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Simple Exercise to Build Your Team

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Sometimes we know what we need to do—which is half the battle mind you—but we don't know where to start. If you're here because you know you need to build your team, but you don't know where to start, then you're in the right place! Here is a simple exercise from Patrick Lencioni's book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team that is the perfect starting point for building a team.

Lencioni refers to this exercise as the personal histories exercise. Healthy teams are built on trust which can only exist in an atmosphere of vulnerability. What we're doing with the personal histories exercise is giving everyone on the team a safe opportunity to be vulnerable with the team. The goal is for everyone to grow in empathy for one another and to feel more comfortable being vulnerable moving forward as the team engages in robust discussions about ideas and issues and eventually seeks to be a place of accountability for behaviour as team members.

1. Start by getting your team in the right size. If you're taking your leadership through this exercise, then you should have between three and ten people. If your leadership team has more than ten people then start thinking about how you can transition to a smaller leadership team (in time, probably not overnight!) because more than ten is just too difficult. If you're wanting to take your whole staff team or team of volunteers through this, then the first thing you'll need to do is break them up into small groups of three to ten. So, if you have 50 volunteers, you might have everyone split into ten groups of five.

2. Share the purpose with the whole team. Whatever the size and whatever the context, realise you're asking people to make a sacrifice. It's uncomfortable to be vulnerable! Give everyone a reason to participate and lean in. Share the vision of the your organisation/team/ministry and the smaller vision of this exercise around building trust and vulnerability in the hope of being a more effective team. Ask everyone to lean in, embrace the uncomfortableness of the exercise and be vulnerable.

3. Ask everyone to share in their group the answers to a few questions. Where did they grow up? How many siblings do they have? Where were they born in the order of siblings (oldest / youngest etc)? What was the greatest challenge they faced as a child?

4. As the leader, model this for your team. Everyone will only lean in as far as you do. So, you need to be vulnerable. Go first as the leader and share your answers with your team. In the larger team context, go first in front of everyone as an example so they know what to do.

It might sound super simple, but this exercise often reveals things about team members others don't yet know, even if they've been in the same team for some time. It also changes the atmosphere of the team towards vulnerability and trust.

Give it a go and let me know what happens! I love hearing stories of challenges and successes people experience.

On another note, the biggest challenge I hear from leaders who are building their teams is the struggle of dealing with a difficult person on their team or in their life.

Do you hate conflict?

Are you losing sleep at night about some difficult conversations you know you need to have but you don't know where to start?

Is your worst nightmare experiencing a massive confrontation that blows up in your face? (Or maybe you've been through that before and you're desperate not to see it happen again!)

The good news is there's a proven 3-step process to see THAT difficult person step up or step out within the next four weeks.

Find out more here.

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