that leadership is not about taking control, planning and giving instructions. It's realizing the team's full potential by optimizing team talents. The group without formal leaders finished the game first because they had real leadership that allowed members to passionately share their ideas, argue and then commit. The leader of the team swore to me after the session.
about changing his style.

Let's Learn from Our Mistakes

In another spider web activity where the CEO of the company participated, the team was getting stuck with analysis paralysis. They were spending too much time planning every step to the point of wasting it. The CEO who intimated to me that he planned to lay back and allow the other members of the team to take charge ran out of patience and stepped in. He said, we need to stop overanalyzing things and start testing our ideas and if we are to make a mistake, let's learn from them and move on, and this they did. The CEO started asking the members which idea they think they should start testing. The group picked one and then they tested it. The first idea bombed. They talked about it a bit and came up with a better strategy and this one worked. They completed the task in no time. During the debrief, the participants realized two important things. One, it helps to have a leader that allows people to try out their ideas and then learn from mistakes when they make them. Second, that fear of mistake can paralyze a team. If the first one does not exist, the team can only have the second one.

Great Results follow Great Relationship

After a two-day management teambuilding, one of the senior managers of a multinational company spoke as a reaction to the workshop. He said "Every year we focus on setting our financial goals straight. We've talked about KRAs and KPIs but we never really covered relationship. It has always been too soft a topic for us. We fail to realize that the only way we can achieve all those goals, those key result areas and key performance indicators is if we work effectively together. And we can only work well together if we have a good working relationship strengthened by trust and open communication." They realize that good working relationship is followed by result. In that workshop they resolved to work on building a more cohesive relationship. They asked me to see to it that they followed through and we did follow through. They hit their targets that year and improved overall employee satisfaction.

Each of these experiences build on my appreciation of teamwork and guided me in leading my own team and improving my program. The amount of learning I receive from participants humbles me and make me look forward to learning more. I know they make me a better leader and a better team building facilitator.


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the post.
    KPI’s or key performance indicators are essential for each and every team member you have in your business. These KPI’s allow you see how each individual is performing, if they are reaching their targets, if they are completing jobs on time, how many calls are being made if they are a sales person calling on businesses to collect orders for your business, in fact Key performance indicators can and should be set for each area of your business. With these indicators in place, you can tell how your business is running whether you are there in person or not.

  2. I too have seen a number of occasions of analysis paralysis in teams. It si great when they work thorugh it though and come out the other side stronger and more resilient as a team.

  3. We had this in our team building before - the spiderweb. It was a bit difficult yet we still enjoyed it. The most difficult part for us was for the last person to go through the web. This activity needed a lot of planning not to mention a lot of patience.

    Team building activities are important to enhance employee working skills as well as their relationship skills. It's also a good break from all the stress in work. We had a great experience with Ripe Stuff. They were able to help us with our communication skills as well as conflict resolution.


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.