Do you ever utter this phrase either in your head or under your breath -
"I wish everyone on this team would just get along."
Or do you find your team is just not "clicking"?
If so, then I challenge you to take your team through a simple 5–day challenge that is intended to bring a disjointed team a little closer together. This is not some "fall from a chair" exercise where everyone huddles around and catches their peer. This is a very simple exercise that you can do at the beginning or end of any team meeting. Here is the challenge – ASK them one question a day. This is not a question about work tasks, performance levels, or work/life balance. This is a question about life outside of the work place.
Now I know some of you are already rolling your eyes and are lining up the excuses of why you will not do this. The excuses range from:
- “That is not appropriate for work.”
- “We don't have time for questions because we are running a business.”
- “My team is just fine the way they are.”
If I were to push you for a slightly deeper answer and peel back your politically correct layer, your answers may turn into this:
- “That sounds like some crazy, unrealistic, psychological mumbo jumbo.”
- “That would never fly on my team or in this company culture.”
And if you drank a truth serum, your answer may slip out into one of these:
- “I honestly don't care about their answers.”
- “I don’t want to share my answers with these people."
My challenge to you is to just try it, and see what happens in 5 days.
I'm not a doctor, therapist, or someone pushing a new program. I'm a leader just like you, who stumbled across this idea many years ago in my own team meetings. It happened at the end of one of my dreaded daily standup meeting, and I asked this one question:
“What do you hate spending money on?”
I'm not sure why I asked that particular question, but I'm sure it had something to do with a recent expense like repairing my car. Surprisingly, what I saw unfold in front of me was new energy on this team. Teammates shared their "story". Others joined in with the "Me too's", and suddenly the two people who never seemed to get along (but tolerated each other) had a shared experience. This energy continued throughout the day, and I just sat back and observed.
So guess what I did the next day? I asked another question. Same energy, same result.
After repeating this a few weeks, the team started EXPECTING new questions. The dreaded meeting turned into a meeting the team made sure they did not miss. When someone had to miss the meeting they would still want to know what was the question of the day. It became part of our DNA as a team.
Was the team perfect after these questions? No. But I can say the team started to work BETTER with each other. Bickering was down. Teamwork and collaboration went up. Bonding as a team through shared life experiences – way up. We were starting to become a united front for the first time.
So are you slightly convinced to at least try it? Here are 5 of my favorite questions to ask as you kick start this new team culture experiment.
- What do you hate to spend money on?
- What was your favorite childhood toy?
- What was your favorite TV show growing up?
- What is the last book you read?
- What story about this team gets shared the most?
Don't like my questions? Be creative and come up with some of your own. Not the creative type? After years of asking questions to dozens of teams, I've collected all of my questions into a book to help you jump-start your question experiences within your team. There are over 1100 questions to help you jump start this challenge in your meetings, evolve your team’s culture, and get that grumpy guy that sits in the corner to open up about his favorite Sci-Fi TV show. Who knows – you may even watch the same Sci-Fi show as him.
Jeffrey T. Cook is a business leader residing in Atlanta, GA with a knack for coming up with questions from the most random subjects. This book was an inspiration from many years of asking questions to the various “groups” he was a part of whether at work, church, volunteering or with friends.
This book covers what Jeff discovered over years of asking questions to his numerous teams. The question—asked in a group setting—created an opportunity for the group to experience the answer of a teammate. Those shared stories, over time, led to a team that bonded like GLUE. Continued “question experiences” led to improved team cohesiveness, deeper understanding of their teammate, and a bonding shared over similar experiences.