Thursday, August 8, 2013

Team Building Workshop - Using The Game of Cricket

Get 18 young guns together. Get them to play cricket for an hour or two. Let them ponder over what they learned and voila, all the learning in the world that one can learn about team work is thrown up. What was that quote - you can learn more about a man in an hour of play than a whole lifetime of knowing. Here, you learn about yourself, about others and also you in relation to others.

18 of the young associates of Mars took the stage at Leonia resorts on August 1, 2 and 3 to play a few games of cricket and decipher what makes successful teams tick. The rules were modified so no player has an unfair advantage and what one may consider a strength could become a weakness and vice versa.

There was Anuj, Rahul, Ganapathi, Hemanth, Zeena, Sreelatha, Rajeshwari, Reeta, Shravan, Piyush, Nishanth, Ramprasad, Onkar, Sreenivas, Naga Praveen, Pavan, Gopi and Jayaprakash - executives from various functions and eager to learn about teams. Amar and I facilitated the games and were beneficiaries of the learning that the young ones put before us.

After 5 games I'd say the learnings were about (randomly):
  • Having a common purpose (unites the team and gives it a purpose)
  • Knowing and assigning roles (figuring out how best to achieve the purpose using resources at hand, each resource to give 100% to the role assigned as the entire structure depends on it)
  • Empowering fringe players (huge impact as they can make a big difference with their improved contributions, leaders ought also look at growing them by providing opportunities appropriately)
  • Dangers of overburdening  the better players (they tend to take the extra burden and do not deliver under pressure, need to defuse the pressure for them)
  • Getting the team together (knowing and addressing the aspirations and anxieties of the team members and creating a bond
  • Knowing and articulating the process (sharing the process of growth and how it will be measured, rewarded and judged so everyone knows what it expected of them and how to go about it, leaving no space for assumptions)
  • Leadership (crucial to pick the right leader, once picked to back her fully, to empathise with leader's situation as well and support her)
  • Communication (to express, share, plan etc, it's the secret energy that connects teams)
  • Putting team before self (the basic rule of all team play, all who put self before team to be told and explained and if behaviour continues, to be dropped)
  • Being supportive of one another (at all times for the good of the team and the individual, not that constructive criticism is disallowed because even that is being supportive)
  • Enjoying the process (teams that smile and laugh seem to have a higher energy, a feeling that they can do it, identify the fun guys)
  • Creation of belief (through word and deed, through steely resolve, its in the head and all one needs is one person in the team, even the weakest player to demonstrate this resolve)
  • Creating interest among team members (again a process of constantly challenging their limits, abilities and making them reach for more)
  • Sharing ownership (absolute necessity)
  • Using strengths and weaknesses (knowing ones strengths and using them, even weaknesses sometimes can be strengths)
  • Killer instinct or competitive edge (something anyone can bring to the table, just a feeling)
  • Preparation (good preparation is half the battle won)
  • Willingness to step up for team's cause (need more such players in the team, a behavior to be encouraged and rewarded)
  • Celebrating small successes (a must to keep morale high)
Though this might not be an exhaustive list (top of mind for me) but it has enough to start with.

Behaviors That Have an Adverse Impact
There were incidents that also showed us how unconsciously we carry certain behaviours that could affect the team adversely. These behaviors included giving up the fight early (conceding), questioning the leader's capabilities, not following strategy as planned, defeatist attitudes, squabbling unnecessarily among team and with authority, cohesion issues, not participating wholeheartedly, not defining roles, blaming and criticizing etc.

Leadership issues
The leaders experienced issues of handling dissent, challenge of authority, motivation, participation, alienation (of team members who felt they were no being heard), lack of ownership among team, getting the unit together, holding team energies together among others. Learnings include - use authority vested with the leader appropriately for team good, to provide space to express and to convince and carry team members along in the best interests of the team, to be sympathetic to team members anxieties and dreams and at the same time being strict with the work ethic and the deliverables, to understand reasons for non-delivery and explain the process to team members including the rewards and repercussions so effort is more purposeful, to lead through example, to invest time with team members to understand their motives and aspirations

All in all, learnings that were well-received as I could garner form their discussions and questions. Some learnings do settle down a while later but certainly its an exercise that opens up one's thinking about team building. The participants threw themselves into the games with much vigour, braved injuries, dived, ran through aches and pains, and I am sure learned enough to know what makes successful teams and how best to contribute to team success.

From the sidelines one could watch the effect people have on others with their talk and mannerisms, their intent, their enthusiasm versus their negativism, hope versus hopelessness, a learning attitude versus a defeatist attitude, a responsible attitude versus a blame and criticise attitude, a unifying attitude versus a disruptive attitude, a patient attitude  versus an impatient attitude and so on and so forth. There were those who took the back seat in the team's interests, who carried more responsibility, who brought a joy and enjoyment to the process, who were competitive within the framework of the game and it was wonderful to see some rise above their weight, disregard their limitations and grow, and at the same time to see the burden of responsibility weighing down on some and affecting their normal perofrmances. All learnings, all valid.

I enjoyed it thoroughly fellows. Thanks for teaching me much. Hopefully you have all learned a few things too. And as always, feel free to drop in your queries.

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