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The one where the "Boot" was on the other foot – Part 1 "The Roles We Play"

Last week I was invited to join a demonstration day with Trainers Kitbag (@trainerskitbag).  They’re a great organisation providing a range of innovative games, events & simulations.

The day was designed to try out their “Property Trading Game” product and spend quality time with the Trainers Kitbag team and other practitioners.  Although I’ve used games with clients I have to say it’s been around 5 years since I was last in such a situation myself.  So the opportunity to learn more about how I would interact & impact with strangers in such a situation was compelling!

The game itself is very carefully and well designed – you can read more about it here and here.  It’s something I’ll be using with clients in the new year.

Over the next few days I’d like to share with you my reflections from the day starting with…

Part 1. “The roles we play”
In most game play, the roles that we take or respond to provide learning in terms of both our preferences as well as how we interact with others.  It’s a great way of highlighting norms, blindspots, hidden talents & limitations.  Reflecting on our actions and impacts provides rich learning.

In our team for the demo day, all 3 of us are running our own businesses, each with successful corporate careers and many years experience.  We’d never worked together and had either never met or had only recently become acquainted.  I don’t think any of us had come knowing how to play the game in any sense.  However, we were in it to win!

The way teams often work (or don’t)
So you’d expect some roles or preferences to become apparent wouldn’t you?  Some conflict or robust discussion maybe?  Perhaps a crisis out of a mistake or failure?  That drive to win must come out in some way surely?

With an existing team or with internal peer competition I’m sure this is exactly what would have transpired throughout the day.  The impact of “Joe” taking control but not attending to others perhaps.  The way decisions were handled by “Mary”.  The silence of “Pat” who was always on the periphery but unable to assert the great insight they held.

You can already get a sense of potential issues that might arise and so provide the opportunity for observation, reflection & learning.

The way teams can work
Well our team “BOOT” (yes, it’s inspired by the game Monopoly) challenged those expectations completely!
Throughout the day there was no visible hierarchy, no formal leadership roles and utter teamwork.  OK, so we took turns to hold the map!  We spoke up when we had an idea – see our work profile above!  In some tasks our preferences inevitably showed – whose wouldn’t!

Yet, there was no conflict or dominance or muted participation.  We achieved highly both as a team as well as in terms of the game itself.  Here’s how:
  • We always listened to each other, carefully and with care.
  • We were respectful of each other throughout the day.
  • We welcomed & recognised the strengths each brought to the challenges.
  • None of us tried to act as leader. We all led together.
  • We celebrated when we won.  We moved on when we lost.
  • No one was left behind.
  • We had fun!
I’d be worried about this self-assessment if it wasn’t for the fact that we were so successful and we know where we could improve!

Reinforcing the above, there were also some clear and critical team enabling factors which created the environment for these behaviours:
  • A strong desire and motivation to work together.
  • A shared team objective.
  • Similar ethics & values – although unspoken these came out in our actions.
  • Successful compatibility – through luck or perhaps synchronicity we worked well together
So looking at the “roles we play”, I believe these are often the issue.  More to the point the way we choose to exercise those roles and our perceptions of others’ roles.

What is critical to success is how we behave and the values that we hold.

What are your thoughts and experiences of successful teams?
What behaviours do they exhibit?
What enables them to succeed?


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