Those weekly/fortnightly meetings are crucial for any manager and a good manager is always well prepared for them as he/she would expect the team to be. It ensures good productivity and ensures the team stays on track to achieve their goals.
Usually, the focus is so loaded with strategy, planning and business issues that attention on the people who make these plans happen is often left out and a good manager will do well to realize both the importance and the opportunity that these meetings offer for sharing, connecting, and group coaching the team for success.
Ultimately how the team connects with the leaders’ vision, connect and work with each other are as much a determinant of success as the planning and execution right?
Here are 5 ideas that will not take more than 15-20 mins and can be plugged into your team meetings to create engagement within the team and it also allows the leader to always have a pulse of where the team is at, not to mention a whole lot of fun that can really make people look forward to these meetings.
Admittedly, it’s a lot to put into one blog. Since it’s the age of sequels and movies in parts, I am going to publish them as a 5-part series. This also allows you to focus on one idea at a time that you would like to implement.
PART 1: The unfair advantage
- Give each team member a sheet of paper and ask them to think for 5 mins and put down what they think is their unfair advantage they have in their functional skill, business knowledge or people skills. ( you have to explain what an unfair advantage means).
- Then get the team the share them with the rest of the team. Do not at this point ask them how they plan to use it as it will come across as another commitment that is being asked of them.
- This exercise serves as a way for each of your team members to introspect and articulate his/her unique strength that they bring to the team. They might or might not have in the past given themselves the time to think about this and as a leader, it will help you to better understand the diversity in your team.
PART 2: The idea box
- For this, you will need to communicate to the team on the evening prior to the meeting and not before. The idea is to give the team some time to think but not too much time.
- Ask each team member to think of new ideas around what your team’s core function is or about or a pain area that exists. Identifying new customer groups, new product ideas, new channel partners, solving a collection problem are some regular situations that come to my mind.
- In the meeting ask the team to put down their idea, on a piece of paper very succinctly (at a very birds eye view level ) without putting their name on the sheet and put them in a box or a bowl.
- Then jumble up the sheets and at random ask one team member at a time to pick one sheet and then sell the idea to the whole group. (If the team member picks up the sheet that was theirs, to begin with, they have to put it back and pick another one).
- The challenge for the team is to sell someone else’s idea. This brings out the true quality of the idea, that it has to be simple, solve a problem that everyone recognizes and can be appreciated by everybody.
- It also serves as an opportunity to coach a team in communicating an idea with passion and how that is important when you want others to help you achieve your goals.
PART 3: Behind the back
- This is an exercise that is designed to get the team to give and receive feedback in a healthy and constructive manner without getting personal and maintaining anonymity. For the leader, it also allows for conversation to be developmental and not evaluative and he/she should keep reinforcing this message throughout the exercise.
- The Leader needs to do a little bit of pre-work. Get some slightly hard sheets, or cut flipchart sheets into A4 size sheets. Along with this, the leader needs to get some paper clips, one each per team member including the leader him/herself.
- Give each member a sheet and ask them to divide the sheet into 2 halves vertically by drawing a line through the middle. Put a sign on the left half of the sheet, this represents strengths of something about the person that is likable and sign on the other that represents improvement areas.
- Then each member of the team has to clip a sheet with the + and sign columns on the back of a colleague using the paper clip, including the leader.
- Then with each clap of the leader, team members approach one other who has to fill both the columns based on their perception of their colleague. It’s important that they don’t put their names or initial their comments.
- They are encouraged not to write in order from top to bottom and at random so that the comments remain anonymous.
- Once every team member has connected with every other team member, the sheets are removed and individuals absorb the observations made by their team member. It allows for providing valuable and anonymous feedback from the team they work with every day.
- The leader can use discretion to follow this up with a sharing by team members based on available time and the relationships and maturity within the team.
PART 4: The team culture passbook
- Every team has a subculture. It’s a function of what 80% of the team does 80% of the time with a heavy influence of what the leader does and demands of the team. This exercise is meant to get the team to express, discuss and agree on what are the good and not so good behaviors that make up the team’s culture.
For this exercise, you will need access to a room that has a good reasonably sized whiteboard, Post-Its in 2 colors and sketch pens. (Regular pens will also do).
- Break the group up into smaller units of 2-3 people. The pairing can be at random or people who otherwise don’t interact much together.
- Get the sub-teams to introspect and discuss among themselves what are some of the good behaviors that the team demonstrates that helps them achieve their goals and also creates a good impression on the team among their stakeholders.
- Once each team has a list, they filter them down to 2-3 most important ones and puts them down on Post-Its of one color. All teams have to use the same color for the positive behaviors.
- The team has to repeat the process for those set of behaviors that take the team away from the end goal and not seen as desirable by the stakeholders. This is the part that will not come naturally and the leader has to exhort the team to be open and self-critical.
- While the teams are in their huddles, the leader will create a T column on the white board with Left side representing the positives and the right side representing the negative aspects of the teams’ behavior.
- Once the team has their Post-Its ready, they stick them on the relevant sides of the 'Passbook'.
- The leader then takes over. He will first by bunch up similar Post-Its that are conveying the same behavior. Then he will help articulate the common themes emerging from the Post-Its into single phrases or sentences.
- Then the leader will collaboratively be able to arrive at what the Subculture of the team really is and what they need to change ( from the not so good areas) to become better as a team.
- This will greatly help the team align towards a common set of beliefs and be able to see if gauge for themselves if the behavior they are demonstrating at any time is in line what the team has agreed to be their common culture pillars.
All this takes not more than 20-25 Mins. Don’t you think it’s an exercise that warrants immediate attention?
PART 5: Worst case scenario
A manager’s main role is to guide his/her team through difficult situations, crises and coach them to be able to anticipate and manage those issues on their own. More often the than not though, the manager ends up guiding the team AT the time of crises when there is little time to coach and the manager ends up doing most of the thinking and planning him/herself. This exercise will help the team visualize problem areas, potentially bad customer experiences, crises situations in “peace time” and the manager will be able to guide the team to analyze reasons and solutions and build their preparedness for future situations.
- Break the group up into 3-5 member units depending on the size of your team.
- Ask them to come with a situation that would represent the worst experience for your customers/stakeholders. Situations that would bring the worst reaction from them and document the same.
- To make it a fun experience as well, ask them the enact that scene like the “statue” game we used to play as children where team members assume roles of the customer/stakeholders and hold a pose with expressions of what the customers are likely to feel after experiencing the worst from the team.
- As each team comes up with different situations there is a wealth of information with the team and the manager that can be collated to represent potential disaster situations for the team to be wary of.
- Then the manager asks each team to articulate the Root Cause for such situations & Potential Actions that will help mitigate such situations.
- The Manager’s role would be a moderator who ensures that the teams only speak about actions that are in their control and those they can influence and not something that would require someone else in the company to do something.
- They shouldn’t be actions that would require a change in company policies and procedures that are outside the purview of the team itself.
- The manager along with the other team will play devil’s advocate on the ideas to ensure that there is thoroughness in thought by each team.
- This can potentially change the way the team learns and makes the evolution of the team a collaborative process.