Develop Team-Building Activities While Resisting Groupthinking
OL 7102, Assignment 4
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Robert Schultz
11 August 2019
Importance of Teambuilding
Teambuilding is a subject which continues to receive the attention of many scholars in the field of organizational leadership (Johnson, 2013). Teambuilding has not only been recognized as a positive way to build cohesion and relationships between fellow team members, but also a way to build healthy team dynamics and forward momentum upon which organizational success can develop (O’Connor, 2013). The art and science of teambuilding, however, is not as simple as facilitating interaction between members and allowing them to work together toward a goal. Rather, teambuilding is the intentional structuring of coordinated events and projects which force people to work together in a way that fosters awareness and recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of others, as well as a reliance upon fellow team members to achieve substantial goals (O’Connor, 2013).
Research has recognized several common factors present in strong teambuilding functions. These factors highlight the importance of strategic planning on the part of the leader as well as the nesting of teambuilding activities within a tangible, reachable goal for the team. For example, Johnson (2013) noted that teambuilding activities should include the putting of the needs of other team members before your own. Lacarenza et al. (2018) noted that a specific project should be designed for team members to work together toward completing. O’Connor (2013) further added that leaders should list the goals and expectations of such project-oriented teambuilding activities up front before all members prior to the commencing of the exercise. Without this crucial step being taken, team leaders run the risk of teambuilding activities being mostly or even completely fruitless due to team members not fully understanding the purpose and intent of the teambuilding activities.
Land (2019) recognized that assembling high performance individuals on one team does not inherently translate to success. Teambuilding, she argued, is a necessary step in developing a team capable of success. Trofimov (2015) concurred with this conclusion, noting that teambuilding is critical. Furthermore, he added that teambuilding activities which have a focus on spontaneity and creativity are necessary in developing critical thinking on the part of team members. As the real world requires creativity and often spontaneous thought processes to solve high-level problems with major consequences, these factors should be considered heavily by the team leader. These factors are listed in the following sections where three team-building activities are discussed.
Activity One: Active Listening
Johnson (2013) noted that developing critical listening is a key component of teambuilding activities. Active listening is a necessary skill for team members to practice as it not only develops critical listening skills, but also forces team members to cultivate emotional intelligence with one another (Johnson, 2013). This teambuilding activity will be facilitated by one team leader and will require any two members at one time to engage in the teambuilding activity together.
The team leader will set up two chairs facing one another at the front of the room. Participants will either be selected at random by the team leader or they may volunteer for the exercise. Each active listening activity consists of five scenarios in which one team member is forced to actively listen to the voice of their team member. These scenarios are pre-planned and are designed to have one team member express to their fellow team member the struggle they are facing in the workplace. Each scenario will be four-to-five minutes in length, depending on the level of difficulty and uncomfortableness expressed by the team members. Once each scenario is concluded, the team leader will pause the interaction and provide feedback. Team members not actively engaged in the exercise will be observing the activity and, during the feedback period, will be invited and encouraged to give their own opinions and observations of the interactions between team members.
The desired and intended learning outcomes include team members developing emotional intelligence and practicing critical listening to fellow team members. These learning outcomes will be accomplished by the team leader instructing, coaching, and facilitating the asking of reflective questions by team members which demonstrate active listening. For example, if one team member expresses dealing with personality conflict with their supervisor, the other team member will be coached and encouraged to ask reflective questions which demonstrate active listening such as, “So, I am hearing you say that you are having conflict with your supervisor, right?” Then, asking follow-up questions such as, “So, I hear you saying that you feel that your voice is not being heard, correct?” When these types of questions are being asked, it demonstrates that the team members are listening critically to one another and developing emotional intelligence.
Activity Two: Project Completion Course
The second teambuilding activity is the construction of a project completion course which will require each team member to work together and rely on the strengths of their fellow team members. This activity considers the conclusion of Lacarenza et al. (2018) who noted that a project-oriented approach to designing teambuilding activities positively contributes to successful team dynamics.
For this exercise, the team leader will need to appoint team members to one of two teams: a design team and an execution team. Teams will be given a series of instruments which they will use to get from their beginning point to their ending point. This activity will require a wooden post measuring ten feet in length, four small pieces of 2X4, one piece of pipe at least three feet in diameter and eleven feet long, a small grassy area, and one can of spray paint. The design team will be comprised of two members while the execution team will be comprised of five members. The design team will be tasked with surveying their materials and designing the best way to get from point “A” to point “B”. The requirements of the exercise are that the ten-foot pole must go through the inside of the eleven-foot pipe without touching it. Furthermore, the person crawling through the tube must not touch the pipe at any point while crawling through. The design team must figure out how to get a team member through the tube using the materials provided. Then, they must figure out how to get a separate team member over the grassy area without walking on the ground or touching any of the grass. Lastly, they must get an additional team member across the “finish line” which will be spray painted by the team leader before the exercise.
The intended learning outcomes for this exercise are for team members to not only discover their place on a team, but also to trust other team members to do their job even if they would design or execute the activity differently. Once teams are assigned, they will have a total of fifteen minutes to complete the exercise from beginning to plan to getting their last member across the finish line. Each member of the execution team can only serve in one role (crawling through the tube, getting across the grass, running across the finish line, carrying fellow team members, etc. The best design outcome is for the small pieces of 2X4 to be placed under the wooden post as it runs through the pipe. Once a team member successfully crawls through the pipe, two team members carry one member over the grassy area. Lastly, the fifth and final team member runs across the finish line completing the exercise. The challenge of this exercise is not in the rigor of either the design or execution, but rather the team dynamics associated with successfully completing the project. Members of the execution will hear and see how the design team builds their plan, and they must execute it without interfering in the design. Furthermore, the design team members must work together to come up with a good solution in ten minutes or less. The execution team will also have ten minutes to successfully carry out the plan of the design team. Any time a member breaks a rule (the wooden post touches the pipe, the team member touches the pipe, the team member touches the grass, etc.) they execution team must start over again. This teambuilding activity is designed to teach members to work together while being placed in various roles with one another.
Activity Three: Needs Assessment
The third and final teambuilding activity is a needs assessment. This exercise is designed to align with the conclusion of Johnson (2013) that teambuilding activities should include getting team members to place the needs of other members above their own. For this exercise, the team leader will have four index cards with various needs listed on them. Four team members may either volunteer or be selected by the team leader and given a need at random. The four cards all have different needs, but each need can be used to meet the need of another member. For example, one card will say that this team member is lonely and doesn’t spend any time with co-workers while another card will say that this team member needs help from someone to complete a project on time. Each of these members can help meet the need of the other while also contributing to greater organizational success. The other two cards will note that these two members are competing for a promotion with one another, but are also working on completing an important project together. They must each prepare a presentation to their supervisor on the status of the project and the needs of their team to complete the project. However, what they do not know is that during the presentation the supervisor will inform them their fellow team member (the one with whom they are competing for a promotion) has suffered a personal tragedy and has requested time off from the project to attend to a personal matter. They will then be asked, with no prior knowledge or preparation for this situation, how they would advise the supervisor to handle the situation.
The desired learning outcomes for this teambuilding activity is to not only place the team members in a position of having to consider the needs of fellow team members, but also to encourage spontaneous and creative thinking by surprising them with an unexpected situation which requires both critical thinking and compassion. During this exercise, team leaders will get a feel for how well each team member considers the needs of their fellow team members. When they are pressed with work situations which have time constraints, do they focus simply on getting the job done or do they also exhibit care for their fellow team members? Upon conclusion of the exercise, team leaders will have an opportunity to discuss the importance of considering the needs of others before considering your own needs while also thinking critically and creatively about accomplishing the task at hand and contributing to organizational success together.
Johnson, C. E. (2013). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE
Lacarenza, C.N., Tannenbaum, S.I., Marlow, S.L., and Salas, E. (2018). “Team development interventions: Evidence-based approaches for improving teamwork”. American Psychological Association, 73(4). Accessed August 11, 2019.
Land, S.K. (2019). “The Importance of Deliberate Team Building: A Project-Focused Competence-Based Approach”. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 47(2). Retrieved August 11, 2019.
O’Connor, K.E. (2013). "Your team-building exercises may not be creating a team”. Supervision, 74(7), 8-9. Accessed on August 11, 2019.
Trofimov, A. & Pavlin, D. (2015). "Role of Development of Spontaneity in Teambuilding”. Romanian Journal for Multidimensional Education, 7(2), 79-88. Accessed on August 11, 2019.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
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