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Team Building - Activity of the Month
September 2010, Willow in the Wind
9/1/2010 1:05:33 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


This can involve 8-12 participants. It is normally used to begin teaching spotting techniques and to prepare teams for later initiatives involving greater physical trust. Gather the team in a circle, standing shoulder to shoulder, facing toward the center
of the circle. 

Explain and demonstrate the spotting technique: feet shoulder width apart, knees flexed, backs straight. Arms should be bent at the elbow, palms facing the center, fingers in tight. 

One team member stands in the center of the circle, with arms folded across his or her chest. This center person is instructed to stand with feet together (to create a pivot point), and with back straight ("pretend there is a 2x4 running from your head to your heels"). Upon giving the correct spotting commands, the member in the center gently leans back into the hands of the team members in the circle. As the team member in the center remains rigid, the circle gently passes him or her around several times. There should always be at least 3 sets of hands on the person at all times so that no one person ever supports all the weight of the person in the center. Spotters eyes should be focused on the "willow", and the spotters should try to be quiet, allowing the "willow" to relax and enjoy the ride. 

When signaled, the team changes the direction and then carefully brings the person back to an upright position. Each team member should have the opportunity to get into the middle. Not everyone will want to.  As a facilitator, make sure nobody "volunteers" someone else.  

SPOTTING COMMANDS: Person in the center folds arms across chest and asks, "Spotters ready?" The circle responds, "Ready!" The center person then double-checks, "Falling", the circle replies, "Fall on!" This will most likely take some coaching from you, but you should insist that this process is followed every time.
  • Make sure that the team has demonstrated a certain level of maturity before attempting this activity. 
  • Be sure to present this as a serious activity, one that requires specific spotting techniques.
  • The person in the center should interlace their fingers and then intertwine their arms before hugging them in to their chest. This is to prevent the natural response of flailing the arms and inadvertently hitting someone in the face.
  • The team members on the circle should flip baseball caps backward to prevent "billing" anyone.
  • Center person should remove baseball caps.
  • Spotters should compensate for shorter "willows" by bending their knees to lower their spotting position.
Trust - Ask, "How was trust demonstrated in this activty?" 
Was trust important?  Why?
When is trust important in your real work together as a team?  Give examples.
How do we build trust with other people?
Support - Ask, "How did it feel to be physically supported by your team members in this exercise?"
At work, what types of support can be important to success?  Give examples.
Is it more difficult to give support or to receive support from others?  Explain.
How does "supporting each other" contribute to building trust?
Reliance - Ask, "Is it difficult to rely on others?  Explain."
Is it important to be able to rely on your team members?  Why?
How is "reliance" on each other connected to building trust with each other?  Explain.  Give real examples.
June 2010, Obstacle Course
5/31/2010 11:49:59 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

communication, trust

This is a classic team building exercise.  (We used to refer to this as the "Minefield," but in recent years have preferred the simple name of obstacle course.)  It is worth sharing again, as we never seem to run out of opportunities and applications for this great activity.  It is truly powerful in highlighting the challenges of communication.  It can provide excellent insights into the importance of trust and trust buidling within groups.

There are many variations of this initiative but the objective is essentially the same. The purpose is to get through the obstacle course, without touching any of the objects (hazards).  

  • Select an adequate space (in-doors or outdoors)
  • Set you course up beforehand if possible
  • Create your course by scattering objects all over your designated area.
  • Simply use a rope as a boundary or place cones at the corners of the area. 
  • Good objects can include hula hoops, rope or yarn, beach balls, bean bags and even paper plates. Tennis balls work fine but realize that they are more dangerous if a person steps directly on one. 

Next, organize your group into pairs and instruct one in each pair to put on a blindfold. It will be the sighted person's job to guide the blindfolded partner through the obstacle course without touching an object. The sighted person may either be allowed on the course next to their partner, giving them an arm for support, or you may have the sighted guide stand outside the designated playing area. Once they have made it through the course have them switch roles and try again. You can quickly rearrange the course if you want. Remember, the density of the obstacles determines the difficulty level. Another variation is to set your course up in a circle formation and have partners stand across the circle from each other. This creates the added dimensions of focus, distractions, and nobody to hold on to! It also can be set up so that the team could work together to get across. When an object is touched, create a consequence such as taking a step or two back, start over, etc. Emphasize quality in the process!

  • Evaluate your group before laying out the course. Balance is a key factor here. Very overweight, older people, and those with injuries may have trouble balancing. Also, remember that balls can cause an ankle sprain. Caution people not to step on the balls and not to kick them into someone else's path.
  • Caution the blindfolded people to be careful what they do with their hands. If they get excited, and tend to talk with their hands, they may hit someone else who is trying to cross the course at the same time.
  • Facilitators should be roving throughout the group trying to listen to the conversations occurring.
Communication -- process points seem endless around the theme and challenge of communication.
What was your beginning communication process like?
How did you calibrate communication as you went?
What would have helped or improved your communication?
What are similar challenges of communication in your workplace, day-to-day?
To what degree was support from your partner important to success and/or progress?
Descibe the support you received and how did it help?
Was the support physical, verbal, other?  Describe.
In your work, what types of support lend themselves to effectiveness of the team?  How are you achieving that?
To what extent was trust a factor in the exercise?
How did you build trust with each other?
At work, is trust within your group important?  Explain.  Provide examples.
Positive reinforcement
In addition to instruction and support, were you receiving any positive reinforcement as you went?
To what degree did that impact your performance?
How did it feel to successfully get to the other side of the course?
Were any of you celebrating and feeling good about the success?
At work, is it important to celebrate success?  Describe and explain.
Give some example of when celebrating gave the team a needed boost.





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