Monthly Archives: October 2008

Free Teambuilding Modules

Here’s to those who have emailed me asking for free team building ideas and activities. You were right. I am one of the few people happy to share what I know. Unfortunately, it still took a lot of time, as I was rather busy of late.

Firstly, understand that team building is not a construction project. You can’t really “build” a team. What you can do, is design something that takes them through an experience together, and then help them see how it impacted them, and what going through it together means, and how they can go ahead from there. It is going to defeat the entire use of these suggestions if you are going to “prescribe” that they work closely as a team (because you benifit from that). You wouldn’t like being asked to be intimate with people because someone else thought it was what you should do. Unlikely that they will have a different way of looking at it too.

So, warnings taken care of, what I am sharing below, are more of ideas or flows than exact activities. Feel free to alter/adapt them, add equipment, etc. These are related with processes of a group opening up. I’ll probably write more for different objectives later.

Performance Anxiety

One quite common situation I find with teams is a hesitation to speak up where staying shut seems safer than risking saying something “wrong” or “inappropriate”. Logically, everyone understands that nothing risked, nothing gained, yet feeling that way is not easy, so no actual action happens. What I do in such situations, is create a low risk and totally non-judgmental environment which is slightly exaggerated, so that it doesn’t hold any association with evaluation. This creates an opportunity for everyone to fool around together, and experience that it can be okay to do it. One way I do this sometimes is get people to sit in a circle, and have an activity that requires them to make a rhythmic sound for 30 seconds after which, the next person takes it up. Poetry is fine, meaningless sounds are fine, etc. If they halt or hesitate, they are eliminated, and this goes on till most people are eliminated (or 3 complete rounds) or similar. Each progressive round can add a requirement – for example, picking up on the previous beat and refining it, etc. Whatever…. the point is to not fuss around so much with the rules, and celebrate uninhibited behaviour. This easily creates a platform for a group discussion to follow.

Process of inclusion

Raka and a couple of his friends unintentionally created this awesome way of including people in a group deliberately while having some fun time on a beach on an event. Sometimes, I use this with groups. Its called “the rule number 4″ (an accidental label for group demands). This is perfect for campfires, or other informal times, just as the group gathers. Scenario begins with one person (the key person). Asks the next person to come to sing a song (or something). Persuades, shows genuine interest and listens appreciatively (no matter how it sounds – the important thing is that person is singing for you, because you want it so much). The next person to arrive, is asked to do the same thing. Any reluctance is overcome with joking references to “Rule No 4″ that state……. (create appropriate rule to negate the reluctance). For example, “Rule No 4 doesn’t require you to be a good singer”, “Rule No 4 states that the last person to sit has to sing”, “Clause 4a of Rule no 4 states that when two people arrive together, the last person to sit has to sing first”. Done well, this gets previous victims of Rule no 4 to actually become its strongest supporters, watching minutely for whose bottom hits the ground first when two people come together, creating new statements to add to the rule, etc. They key thing to remember is that we are not harrassing the newcomers, but persuading them to do something (whatever they can), for the group and then be included. So, the rules at no point must be derogatory, or actual negations of anything claimed. For example “I can’t sing” is better responded with “Here’s your opportunity to try with an audience who asked for it and can’t complain.” or “In fact, rule number 4 allows you to take revenge against such demands from this group by deliberately forcing them to listen to your singing.” than actual group force to sing whether he can or can’t. This impromptu setup (rather than activity) can get the group feeling very close, uninhibited and supportive of each other, and reassures them of their value and contribution to the group. Be warned that this will not work, if the key person evaluates people, or is not genuinely interested in them. Works better if there are 2-3 people on the “committee” who can also interact with each other, refine rules, challenge them, give discounts (“sing the tune first and then the words so you don’t have to remember both at the same time” etc)

    So much for now. If you get the idea – creating an accepting environment, where people can be included and accepted for what they are. Some challenge followed by acceptance, etc.

    It is not as important what you do, as the invitation you extend to the group, which helps them learn to invite and include others too.

    The Mystery of the un-collaborative consultants

    In all the years I’ve bee working, I have yet to see consultants who actually practice the Team Development and interpersonal skills they encourage among their clients. It is difficult to get a consultant/facilitator/trainer to actually engage in a free and easy dialogue on a joint initiative.

    I was wondering why it is so.

    There are “professional boundaries” or plain old reluctance. Just finished a call with a friend of mine, who wanted me to work with him on a programme of his. I wanted to know details of objectives, methodologies, approach, etc. He was quite cagey about the whole thing, and preferred to talk on the day we began the programme. I see this as an opportunity lost  for him to engage my full potential in terms of preparing for the programme, and am now concerned that my role is going to be limited to acting without seeing the whole picture. No points for guessing what would prove more effective for the client.

    I once contacted a consultant I know to ask him about an update he was going to provide, and found that he had completed the work, but not really informed the others, including the person who was to take it ahead. Yet, on a training programme with him, I have witnessed him bringing attention to the perils of dysfunctional communication, and the importance of keeping an eye on and staying in touch with happenings in the professional community. He often stresses the need for clarity on what each member of the team is doing, when working together.

    So, as we become “teachers” do we actually forget to value our learnings?

    I feel quite concerned about this. At the moment, I don’t see these symptoms arising in me, but I see a real risk that they could manifest in me, if I start thinking of myself as “arrived” rather than “work in progress”. It is a pity that with the enormous amount of collected knowledge, the only real way to collaborate seems to be through formal papers and seminars and stuff – platforms that offer distance.

    I see this more as a phenomenon more among Indian consultants I know. Yet, the consultants I respect and am eager to learn from have always been free with their learnings and insights (including some from India). Sometimes even at the risk of being wrong. So, it appears to me, that either I discover their knowledge and competence and therefore I respect them, or that their ways of sharing knowledge and keeping it expanding contribute to their phenomenal talent. Either way, it works for me.

    What do you guys think?

    Artificial Rock walls near Mumbai

    Wide Aware is doing well and moving away from the original type of work. Most of our work is now related with the construction of artificial rock climbing walls in India and particularly near Mumbai. The diversity of the clients we have truly reflects how adventure in itself is slowly becoming an important part of the lives of the people of India. Current projects include a fiberglass rock wall as a part of an exotic adventure sports resort and a humble plywood wall for a college.

    Raka is busy and happy with plenty of enquiries for the development of more and more climbing walls, and I am delighted to see this new social awaerness in India.

    Old and new resorts near Mumbai seem to now see rock climbing as an interesting facility to offer guests who have arrived in search of adventure, and colleges seem to want to offer this as a constructive sports option to their students. This is a far cry from the time when the first question people asked when talking about climbing walls was – “what’s the use?” and thought of climbing as something only dedicates crazies did.

    Rock climbing wall builders are also coming up every where. Strangely, the actual number of people making walls has hardly changed. Last month, we got an inquiry for a wall in Virar from 4 different sources, all of them for the same wall, and 3 different “agents” and the owner of the property himself approaching us. Wow!!!

    Adventure tourism in India is at a high and soaring higher, with people heading out wanting to explore options beyond the ordinary and have experiences that are created from their own efforts. A sense of achievement has been added to the list of things people want from their holidays, and I see this.

    Leadership training activities for corporates also call for climbing and rappelling, so that’s yet another front. As a soft skills training manager put it, “These days, participants want to experince high adventures and test their own strength and become heroes for that amount of time. I do it, because it shows results in my training.” Talk of win-win.