Sunday, February 18, 2007

Team Building

Stop, Think, Reflect...

What was the best "team" you were (or are) a part of? Sports team? Scout patrol? High school group project? Work team?

What made (is making) that team successful?

What is the difference between a successful team and a significant team?

What are the characteristics and behaviors of a successful or significant team?

What books, articles or websites would you recommend for creating a successful or significant team?

What movies show a group of people coming together and creating a successful or significant team?

Team Building

Team building is a broad term and means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, team building is about energizing. For others it's about discovery and skill development. For still others it's about a change in culture. All are looking to make a positive impact on the bottom line. "If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time." Patrick Lencioni, author, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

I think the Native Americans had the concept of team building down in their medicine wheel. To the north is leadership. Their belief and experience taught them that leadership was everyone's responsibility. Everyone had different gifts, talents and passions to be used at key times to lead others. Some were good, talented and passionate about hunting. Some were good, talented and passionate about preparing food. Some were good, talented and passionate about healing the sick or injured.

To the east on the medicine wheel is vision. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). Organizations, teams and individuals must have a vision. The vision must spell out core values and beliefs, the enduring purpose (why does it exist and who does it serve?) and a mission with a due date.

Moving south on the wheel, it's about community. Celebrate the diversity of the community including ethnicity, gender, age, able-disabled, sexual orientation and personality. Great organizations and teams seek inclusivity realizing the richness of different points of view.

Finally, to the west, it's about management or process improvement. How does the individual, team and organization do it faster, better and cost efficient?

There is essential "glue" that holds this wheel together. As you move from leadership to vision, the "glue" of trust, confidence and courage is important. Trust is a keystone value in any relationship.

As you move from vision to community, the essential glue is communication and respect.

Moving from community to process improvement, the essential glue is being able to resolve conflict and collaborate.

It is an accomplishment when a team has success and delivers positive results. It is a greater accomplishment when a team becomes significant. Significant teams leave a legacy and significance is what separates good teams from great teams.

Experience Team Building

Helium Stick is a great experience-based initiative that demonstrates the essential characteristics needed for a group of people to come together and work as a team.

The objective is for a group of people (6 to 15) to get a light weight pole or stick approximately 10' to 18' long to the ground while the pole merely rests on pointed fingers.

A lightweight tent pole, smallest diameter possible PVC pipe, fly fishing pole (without the reel) are all possibilities. You will also need a watch.

Ask for a volunteer. Have the volunteer point his/her pointer finger of each hand at waist level, arms bent. Place the center of pole on his/her fingers. Ask the participant to move the pole to the ground and not to stop until the sides of the hands are touching the floor. This usually takes the individual about 5 to 6 seconds without much effort.

Ask the group to divide themselves and line up across from each other. Ask all to point fingers, arms bent waist level. Place the pole on top of all the fingers.

Rules: Pole can only rest on top of finger. No gripping or holding the pole in any fashion. All fingers must remain in contact with the pole at all times. Fingers can not touch any other fingers. Check and note the time.

99% of the time the pole goes up before it goes down, hence the name Helium Stick. Note how long it takes the group to get the pole to the ground on the first effort. Personally, I have seen groups take anywhere from several minutes to over half an hour!

If an individual can get the pole to the ground quickly and easily, what will it take for the group to get the pole to the ground in the same amount of time with no errors and minding the rules?

Suggested Reading

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni ISBN 0-7879-6075-6
8 Lies of Teamwork by Michael Wachter ISBN 0-9661312-3-1
Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ISBN 0-465-02411-4
1001 Ways to Energize Employees by Bob Nelson ISBN 0-7611-0160-8
Open Space Technology: A User's Guide by Harrison Owen ISBN 1-57675-024-8
Raptor and Other Team Building Activities by Sam Sikes ISBN 0-9646541-7-2

Suggested Movies

Chicken Run - see
FISH! Catch the Energy, Release the Potential - see

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