A #NewYear’s resolution: Connecting in a deeper manner with your work team. We spend a great deal of time together being #productive. Let’s answer the question: “Who are we?”
At my father’s retirement ceremony as a college president, the local reigning politician concluded his remarks with a heartfelt statement. He indicated that if he were selecting someone to spend a week with in a fishing boat catching walleye, it would be my dad. In this rural northern Minnesota town this was the ultimate compliment!
This story gets at how important it is for us to spend time with colleagues that we know and like. When teams are formed, they first naturally want to know what they are supposed to accomplish together. This is why the question that a team naturally asks itself is: “Who are we?”
Once their reason for being together has been answered, the next question is who is sitting next to me? Who are the people that I am about to take this journey with? Just like the northern Minnesota folks who want to know who they will be spending a significant amount of time with in a boat, team members want to know more about their peers who they will rely on to work together as a team.
There are many packaged surveys and assessment tools that one can purchase in order to learn more about your team members. For example, I have led teams in completing and processing assessment instruments such as the Myers Briggs [https://www.themyersbriggs.com/, 2018], which indicates various psychological preferences of how people perceive the world and make decisions.
Instruments such as the Myers Briggs can be an effective way for teams to learn in-depth how they can better leverage each other. However, there is a financial cost for each team member who completes the tool. In addition, it typically takes a minimum of a half day to help the team process the instrument results.
For these reasons I have at times opted for a lower cost, quicker solution to help team members get to know one another. I simply ask them questions that will allow them to get to know one another better personally and professionally. I find that the time that team members spend getting to know about each others’ backgrounds, motivations, working styles and passions in life translates into better teams.
There is really no magic here, but following is a sample slate of questions:
- Information about your background – career path, etc..
- What do you like most about your city?
- What do you like best about their work?
- What are your favorite hobbies?
- What did you do before you started working here? Not just jobs you held, but career path and aspirations?
- What motivates you personally? What motivates you professionally? What gets you jumping out of bed in the morning “before” the alarm clock goes off?
- Tell me about your family?
- What thing in your life (outside of work) do you have a passion for? Do you have a career goal they would share with others?
- Where’d you go to school how did you end up working here?
- Why do you do what you do for a living? And why does your department do what it does?
- Please let us know a bit about your education and work experience?.
- What’s your favorite way to keep up on professional trends and best practices? [Conferences? Publications? Training? Podcasts? Etc.]
I have made this exercise a little more interesting for the participants by turning it into a “Crumple and Toss” activity. Each team member carries out the following steps, which results in the exercise being more dynamic and introduces an element of fun:
- Step A: Participants select a question that has been crumpled and tossed in a hat.
- Step B: They can answer that question or select a new question until they pick one they like, limiting answers to two minutes or less.
- Step C: Crumple the question back up and toss it into the middle of the table. Providing a forum for team members to ask each other questions to get to know one another is simple to carry out and the positive results for team members is significant. I have had many teams indicate that the personal relationships among them is one of the reasons they can point at to explain their success. This simple exercise is a great New Year’s resolution which started them on that path.
When I began in this field I assumed that team members would naturally get too know one another. I thought they would be asking each other these types of questions from day one. However, I have learned that most employees on teams go right to accomplishing the tasks at hand.
Providing a forum for team members to ask each other questions to get to know one another is a great New Year’s resolution. It is simple to carry out and the positive results for team members is significant. I have had many teams indicate that the personal relationships among them is one of the reasons they can point at to explain their success. This simple exercise started them on that path.
This blog does not represent the views of my employer.