Someone recently asked me if I had any Love Your Team team-building exercises that I could share, so I thought I would write this post to share one you can try. But before I do, it’s important to describe how specific exercises fit into the Love Your Team philosophy.
What you believe is most important
As human beings we have both an inner world and an outer world.
Our inner world is what we believe, what we value, how we honestly look at things. Our inner world is our own sacred space that know one else knows the details of.
Our outer world is everything we do that can be observed. Our words, our actions, our decisions, our body language. It’s everything that could be recorded by a video camera.
You could think of the inside as your being, with the outside as your doing. Or the inside as your why, with the outside as your what.
With that distinction in mind, here is the core idea that underpins Love Your Team:
The single most impactful thing in your leadership is what you believe inside.
And when you intentionally choose to make that inner foundation unconditional love for all people, that’s when your leadership becomes really powerful and positively impactful.
But don’t I also need to act?
A risk of saying that what you believe is the most important thing is that it might get interpreted as saying that you don’t need to really act. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Good intentions without follow through are hollow.
But there is a really interesting thing that happens with beliefs. The clearer they become, the stronger your conviction, the follow through action almost becomes inevitable.
If I hold a belief loosely, then I’m free to pick and choose whether I act based on that belief.
But if I hold a belief strongly, if I have deep genuine conviction for it, then picking and choosing when to act on it becomes harder and harder. There is no peace in living in a way where your behaviour doesn’t align with what you truly believe.
The reason I say that the single most impactful thing in your leadership is what you believe inside is that over time what happens on the outside is a manifestation of what’s on the inside. If you honestly believe that the person sitting in front of you is of infinite value and the single most important thing is for you to honour that value in everything you do, then it’s almost impossible to not follow through with action on that belief.
The best exercise to grow as a loving leader
With the above in mind, the best exercise that you can practice to grow as a loving leader is an intentional awareness of the awe-inspiring value of the people around you.
Imagine what it would be like if in every situation you faced during your day that you were completely present. In the moment. Consciously aware of how remarkable the people around you are (and all people in your company, and all people who are your customers, and all people in the world). Believing in their potential, ready to encourage them and lift them up, ready to be honest and face hard things together, ready to work through negative things and negative behaviour without de-valuing the person in the process.
How much light would shine from you? How safe would people feel around you? How much would ripple effects for good happen from what you were involved in?
Building a habit of this kind of loving mindset, and striving to have the discipline to hold to it and follow through on it, is the single most powerful exercise you can practice as a leader to have an uplifting effect on your team.
Some ways that you can form and keep this habit
In order to form and hold to this habit, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. There will be some moments when everything is going well when it will be easy. There will be other moments when things are falling apart and when your buttons are being pushed when it will feel almost impossible.
Your feelings won’t be a reliable guide in forming this habit. There are going to have to be times that you hold to your intention despite your feelings.
One exercise that can help with this is daily journaling. Being clear on your intention, and doing honest daily reflection on how you are going with that intention, can lead to a lot of learning and growth.
Another thing that can massively help is accountability and support. Having someone else you can reach out to, ideally someone who is trying to walk the same road as you, can make a big difference to finding ways to hold firm and follow through.
I periodically host 30-day Love Your Team leadership challenges. These are done with a group of up to 12 leaders. The focus of these challenges are to form and grow the discipline of love that I talk about in this post.
Some questions I recommend people ask in their daily reflection during that challenge are:
- In what situations today was I present and very intentional in beholding the value of those around me?
- How did I translate that into how I acted, what I said, what I did?
- What did I notice or observe from this?
- How did I feel?
- What situations today did I struggle to be aware or to hold to a loving foundation, and what can I learn from that for next time?
And now to the original question!
I started this blog based on a question about team-building exercises. And the reason for sharing all of this context before getting to this point is that any team-building exercise that I suggest, if tried without the foundation above, will have missed the heart of Love Your Team.
But with the solid foundation of belief of unconditional love in place, then there are countless exercises and techniques that can be built on top.
If I had to suggest one that is deeply aligned with what Love Your Team is all about, it would be a team coaching exercise designed to build empathy, help break through barriers, and help foster innovation.
Here is how the exercise works:
- Break into groups of three (you can have one or two pairs if numbers don’t divide evenly in threes)
- Have the group of three decide who is going to fulfil three different roles: Coach, person being coached, observer. (If a pair, then leave out the observer)
- Allocate some time (say, 20min) for the group of three to go through a coaching exercise. The person being coached thinks of some goal are trying to achieve or some obstacle they are trying to overcome in their work. During the 20mins, the coach is aiming to help the person with their challenge. They do this through asking questions and getting really curious about the person’s goal/obstacle, their work, etc. The coach isn’t trying to solve the problem for the person. Instead they are acting as an independent sounding board. They ask questions to help the person think through their situation, and ideally to think about it in ways they haven’t up until this point. The observer is paying attention and listening, both learning about the situation being discussed, and also watching how the coach is operating so that they can give feedback to the coach at the end.
- Once the coaching session is done, have a small reflection where both the observer and the person being coached gives feedback to the coach.
- Rotate the roles in the group of three, and do the exercise again. Followed by a final rotation so that everyone has had a chance to play every role.
The reasons I really like this exercise are:
- It helps people practice the intentional awareness and listening that is core to being a loving leader
- It builds empathy because people learn about the challenges and situations that others face
- It holds open the possibility for innovative ideas and breakthroughs. Sometimes we just need someone else to ask us the right question to unlock innovation we never would have seen on our own.
This doesn’t have to just be in your team
A few years ago I made a work trip to Bangalore. There were about 30 people in my team who worked out of Bangalore. In that Bangalore office there were a few hundred people who worked for the company.
During that trip I thought I’d try the exercise above.
I invited anyone who was interested from the entire office to come to the session. We had a good turnout of at least 50 people, across a wide range of departments.
I explained the exercise, we got into groups of three, and gave it a go.
The session itself seemed to go well. People were certainly engaged, and it was a fun experience. There was a lot of social connection, and a lot of sharing of goals and challenges and details of people’s work.
But it was only in the days following the session that I realised the true value of the exercise. A couple of people pulled me in to have a chat about an idea that had emerged from their discussion in the exercise and move to move it forward.
It struck me that these two people had both worked in the same office for a substantial amount of time, and had even worked together on some projects. But that through this exercise of intentional sharing and coaching each other in their individual situations a new compelling idea had emerged, and they both felt empowered to do something about it.
This example gave me a glimpse into the ripple effects that spread from engaged interactions like this exercise. I was privileged to get to tangibly see one of those ripples. And for every one I get to see I’m sure there are many other ones that I don’t.
As loving leaders we can be a catalyst to help ripples and waves of goodness, creativity, and inspiration spread throughout our organisations.
If you are moved to give the above exercise a go in your team, I’d love to hear how it goes.