One of the most popular workshops I lead is called “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team” based on Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book by the same name. It’s a bit of a misnomer because it sounds judgmental. (“Oh, your team is so dysfunctional, you need to read this!”) The truth is that in order to be most effective, every team has to overcome these dysfunctions because all teams are made up of human beings.
Perhaps that’s why one particular exercise in the workshop always makes an impact. The workshop is very interactive with helpful exercises that generate a lot of group conversations about things that really help the team overcome dysfunctional behavior. One exercise, however, always causes more than a few raised eyebrows. Near the end of the workshop, each participant is asked to write down one strength about every team member that he/she appreciates. After giving time for them to do it, we go around the table and each person shares what he/she wrote about Joe, then Sharon, then Jack, etc.
If you are a supervisor, you might be thinking, “That would never work with my team because there is so much animosity,” or “That would never work with my team because my team is made up of a tough bunch of men and they don’t share their feelings like that.” But after doing this workshop in a number of places with all kinds of different teams, my reply would be, “Not so fast, my friend, not so fast!” My experience is that, regardless of the makeup of the team, the participants not only really engage in this, they actually relish the opportunity to both give and receive encouragement.
Afterwards, people say things like, “We’ve never done anything like this before,” “It’s a shame we have to come to a class before we say things like this,” or “I had no idea people felt this way about me.” Supervisors seem amazed at how deeply simple words of respect, acknowledgment, and appreciation touch employees.
Frankly, sometimes it even surprises me. Inevitably, there is a new bond within the team after this exercise. In fact, sometimes the men, who seem to be less inclined to verbally affirm others, actually open up the most.
Why do teams love this exercise so much? Perhaps it’s because it brings together two powerful truths that we sometimes forget. First, as human beings we need encouragement to do our best; and second, the more we give, the more we receive. You don’t have to hold a workshop to experience this. Just try giving some sincere encouragement to the people around you. You might be surprised how powerful your words really are.