Escaping ineffective teams or how to help your team thrive

One of the problem(Team) Breaking paradigm s organizations often have, is how ineffective a team could become. Effectiveness is the result of leadership, organization design and teamwork. Often, teams become ineffective when they spend more time arguing with each other, looking for someone to blame or covering their butts, than working towards their goals.

A new team building challenge

At the beginning of the month, my largest client asked me for a “fun, exciting team building session”. They wanted a session where their teams could improve the way they worked together. This would be the topic for the summer retreat of the more than 20 teams in this faculty. This is usually a simple thing for me to do, as I have been in and done more team building sessions than I can remember. However, this client presented me with a new challenge.

One of the managers at the meeting had recently gone to an Escape Room and wanted to do something similar. I had never been to one, but The Bing-bang Theory had given me an idea of what it looked like.

For sure, I love having fun at work, particularly when working with teams. I am also sure that a good part of the participants that come to my sessions want to have fun and enjoy the day, but for sure, the majority wants to learn something that helps them work better.

When I shared my model of how to build a team (which I’ll share in my next post), they were really interested in doing something that helped their teams better align to the rest of the faculty, as well as to the University.

Thriving teams

So, I decided to use a blended approach. In one of Michelle Holliday’s sessions (Regenerative Leadership) I learned a model to help teams understand the team and the organization as an organism. Which got me thinking of what organisms need to thrive and what their challenges are. I decided to mix this model with The 5 dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. This model talks about Trust, Healthy conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results. Thinking of both models I designed Thriving Teams, where the participants can understand and define the purpose and the values of the team, and also reflect on how are they doing in regards of efficiency and teamwork. This is the theory behind this design. The practice is a mix of small group work and an Escape Room.

Last Friday, I presented an executive session for two of the managers from the client system, as well as two members of the Learning and Development team and they loved it!  It was a great opportunity to learn about teamwork, leadership and reflect on individual behaviors. It was also fun and engaging, and I believe well done. I spent some time creating an appropriate atmosphere; in this case, the theme was a zombie infection. In just 20 minutes, the team managed to solve 5 puzzles, found the right keys and codes, needed to to get the cure: chocolate.

What I learned

As with every session, it is important to have a great design. My husband and partner is a graphic designer, and truly gifted at Design Thinking, so his collaboration was crucial. I decided to start with the theme of zombies (as the Absence of Trust usually looks like “invulnerability”). And we started working on designing a series of challenges that would be relevant and lead the team to expose their vulnerabilities and build the foundation to be open with each other.

It took us an afternoon to go through the different parts of the puzzles, and another one to buy and get all the things we needed to create the atmosphere. Props are quite important! In this case, props needed to be able to blend in with the training room, so they couldn’t start looking for clues before the Escape Room portion of the session started.

Using pop references (in this case the zombie theme) makes it more engaging, but we need to be careful to not trigger sensitive people.

Finally, try out all the locks, closings, zippers, etc.  Less than 5 minutes before my clients arrived to the session, just when I was ready to put a lock through suitcase closing, I found out that my lock was too thick for the zipper head. I had to quickly change a great word lock for another second numerical one, and also create the clues.

Now, in this iVUCA world (where everyone is interconnected) we need to design other 4 Escape Rooms, in order to not repeat the clues and puzzles, and allow the managers experience variety when working with their different teams.


Post related to:

Take action today