Your Personal Best: A Magical Team Building Activity

If this activity worked with police officers, it will work with your group, too.

Colleagues meeting around a table.
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Picture this. The facilitator was asked to lead the final team building activity of the day before drinks and dinner. The audience will have been in meetings since eight in the morning. The attendees would be police officers who are experts at what they call "cop faces," expressionless features that don't provide much information for the facilitator.

The facilitator had to come up with a prize-winning team building activity. She did, and if it worked with them—and it did—it will work with your teams, too.

Steps in Facilitating "Your Personal Best" Team Building Activity

  1. Provide participants with a one-page handout that describes the task at hand. Groups such as police officers like to have the team building activity spelled out clearly on a handout.
  2. Ask the participants to think back over their careers and identify a moment when everything that is great about themselves was operating in high gear. Maybe it was an arrest they made after following weeks of leads and interviewing countless witnesses. Maybe it was a day when they saved a child from injury. Perhaps a violent offender was kept from injuring their partner. Whatever the circumstances, identify a moment that they believe they were performing at their personal best. (You will want to customize your examples for your group.)
  1. Tell your group that the "right" moment is probably the one that popped up in their mind the minute you gave the assignment. Ask them to be prepared to share that moment with their colleagues at their table.
  2. Provide about ten minutes for the participants to think through their personal best moment before asking them to share the moment with their table mates.
  3. Tell the attendees to share their moment with their colleagues in as much vivid detail as they can remember. Make the moment truly come to life for their colleagues. Describe the colors, the sounds, and how they felt and how they reacted to the moment when all their spark plugs were firing.
  1. This is what happened with the police officers group. They first looked at the facilitator in shock. Oh, you want me to share this story with my colleagues, is exactly what their expressions said. Their expressions were priceless. Even a bit of quiet grumbling ran through the room. As the facilitator, she persisted. The attendees started out quietly, then, as the stories were shared, the sounds of people talking, laughing, sharing, and even cheering, grew to a roar. The warmth in the room built moment by moment to a crescendo of good will.
  1. Let your participants talk until the room begins to quiet down, usually thirty minutes to an hour depending on the numbers of people at your tables. Then ask if everyone has had a chance to share their stories or if the first person is still talking. (That generally rates a laugh of relief.)
  2. Debrief the team building activity by asking the group how they reacted to the team building activity—to the experience of telling their own stories and hearing the stories of their coworkers.
  3. Continue to debrief the team building activity by asking the large group if participants noticed themes in the stories told at their tables. Tell your participants to share, at their table, the common themes they found in the stories shared at their table. Ask a participant in each small group to record the themes discovered on a flip chart or laptop and be prepared to share the themes with the large group.
    --One theme that is often find mentioned when using this team building activity, is that the stories were about receiving recognition. Many other stories, in this particular group, centered on promotions, successful arrests, dangerous situations overcome, and moments of rare camaraderie and communication. Success is often a common theme, too. Let your participants draw these conclusions; don't tell them.
  1. If your participants work together, a final question you can use to debrief the team building activity is: How can you create a workplace in which more of these themes occur more often. And, as always, ask your participants to jot down one action they will take or do differently as a result of participating in the session.
  2. When the team building activity discussion is finished, ask the participants if they have anything they'd like to add to the discussion before moving on with the rest of the session.