First impressions count. In fact, within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone either in person or over the phone, the other person has already developed an image of you.
That said, over the years, managers leverage various team-building techniques to help teams move quickly through the stages of group development (Storming, Forming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning) and build a good impression of me as their project lead.
Technique 1: Have a Picture Organizational Chart
Before the kick-off meeting, Ask each team member to submit a 2 x 2 self-portrait electronically in a picture org chart.
People’s first reaction is, “why do we need a picture org chart?” As silly as it sounds, I’ve found that having a picture org chart brings team members closer (primarily, if virtual).
Since we are visual creatures, we tend to invest emotionally in things we can see and touch. Therefore, humanizing the org chart enables team members to feel more accountable if a face is associated with a name instead of a typed name.
Technique 2: Prop up a Picture of the Individual who’s joining via Telephone
All too often, when individuals join a meeting via telephone, they tend to be very quiet and, at times, forgotten.
Depending on the size of the team and conference room, You could either put their picture on an empty chair or on the phone itself. It doesn’t have to be a picture. It could be a small toy or piece of paper with a group member’s name.
The point is to have something physical to represent the individual(s) on the phone. This will help team members to remember those on the phone and empower virtual team members to join the conversation. While this approach may seem really old-school, there are people who won’t want to join you on live video chat. Therefore seeing an image of them is the next best thing. Ideally, these introverts will have an avatar to see their image when you’re using Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Technique 3: Have Team Take Myers-Briggs Personality Test
You may have heard people say, I’m an INTJ, ENTP, ESTJ, etc. This is an outcome from the Myers-Briggs Personality test. It’s a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in perceiving the world and making decisions. There are many free online versions one can Google, but use the official version if the organization can afford it.
When using this test, each team member can walk away with knowing more about their own personality type and how it relates to teamwork. So, if you have a lot of Extroverts (Es) and a few Introverts (Is), the team can ensure quieter team members (Is) are encouraged to participate if there is a debate.
Technique 4: Work on a Business Case
Do you remember the first day of school? The anxiety about meeting new people, worrying about what people would think of you, and knowing where you fit? Well, it’s not that different when individuals join a new group.
Team members automatically have this type of angst to help release that energy, so use fun and simple business cases that the team can solve. Block out 10 to 15 minutes of the agenda to work on this exercise each week until the issue is complete. Typically it’s solved within the first three meetings.
The goal here is to build team confidence and make the initial team-member experience fun + memorable.
Although they are meant for teachers and students, business cases are beneficial tools in team building.
Technique 5: Build a Lego House
This exercise is mainly helpful with physically present team members. One can try to include someone virtual, but I’ve not had great success with my attempts.
Buy Lego blocks in advance of the meeting and build a small, simple structure. For example, create a solid base, four columns, and a solid top – like a square hollow box. You can build anything you like as long as there are enough pieces for all team members.
After you’ve built the structure, dismantle it and purposefully remove pieces. The exercise should practically be impossible to complete.
Give the team 5 to 10 minutes to complete the exercise. The goal is to have a fun setting where team members can physically see what they are building together. It also allows you to observe the team dynamics (e.g., leaders, followers, etc.).
Overall, whichever techniques you use, It’s essential to research activities you think the team would like to do together (including virtual employees). Introducing activities upfront will help with accelerating the team formation, and also, depending on how you execute it, the team members would have an excellent team-member experience. Keen to read more on the topic? See this article on improving team collaborations.