By E. Elizabeth Carter
A major issue in teams is that not everyone’s unique ability is recognized, or if it is, it is not necessarily utilized. Sometimes it is not an ability that one would think could be used in a professional setting, but in reality, many of our unique abilities can be beneficial in multiple ways. As an example, if an employee is very good at doing puzzles, there is a high probability that they are the one who can figure out how to fix the copier or determine a solution to other problems. Not only can they put pieces together, but they are patient and methodical, which can be very helpful in some professional situations.
Alternatively, a person who sings in a band on the weekends may be very good at coaching others on how to speak in public effectively. This individual has to be attuned to the others in the band in terms of melody, harmony, etc. so if this person is asked to be on a panel, they will be very good at interacting with the other panelists versus people talking over each and not “orchestrating” a flow of information to the audience.
Leaders need to understand all the facets of a team member which is time-consuming and is not perceived as necessary by some. Some believe team building exercises are a waste of time, but what they really do is give employees the opportunities to reveal parts of themselves in non-threatening ways. This is especially true for those who are shy and don’t usually speak up. By asking everyone a question like “what is your favorite meal?”, people start to open up not just about menu selection but they may say more like “I enjoy a really good steak when I go out to eat with friends” or “When we go to my mother’s house every Sunday for dinner, we eat lasagna which is my favorite meal of the week”.
Needless to say the types of exercises and/or questions can’t put people in awkward situations so it is necessary to stay away from sensitive topics. Some team building exercises are Two Truths and a Lie, Birthday Line Up (line up by month and day but can’t talk while doing it), Shoe Tower (each team makes a tower with their shoes and the winner is the one who has the tallest tower), and What Super Hero You Would Be and Why? You could also have a container of questions and each team member picks one and answers it. Some questions could be “What is your favorite book or movie and why?”, “What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?”, “What animal would you be and why?” and “Do you prefer red or blue?”.
The point of all of this is to get to understand others in a different way. You may know too much about some team members, so it is important to take the time to learn about the others. I have always followed some advice from a former boss in that you can learn something from every person you meet. This can include learning how not to behave in a certain way, but the fun is in the exploration so make an effort for every team member and the leader to take the time to try some of these activities.