Building connections among people is essential for creating high powered teams and it is definitely essential for leading cultural change to align with the Agile Manifesto. For example a person can’t actively participate in valuing individuals and interactions over process and tools when people aren’t valued and interactions are assumed only to be control instructions. Many corporations are disconnected not only from their customers but also their own people who serve those customers.
The phenomena of elite performance from groups of people is not a new pop psychology hypothesis; it’s a founding character in human nature. Great examples include ANZACs, sports teams, and even on an individual level Ronald Reagan laid a foundation to end the Cold War by building a personal relationship with Gorbachev. In fact one of his most famous quotes on how he did it was to “trust first, check second” because that trust on a relationship level then allowed a conversation to occur, unified objectives to evolve and agreement on next steps. Sounds like collaboration to me!
Creating unity with-in teams is often done by introducing social sessions, social events and games playing at varying intervals. Playing games and having social sessions are fantastic when the team is co-located and of fairly good social standing but when you’re working with a large enterprise program with disparate relationships, and a strict control hierarchy it’s important to start with the basics; introduction, social values and good behaviour.
In order to create the strong relationships there are three key activities that you can do to establish interpersonal trust and team bonding in your new team planning session; they are,
1. Introductions to bridge personal disconnection and build interpersonal bonds
2. Professional introductions that re-map hierarchical roles to ‘delivery team roles’
3. Review behaviours and create a social agreement so that an agreed way of working together is understood.
4. Reconnecting people with the art of saying thank you and leveraging thank you as a means of breaking down tension, dissatisfaction and rebuilding new connections in the workplace.
In this post I’ll talk through personal introductions then follow up with posts on the remaining items.
Let the fun begin …
The “Say hello” exercise is constructed to be incredibly simply, easily doable and intentionally mindful of human behaviour. If you think about what it’s like being a stranger at someone else’s party; the unfamiliarity, the social butterflies and nervous banter – well, work can be just like that! Especially if it’s the first time the extended program team or release train has come together. This easy exercise intentionally facilitates the calming of nerves and social bonding.
Here’s the process;
1. On a sticky note, write down the top three things you most love to do on the weekend
2. Place your sticky up on the poster
3. Place your photo separately next to the poster
4. If we don’t happen to have your photo here yet, draw an avatar and pop that up. Also catch up with the “co-facilitator” to have your photo done in the break
5. As we progress through the workshop we’ll be play together to identify which items match with which person
6. Let’s try a couple first up before we do the formal introductions…
7. The facilitator picks one sticky and reads out their own so that an example of personal trust and humility can be established… “Here’s my top three…” and so forth
8. Do a couple, and if you are wrong – laugh at yourself, be humble, show humility – all the characters that allow humans to bond and trust you that it is a safe environment to talk. Suggest everyone chats to get to know each other in the breaks so they can do better than you when it’s their turn.
9. As the workshop goes through pick out a few at the start and/ or end of each session continuing to build personal connections among the team
10. It’s also good to start rotating the facilitation of the “game” by asking for volunteers to come up
Sounds simple enough; however, as facilitator you need to be very conscious of guiding the social balance between sharing insight and exposing personal vulnerabilities. In a group situation the personal affects can be accentuated, so I recommend being mindful. Your job is to “reach out” to each of those isolated individuals, enable a safe environment for sharing personal stories, connecting the network of relatedness so that individuals feel united. A unit of “mates” has more strength to create change or swarm despite the challenges of the surrounding organisation.
So why the particular steps above?
Writing the top 3 things you love gives the person focus time to reflect on what’s valuable to them in life. The ‘fond focus’ triggers good memories, endorphin release and calm. Most importantly these are often three things people are proud to share because they inherently make them happy. Besides setting the focus towards valued things in our lives, you are facilitating self-expression which – although it can be vulnerable – is just a simple safe participation act to set the level of comfortability for participating in the future. One of the incredible benefits it achieves is that adults are less likely to be aggressive to each other when they see each other as a father, a son, a brother, daughter etc – as a normal human being rather than just another rank in an org chart they must compete with.
“Although the connections are not always obvious, personal change is inseparable from social and political change.”
Harriet Lerner author of the Dance of Intimacy.
If you are interested in reading more about ontology, human behaviour, creating workplace connections here are few books to help you think for yourself about creating a connected corporate culture;
~ Wired to Care, Dev Patnik
~ Third Culture Kids, Dr Ruth Useem
~ The Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela