Friday, December 4, 2015

Create a productive working group

At the office, on the job site, in informal settings, a critiquing group—getting a number of employees or strangers to work productively together can be a challenge.

Often the group leader has participants engage in “warm-up” activities. You know the kind of thing—adult games to learn names, to get the group thinking about the task, etc.

Most, if not all, of these are a waste of time.

Two simple things work much better for team building.

The first is to have each person “check in.” As a newly appointed principal, I tried this at the first staff meeting of the school year with a mix of the old gang and newly hired teachers, aides and custodians. Each was to tell us their name and something about their summer break and then say, “I’m checked in.” Or, they had the option of saying their name and passing. The teachers talked about their trips or funny things that happened. All of the support and custodial staff passed, but many came to me after and said, “I’ve never felt so much a part of the school before. Thank you for the checking in.”

The second strategy is even simpler. Working on a shared goal brings a group together faster than any games or checking in. I joined a newly formed critiquing group some years ago. We were strangers determined to write and write well. We introduced ourselves, decided on a procedure for sharing our writing and critiquing and got to work. By the end of that first meeting, we were a “team”—one that went on to hold writing retreats, one that many years later finds the members keeping in touch.

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