The following activities are three variations of the same theme with the objective being to foster a culture of trust in the team, to build connections between team members, and to enable them to give and receive honest feedback in a safe, constructive and generative way.
With some adaptation, experienced team coaches can use these exercises within a “team of teams” context as well.
Adapted from Smartsheet
Appreciation Exercise (face-to-face or virtual)
Time: 20-30 minutes
Materials needed: None
Split team members into pairs, and participants sit facing each other (or if online go into a breakout room together). Person A has two minutes to tell Person B what they appreciate about them. After two minutes, Person B repeats the exercise with Person A. Pairs must maintain eye contact while speaking, and the person receiving appreciation may not speak at all, except to say “thank you” when their partner finishes speaking or time runs out.
This can be repeated a number of times between different partnerships. For uneven numbers, adapt the exercise for triads where necessary.
To end the exercise, the coach brings the team together for an open discussion in the main forum. Team members share how it felt to give and receive appreciation, and whether they heard anything that surprised them.
Giving Feedback using a “Kiss” of Appreciation (best face to face)
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Materials needed: Hershey’s® Kisses or similar heart-shaped sweets or candies
Get a supply of Hershey’s® Kisses or similar, and have each person take three of them. Explain that one is for them to enjoy personally (donor), and the remainder are to give to two other team members (recipients) who:
- have had a positive impact on them in some way (explain what and say thank you), and/or
- whom they enjoy working with for a specific reason (explain why and say thank you), and/or
- could potentially do or change something to add real value to the donor (explain how, ask if this is possible for the recipient, and say thank you)
To end the exercise, the coach brings the group together for an open discussion in the main forum. Participants share how it felt to give a kiss, receive a kiss, and whether they heard anything that surprised them.
Discuss how going forward they will ensure that everyone is recognized and appreciated for their contributions, and that everyone is aware of how they can add further value.
Sunshine and Shadows
Objective: Promote safe vulnerability between the members of leadership teams
Time: Half day
Materials needed: None
Important Note: This activity is for leadership teams, and it is important that the coaches contract well with the team around safety before beginning. There should be openness on the part of the team to engage in this work, and a desire to work more effectively together. It is useful for the coaches to demonstrate the activity themselves first to set the tone for the work to follow, demonstrating vulnerability and honesty themselves.
When contracting explain to the group that what is referred to as a “weakness” can often be overuse of one’s “strengths.” Also, leaders who are charged with bringing out the best in the workforce often struggle with bringing out the best in each other. There can be a lot of internal competition at leadership levels and this often results in silos and conflict – with the consequential negative impact felt throughout the system. On the other hand, cohesive, collaborative leadership teams that are aligned behind a common purpose for the organization, set the foundations for resilience, adaptability and success.
Seating is preferably in an open circle, or if necessary, can be around a table. One seat is designated the “hot seat,” and the first leader takes their position here. In a round-robin fashion, have each of the other leaders comment on the strength that the hot-seat leader contributes to the team – his or her “sunshine.” After each leader has commented, the hot-seat leader simply says, “Thank you.” After everyone has been, the leader can ask questions for clarity if he or she wishes.
Next, have each leader comment on the “shadow” that is sometimes cast when the hot-seat leader’s strength becomes too potent. Again, after each leader has commented, the hot- seat leader simply says, “thank you”. Once everyone has been the leader can again ask questions, for clarity only. He or she may not, under any circumstances, offer excuses for, or defenses of, their shadow.
Once the leader has received their sunshine and shadows, move on to the next leader on the team.
After all leaders have been through the process, have the entire team discuss the value of understanding the sunshine and shadows of each team member.
Then explore what their internal and external stakeholders need from this team, that only they can uniquely provide, and how they can align to enable this.