A coach’s worst nightmare
My team went rogue as I tried to run a fully remote interactive team building activity. Here is my story:
The current working from home global change has been stressful for many. It has definitely been an adjustment. Our teams are working harder than ever. As an Agile Coach, my team was tasked to create a fun and interactive online event for the top 28 IT leaders of our organization. We spent all day creating a couple of pretty impressive exercises that included using a simple online whiteboard tool like Google Jamboard. The event included an online team retrospective, solving a picture puzzle, and answering a crossword puzzle.
My job was to help facilitate the exercises, but there were more participants in the event than anticipated. In fact, almost double what I expected. Right off the bat reality hit me and the plan no longer worked. I did not have a contingency plan to execute these exercises with so many participants. So, I smiled and decided to move forward thinking I can still execute my plan and will need to just tweak it a little.
As a coach, I draw a lot of my intuition by observing the participant's body language during activities. In this exercise, we utilized Microsoft Teams which limited me to only seeing one person at a time when in presentation mode. So, I felt a little restrained and could not use a coach’s strongest toolkit of visual observation. So, there I was about to have the team log into Jamboard and I had to pivot again because people were not able to log in. In retrospect, I should have had a co-facilitator just in case I had technology issues. I should've known better. The irony of it all was that just the other day, I was coaching a group of people and telling them how important a co-facilitator was. Anyway, I was finally able to get people to log into the Google Jamboard. The first part of the exercise was for them to play with and learn the basic features of the tool. They did just that. They started having fun and using the tool to create interesting pictures and drawings. They were all over the place and there was a lot of laughter.
So, there I am ready to begin the exercise. “Hey team, ok please stop moving the items on the screen so that we can begin.” They continued to play. Once again, “Nice, can we stop now.” They continued to play. I even tried putting my sad face to see if I could get any sympathy. My team went rogue. I will not share the jokes that were said in the chat line. But it was not encouraging. I can honestly say that I felt frustrated. I had no immediate answer to how I could move forward in my plan if they did not stop. All the time we spent creating the exercises, that I thought would be great, was all going down the drain.
“There is no crying in baseball”, so I picked up my pride and continued. I decided to scale down my exercises to smaller teams at a time so that we could execute. The next 3 exercises came out great. I placed the details at the bottom of the Article.
The last activity did involve all 50 participants working together to solve a crossword puzzle that helped them remember and focus on the company’s values. I decided to open the flood gates and allow everyone to participate.
Guess what? The last exercise also came out great and they solved it in record time (this is me bragging and boosting my ego).
So, what did I learn?
Yes, it was obvious: Have a better mitigation plan and get support. But more importantly, keep your cool.
We are all feeling the stress of change. Good or bad, it is an adjustment. Our teams working remotely are working harder than ever. It is such a misconception that as people are working from home they will work less. The first exercise where the team members did not want to stop playing demonstrated to me that people need some time to distress with no limits. We as coaches need to embrace and encourage fun interactive remote actives to keep our teams healthy. Plans will change and coaches are not immune to stress. Take a deep breath and smile as you just learned a great lesson. I am blessed to work for an organization that allows me to learn.
Additional Online Activities Executed:
1 of 3
The first activity was a retrospective poll to get an understanding of where the team was working from home. The activity entailed each participant locating their card and entering a number from 1 to 5 indicating how happy they are working remotely 5 indicating great.
Once the results were in, we gave an opportunity for individuals that ranked their experience low to speak their mind. As team members listen they are giving the opportunity to provide assistance or mentoring. Sometimes no feedback is needed just the ability to air out your feeling is therapeutic enough.
2 of 3
The following activity was a drawing exercise where the team members would draw an image of how they felt working remotely. Once they finish drawing the other team member would interpret the drawing. A good way to teach empathy. This activity went well and was well-received.
3 of 3
I continued the strategy of limiting the participants to the next activity of building an online puzzle as a team.
This activity also went well.
Earlier while testing the Google Jamboard, I used a remote video conference tool (Zoom) that allowed me to observe each person’s face during the session.