Escape room

Your Personal Best For Team Building

Recently we chatted to a facilitator who was organising a final team building activity for a group of police officers. He explained that it had been a very long day and this was the last team building activity of the team building event.  It was around 7 pm just before dinner. He was faced with a room of surly faced police officers, who showed very little expression and provided very little inform

Recently we chatted to a facilitator who was organising a final team building activity for a group of police officers. He explained that it had been a very long day and this was the last team building activity of the team building event.  It was around 7 pm just before dinner. He was faced with a room of surly faced police officers, who showed very little expression and provided very little information for the facilitator to work off. 

The facilitator explained to us that he had to invent a team building activity there and then in order to end the team building event on a high note. Whatever he was going to do needed to stimulate the group’s attention and keep them involved in whatever process he was promoting. Their attitude of mistrust made life even more testing.

Describe the Team Building Activity

His experience told him that it's always better to give out a one-page handout that would describe the task in detail, as most groups preferred to have the activities spelt out clearly on the written page. In these situations, clarity is your friend. 

Instruct the Attendees to Choose a Moment

The task was simple. He asked the police officers present to think back over their careers and find a definitive moment when they were operating at their optimum.  Perhaps it was the final arrest made after many leads and after interviewing many witnesses. Maybe it was a day when they saved a kitten from certain death. Or maybe when they helped an injured child.  Perhaps they kept a violent individual away from injuring a bystander. Whatever the situation, the facilitator wanted them to think back and identify a moment when they believed they were performing at their personal best.

To simplify matters, the facilitator told the policeman present that probably the optimum moment was the one that popped into their head the minute they read their assignment. He then told them that they should be open and share this moment with their colleagues around the table. 

Give Preparation Time and Share

He then gave the participants around 15 minutes to think about their personal best moments before asking them to let the other policemen know of their experiences. The facilitator told the participants that it was important that they include as much vivid detail as possible. With the idea being to bring the moment to life for their colleagues. The policemen should try to focus on tiny details, including any colours, smells, sounds, or and the way they felt and reacted, when they were firing on all cylinders. 

Prepare for Reluctance

When we inquired of the facilitator as to what was the response of this group of police officers, he laughed and said that looking at their faces was certainly a picture. A picture of absolute shock. It was as if they had never been asked to share stories with their colleagues. He went on to say that their expressions were priceless. He also alluded to the fact that some of the policemen were grumbling about the assignment. Perhaps they were feeling shy about discussing a situation which they thoroughly enjoyed and gained satisfaction from. Nevertheless the facilitator persisted, insisting they complete the assignment. 

Well, in this case, the attendees started speaking quietly. But as stories were told and tales shed, the facilitator found that all pretence fell away and soon the room was filled with cheerin, laughing and a feeling of personal warmth. Once each participant got into their stride, then the stories flowed freely. The police officers were able to share and laugh at commonalities between their tales. It was an uplifting moment for everyone present, as if a secret door had been opened and they could finally express themselves, freely and without consequence. 

Wait Until Sharing is Complete and Debrief

After  around an hour the room began to quieten down as each police officer had regaled others of their best moments. The facilitator then asked to ensure that all present had opened up to everyone at a particular table with their stories. At this point the facilitator began debriefing. Remember that this was a team building activity. The facilitator asked the group how they reacted to hearing stories from their colleagues. They were asked if they could find any themes or similar story beats within the stories told. Each table of participants was asked to record the common themes they found in order to share them with the room later on. 

Find Common Themes

In this team building event, the most common theme that was found was that all the stories revolved around receiving recognition. They tended to centre around successful arrest, overcoming dangerous situations, promotion, and moments of teamwork and great communication. Though individual success was a common theme, the facilitator found that probably the most interesting factor that came to the fore was teamwork. And it was interesting because the individual participants never really thought that behind their individual actions stood a team. A group that acted as a backup, training, or helped by providing clear communication.  

A Revelation

This team building brief allowed this group of policemen to understand that though they believed they acted as heroic individuals, which was true to a certain degree, in fact they had the backing of a large group of their colleagues, who were unseen in the shadows. A team who ensured that everything was going as smoothly as possible, and in so doing, allowed the individual policeman to fulfill his professional role of greatness within his own story. Afterwards many officers stated that they had learnt the importance of the team over the individual, thanks to being introspective, and looking at past achievements through a different lens. As the French Musketeers named Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d'Artagnan from Alexandre Dumas’s novel would say, “Un pour tous, tous pour un.”

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