Great teams experience

The purpose of this team exercise is to identify the qualities and behaviors that create positive team experiences. You can run each of the three phases of the experience in sequence during a half-day workshop or retreat. If you have less time available, each phase can be facilitated as a stand-alone experience. If your goal is to have the group identify their operating norms, then do each of the three phases in the following sequence. To see an example of a team’s aspirations and agreements, see the Utility Crew example below.

Share our great team stories and the qualities that made them memorable.

  1. Individually, think about the best team you have ever been on. It can be any group that you have belonged to where you worked together towards a common purpose.  It could be your cheerleading squad, water polo team, a non-profit Board, neighbors caring for an ailing friend, or a memorable family gathering.
    • What made the experience really great for you? What were the qualities of the team experience?
    • For each quality you identify, write it on a large sticky note. I suggest 8” x 6” sticky notes so you can read them from a distance. Encourage people to write only one quality per sticky note, and to use just a word or short phrase to describe that quality.
  2. Share your stories one team member at a time. Each person places her sticky notes on the wall as she shares her story.
  3. After each story, as a group notice similar qualities that have been shared and group them together on the wall. These clusters of similar qualities begin to express the values you hold in common as a team.  There may be qualities that stand alone from the others.  Ask the group: Are the unclustered qualities important for us to consider? Might they fit into a cluster, or are they important to consider on their own?

Describe our aspirational team values

  1. As the facilitator, number each cluster so you can easily differentiate them. On a flipchart page, write the number of the cluster at the top of the page.
  2. Ask the group to discuss how the qualities listed in each cluster describe what they value as a team.
  3. Write a brief statement that captures the team value expressed by each cluster. Help the group articulate what each cluster means to them by asking them to complete this phrase: We know when we are working well as a team because we…  Each statement expresses an aspirational team value.

Craft our group norms

  1.  Say to the group: As you consider the aspirational values you’ve identified, what are your thoughts? Facilitate the conversation and allow the team members to express themselves, notice patterns, and explore their meaning.
  2. Say to the group: You’ve described the the team experience you would like to create together. What currently gets in the way of being able to achieve this experience? Facilitate the conversation so the team can learn from feedback.
  3. For each obstacle the team identifies, discuss the behaviors they could use to avoid or get around those obstacles in the future. Make sure to get specific, behavioral suggestions.
  4. Write those behaviors on a flip chart page.
  5. After the team has brainstormed a list of useful behaviors, ask: Will the behaviors we listed help us achieve our aspirational goals? Do we need to consider other obstacles? What other behaviors do we want to see?
  6. After the team is satisfied with their list of behaviors, discuss as a team how you would like to work with them going forward. Will you type them up and hand them out to each person? Will you post your team aspirations and agreements on a wall where you hold team meetings? How will you agree to keep the agreements alive and useful as you go forward?
  7. Create a final document memorializing the team’s Aspirations & Agreement. List the aspirations first, followed by the behavioral agreements. See the example below.

Example: Utility Crew Aspirations & Agreements

Here’s an example of one teams Aspirations and Agreements.

Utility Crew Aspirations & Agreements

We know we are working well as a crew because…

  • We take pride in our work.
  • We are all one unit—equal.
  • We recognize each other’s strengths.
  • We help each other out.
  • It’s easy to decide how the job gets done.
  • We share a spirit of camaraderie.

We will take responsibility to move towards being a great crew by taking individual and group responsibility to do the following:

  • We will meet each morning to discuss and agree on the day’s assignments so:
    • The distribution is fair, and
    • We know what to expect during the course of the day.
  • We will share the difficult tasks and we will speak up about our preferences.
  • We will organize ourselves so we are available to work with the crew (for example, anticipate materials and tool needs).
  • We will raise issues with each other using effective and respectful communication.
  • We will speak up directly to the person involved if we have an issue with someone (rather than speaking with others on the crew).
  • We will speak for ourselves and avoid speaking for others.
  • When someone brings up an issue, we will listen and not take it personally.
  • Each person will manage his or her own behavior and change if it is negatively affecting the crew.
  • Each person on the crew is willing to work with every other member of the crew.


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