Role Playing Team Building Exercises

Team Building Through Role Playing

Role playing is a useful tool for team building in social learning situations. It requires a minimum of two people, which makes it suitable for small groups. This type of team building exercise allows team members to examine situations from different points of view and prepare for different situations that they will face in the real world.

People typically love or hate role playing activities. The purpose of role playing is to encourage the team to engage with the topic, prepare for different scenarios, and see different points of view. Providing examples will help team members engage and learn in the role playing activities. Once role playing is acted out, the team should debrief and discuss what they learned from the scenarios. When done correctly, role playing is an effective social learning tool.

Identify Work Related Scenarios

The first step to effective role play is identifying work related scenarios. Scenarios will vary according to each team. Identifying the scenarios requires the topics to be researched and written well. Make use of scripts and take your time making decisions.

When choosing work related scenarios, try using open discussion. Brainstorm problems and situations that the team will face. Make a list of these, and determine which ones will make effective role playing scenarios.


  • Addressing inappropriate behavior
  • Helping customers
  • Improving listening skills
  • Handling dangerous situations

Add Variables

Variables are situations that change from one scenario to the next. These are what makes it possible to create different role playing scenarios for each problem. Things that change include the number and nature of the characters and the settings. As these details change, the role playing will change. For example, a role play scenario with a customer can vary. Variables include phone communication, returns, irate customers, etc. Each variable alters the dynamics of the role play and determines that appropriate response from the participants.  When choosing variables, identify the ones that target your team’s needs.

Assign Roles

The details of the role play must be clear. They include the setting, number of participants needed, the role of each participant, and the nature of the problem. The next step is to assign the roles to each person participating. The roles playing scenarios should be short. The goal is for each participant to play each role, which is why role playing between two people works well. Playing the different roles allows the participants to see things from multiple perspectives. It also helps everyone engage with the scenario completely.

Prepare Role-Players

Before engaging in role playing, it is a good idea to provide the players with a little guidance. Role play is not an excuse to act out. A few ground rules will help keep the role playing activities in line. You need to address appropriate behavior during role playing activities and how to stay focused.

Examples of Ground Rules:

  • Profane language is not allowed.
  • Sexual innuendo is not allowed.
  • Stay on the topic outlined in the scenario.

Act It Out

Role playing requires people to act out different scenarios. This can be difficult to for some team members if they are shy or uncomfortable. This is why it is important to create a comfortable atmosphere and begin with a demonstration. Remind participants that they are acting out a role, and encourage them to have fun with the situation. You may want to lead them in breathing techniques or visualization techniques to help improve their mindset before the team building activity.


After completing the role playing exercises, groups should debrief. This allows participants to share their observations and what they learned. There are many different ways to debrief. For example, you may choose to have people write short explanations, lead a discussion, or a combination of both. The method of debriefing you choose will depend on the size and dynamics of the team. Regardless of the way you debrief, you should end the session by reviewing the main conclusions that the team made on the subject.

Mirror Good Examples

Demonstrating role play ahead of time will make team members more comfortable with the idea. It will also increase participation and provide an example that will guide them as they perform their own role play scenarios. Examples for people to mirror may be done in different ways. You may ask two volunteers to perform in front of the class, or you may perform a role play with another leader or a participant. When providing an example for people to mirror, it is a good idea to start with a prewritten script. This will prevent any awkward pauses or confusion.

General Role Playing Tips

Every role playing team building exercise and setting is unique and should be treated like it is. Individualizing role play will increase its effectiveness. Team leaders have different options that will improve role play for each team. Making sure that participants are comfortable is the single most effective tip for improving role play.


  • Ask for feedback after the demonstration.
  • Do not force people to perform demonstrations.
  • Pair the role play with a game to make it more interesting.
  • Try to use small groups so you can better observe them.

The size and dynamics of the group will determine how the role play should be done.

Develop a Social Learning Team Culture

Develop a Social Learning Team Culture

It is not enough to simply create social learning programs. Social learning must be integrated into the culture of the team in order for it to be effective. This requires making connections, identifying star team members, encouraging questioning, and recognizing teaching moments. By creating a culture of learning, the team will continue to improve and grow.

Making the Connection

A culture of social learning requires team members to make the connection between working together and success, which is called collaborative learning. This culture of collaborative learning requires all members of the team to work together as equals. Encouraging people to learn from each other creates this type of learning environment. Sharing and learning is facilitated by providing opportunities for communication and working together, such as:

  • Formal meetings
  • Online sources
  • Informal meeting spaces
  • Team projects

Each team is unique and will have to determine the best ways to facilitate collaborative learning.

Tagging Star Team Members

Your team members are your best chance of increasing the success of social learning. When team members share their expertise, the entire organization will benefit from their insight. The first step to accomplishing this is identifying and tagging star team members. A star team member is anyone who goes above and beyond.

Traits of Star Team Members:

  • Trustworthy
  • Exhibit company values
  • Set standards
  • Problem solvers
  • Handle criticism

Once star team members are identified, they should be tagged to take on the role of a SME (Subject Matter Expert). SMEs are able to perform specialized tasks with expertise. The tasks can include: software, accounting, technology, etc. Tagging star team members for the role of SME requires discovering their expertise and determining if these areas of expertise can benefit the organization. If the team member, for example, is an expert in social media, he or she can benefit the company by sharing that knowledge.

Recognizing Teaching Moments

Teaching moments are often more effective than the traditional teaching methods because they are more organic learning opportunities. Taking advantage of teaching moments requires recognizing them. A teaching moment can occur at any time, and it is a chance to teach through demonstrating skills or sharing information. For example, someone who understands how a computer system works can coach a person he notices having problems with a program. Teaching moments occur every day, it is important to keep an eye out for moments when you can teach others. These moments are essential to social learning success.

Culture of Questioning

Nurturing a culture of the questioning is like nurturing a plant. If the culture is nurtured, the questions asked will grow, bloom, and produce new questions. Asking “why” when it is appropriate will actually contribute to the conversation and help generate new ideas. There are a few ways to help instill a culture of questioning in your team:

  • Team members should admit when they do not know things.
  • Taking risks should be rewarded.
  • Encourage team members to ask effective questions.
  • Teach team members how to question and generate ideas.

Building a Diverse Social Learning Team

Building a Diverse Social Learing Team

There are always pros and cons to social learning. The diversity and differences that make a team strong will also cause friction in social settings. Effective teams will address these issues as they develop and manage to keep the communication civil. Knowing how to create a diverse and respectful  social learning team will make the experience more efficient.

Diversity Builds Knowledge

When creating social groups, it is important to make sure that they are diverse. Compiling a diverse team takes time. It is necessary to choose people with diverse cultures, skills, backgrounds, and strengths. These differences will make the team stronger. Only choosing like-minded people will weaken the team and stifle creativity. Diversity builds knowledge and challenges the team to grow. When choosing a diverse team, you need to focus on the skills that will benefit the team. For example, a  team could benefit from mixing people with academic understanding of a subject and others who have real world application. It is also beneficial to blend people from different levels within the same organization.

Social Interaction

Social settings and interactions require basic social skills. This may seem like common knowledge, but you will have to remind people to behave and assess their social skills. There are basic social skills that people need to master in order to make sure that the social interactions in the group go smoothly. Basic social skills include:

  • Listen to other people.
  • Express positive thoughts or feelings in a civil manner.
  • Express negative thoughts or feelings in a civil manner.
  • Make requests.
  • Appreciate people and thank them.

If anyone lacks these basic social skills, social interactions in the team will suffer. Social skills training can improve social interactions for people who need to improve their social skills.

People Are Different

Everyone is unique. This can be both beneficial and cause problems to team dynamics. The positive aspects include:

The cons of having a diverse group include:

  • Personality clashes
  • Competition for promotions
  • Competition for work

Acknowledging that there are cultural and personality differences between people and preparing for these differences will help create a functional learning team.

Dealing with Difficult People

In any social situation, you will have no choice but to deal with difficult people. People are difficult on different levels. Some may not be invested in the learning process and others will actively push back against the team dynamic.

People who passively resist social learning may refuse to participate in discussions or leave tasks incomplete. The best way to handle passive people is to address the reason behind their behavior. It is important not to push people too hard to participate. You should offer assistance as needed.

Some people aggressively resist social learning. They push back by causing trouble and trying to take over the team. Problems include verbal attacks and disruptive behavior. It is important not to take the attacks personally and to make sure that the person acting out is told that the behavior is not appropriate. If the individual become too aggressive, he or she may need to be removed from the team dynamic.

Making the Best of All the Generations in Your Team

Making the Best of All the Generations in Your Team

Leveraging the best of all the generations in your team could result in benefits that help your workplace become a better place to work.  Each generation brings unique traits that can complement the other generations.  In this blog, you are going to learn the following on leveraging the power of the generations present in your team:

  • Benefits of generation gaps
  • How to learn from each other
  • Embracing the unfamiliar

Let see how to make the best of a diverse environment.

Benefits of Generation Gaps

Having various generations in your team gives you access to varying perspectives and ideas.  You should avoid discounting the value of a particular generation.  Here are some benefits to having multiple generations in your team:

  • You gain a good perspective of the external culture
  • You can generate more ideas based on varying experiences
  • The older generation can help the younger generation refine their social skills
  • The younger generation can help the older learn how to leverage technology
  • Create a mentoring environment

Keep in mind that whenever you have access to different views, ideas and way of doing things, you have a source of knowledge that is profound and leveraged for the organization’s benefit.

How to Learn from Each Other

Learning from each other in the team is possible if you create the environment.  In order to achieve this, you must create the opportunities for learning to take place, make it a safe environment, and tie it to a team-building goal.

The FIT model for meetings is a helpful way to create a learning environment in your team meetings.  FIT stands for the following:

Frequent—make sure your team meets frequently in a team-meeting environment.  It can be once a month, once a week, etc.  Having your team together in a group will help them engage each other, communicate, and dialogue.  This is essential to any learning environment.

Informal—make your meeting less formal.  This way everyone puts down his or her guard.  Use an icebreaker activity or energizer.  Making your meeting informal will allow your employees to share and learn.  When it is formal, you will get very little interaction.

Team building—make your meetings about team building.  Topics like updates, reports, etc., are best delivered by other means like email in a presentation.  When your team gets together, celebrate achievements and discuss what went well and how they can do things better the next time.  Also, bring in some new information to learn.  Make it a mini training session.  Create projects for them to accomplish in the meeting.

Embracing the Unfamiliar

Embracing the unfamiliar is something you need to do and help your team learn.  It is easy to dismiss the unfamiliar, but that sends the wrong message to your team.  Model the behavior by using the LEAD model.

LEAD stands for the following behaviors:

Look for unfamiliar things in the workplace.  Be on the lookout for new ideas, attitudes, trends, etc. in the workplace you can investigate and learn more on the topic.

Engage it immediately.  When you identify an unfamiliar concept or idea, embrace it immediately.  Ask questions about it and take notes.

Acquire more knowledge on the topic.  Research the topic and learn more about it.  Look for reasons why this is valuable and why one should adopt it.

Disseminate the knowledge to the rest of the team.  Once you gather the information, share it with your team in your meetings.  Gain input on perspectives and tell them how this information helps you.

If you want to have your team to  embrace the unfamiliar, you must lead the way with your own actions and behaviors.  Model the behavior you want them to adopt.  They will follow you if you do.

Background Differences Between the Generations in Your Team

Background Differences Between the Generations in Your Team

The background differences between the generations in your team are the main factor in the formation of their attitudes and values.

Effects of technology: The use and understanding of technology are a main difference among the generations.  The Traditionalist had very little exposure and need for computers and other devices that we take for granted today.  Even some Baby Boomers may struggle with technology.  They tend to use it only as needed, and usually only at work.  On the other hand, Generation X and Y grew up with technology and they use it more as a part of daily life.  Technology changed the way humans communicate and process data.  The use or nonuse of technology creates a gap that could be seen by a generation as either an advantage or disadvantage.

For example, a Generation X or Y could become easily frustrated with their older generation counterpart when they struggle with technological issues they see as easy.

Effects of media: Media has boomed over the last 20 years.  Television, computers, the Internet, and smart phones have increased the amount and availability of entertainment programming.  Many Generation X and Y’s were raised with media as a large part of their diet.  On the other hand, the older generations relied on human interaction for their daily entertainment.  This affects how the generations interact with each other.

For example, an older generation may prefer to speak with a coworker face-to-face, but the younger would rather text or instant message their conversation.

Finally, social events like war and culture revolutions distinguish a generation’s background.  Traditionalist lived through many years of war and it became a real part of their lives.  Baby Boomers experienced the Hippie revolution of the 1960s, which opened the door to changes in our society.  Generation X and Y’s enjoy the benefits of the changes, but they have not lived through such dramatic social events.

Managing Team Conflict Across Generations

Managing Team Conflict Across Generations

Conflict is normal in a team, but it could happen more often between two people of opposing generations.  Understanding how to manage conflict across the generations will help to reduce the confrontation and perhaps avoid them in the future.

Younger Bosses Managing Older Workers

Managing older team members could be a source of conflict.  Older team members may feel they should be in charge or that you lack experience.  The key to avoiding conflict with an older team member  is to demonstrate respect and showing them that they are valued.

Use the ACE technique in avoiding conflict with your older team members.  ACE stands for the following process:

Acknowledge your older employee’s experience and the value they bring to the team.  Older employees may feel as if they are no longer valuable because of their age.  Show them you value them by reflecting on their achievements and contributions to the team.

Caring for your older team members comes in many ways.  Become interested with their personal life or hobbies.  Take note of special things that took place in their lives.  Show interest in their family and listen to them when they talk and mirror back what they have said to show you were listening.

Exchange ideas and ask for input from your older team members on issues and demonstrate that you value their opinions and solutions.  Implement good ideas and give them recognition.  When you implement their ideas, your older team members will be more willing to take on your ideas.  Create a give-and-take environment between you and your older team members.

Breaking Down the Stereotypes

Stereotypes are formed when there is a lack of information from the other side.  Stereotypes are difficult to break because the thought process is difficult to detect.  The best way to address stereotypes is to get your team involved in activities that helps build the team and places them in a situation that challenges all the participants.

For example, you can have your team take on a project that your team never done before.  Perhaps you can engage your team with a friendly competition with another group where the focus is on the team.

Many activities can challenge your team.  When your team is challenged, their best traits will come through.  You may encounter resistance at first, but your job is to coach them through it.

Once you are done with your activity, hold a debrief meeting to spotlight the team and their achievement.  Share commonalities that span the entire team.  Finally, relate those commonalities to work related activities like project work, etc.

Embrace the Hot Zone

When dealing with generation gap issues, there is a hot zone that you must recognize and address.  The hot zone is an area you know there is conflict.  It could be between two employees or groups within your team.

Take a moment and jot some of these ideas down:

First, you must acknowledge the hot zone exists.  Ignoring it could result to more widespread hot zones.

Next, you should engage the hot zone as soon as possible and provide feedback to all the parties involved.

Set expectations with your team on how to handle future conflicts.

Hold one-on-one coaching with each team involved in the hot zone and have him or her come up with ideas on how to make things better avoiding hot zone issues.

Treat Each Other as a Peer

Treating each other as peers requires some key behaviors that demonstrate this characteristic.  It is not enough to tell your team to treat each other as peers.  They need a guideline and coaching in order to achieve this.

The CARE model is a good way to start this process and they should be coached at the individual level.  CARE stands for the following behaviors:

Collaborate.  Your team should be exposed to an environment where ideas are exchanged and at times challenged.  Set the ground rules in your meetings on how to handle disagreements.  Encourage other points of view.  Make sure all participants are involved.  Be fair in your assessments and use objective means to determine the best ideas.

Acknowledge.  Teach your team to acknowledge each other’s value.  In addition, teach them how to deliver the feedback.  Do not assume they know how to do this.  Remember that feedback is behavior-based.

Respect.  Teach your team how to show respect to each other by using proper greetings and posture towards each other.  Set the expectation that derogatory remarks about age are not tolerated by anyone.

Equal.  Teach your team that all members of the team are equal in value and contribution they bring.  Age is not a factor.


Bridging Generation Gaps in Your Team by Finding Common Ground

Bridging Generation Gaps in Your Team by Finding Common Ground

In order to be successful bridging the gap across the generations in your team, you must find common ground that enables you to close the gap and effectively reach your opposing generation.  In this blog post, you will learn the following:

  1. Adopting a communication style
  2. Creating an affinity group
  3. Sharing knowledge

Let us see how adopting a communication style helps you find common ground.

Adopting a Communication Style

Being sensitive to the way you communicate will help you bridge the generation gap in your team.  Understanding that the older generation prefers face-to-face communication and the younger prefer electronic methods should give you a base to form a flexible communication style that reaches all generations in the team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Here is an easy way to adapt your communication style.  Use the TAP method for communicating.  You will have to think a little before you communicate to someone, but the investment is well worth it.  TAP stands for the following components:

To-the-Point: Make your communication brief and succinct.  The older generation will appreciate the clarity and the younger generation will appreciate the brevity.

Adapt: Change the method of communication for your audience.  If you are going to engage an older team member, make the effort to either call them or better yet, see them in person.  They will feel respected and valued.  For the younger generation, use email or instant messaging, etc. to reach them.  They will feel independent and not micro managed.

If you need to address the entire team, younger and older, in an email, make yourself available for follow-up by telling the team to reply, call or see you in person if they have questions.

Professional: When in doubt, communicate professionally.  Avoid jargon and text abbreviations in your communication.  Use salutations and close your communication properly.  You will show the older generation that you respect them and set the example for the younger generation on how to communicate professionally.

Creating an Affinity Group

Affinity groups are groups of people sharing common interests.  You can create such groups at work that give different generations a chance to work with each other with an activity, which is not directly work related.

These groups provide a way for the generations to learn more about each other’s interests and values.  You can create several affinity groups, promoting cohesion among the various generations.  Affinity groups are usually non-hierarchical.  They are typically small and do not require centralization.

Affinity groups could tend to become closed.  That is why allowing groups that focus on non-polarized topics are the best way to introduce affinity groups in your workplace.

Here are some groups to consider:

Work newsletter group

Professional book club

Recycling task force

Community service group

Improving work morale group

Work safety group

Speech club group

Sharing Knowledge

The lack of knowledge could breed fear between generations or lead to misinterpretations.  Sharing knowledge helps to break down barriers and create an understanding and collaborative environment.  There are many ways knowledge can be shared.

Here are some ways to share knowledge in a team:

You can set up a blog where a topic is introduced and then the team can submit comments.  Blogs provide a safe and open structure to hold discussions.  If you use a blog, be sure to set up clear rules of what and how to share.  You want to avoid sensitive topics for discussions.  This can undermine the sharing process.

Form focus groups to resolve an issue or generate new ideas.  Focus groups containing various generations is a great way to get different perspectives from your diverse team.  Read up on how to facilitate team meetings so you can better manage the dynamics in such a meeting.

Create a newsletter where team members get to share their thoughts in an interview.  This can be a creative way of sharing knowledge.

Place an ideas box where team members can submit ideas for review.  This can be a real box or an electronic version via email or other form of communication.


Team Building Quotes by Barbara Bush

Team Building Quotes by Barbara Bush


Barbara Bush was the wife of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. She served as First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Barbara Bush had previously served as Second Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989. As First Lady of the United States, Bush worked to advance the cause of universal literacy, founding the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

We have put together a collection of quotes from Barbara Bush, which you can use to motivate and build your team.

“If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”
– Barbara Bush

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.”
– Barbara Bush

“If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”
– Barbara Bush

“Value your friendship. Value your relationships.”
– Barbara Bush

“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”
– Barbara Bush

“You just don’t luck into things as much as you’d like to think you do. You build step by step, whether it’s friendships or opportunities.”
– Barbara Bush

“Believe in something larger than yourself… get involved in the big ideas of your time.”
– Barbara Bush

“You get nothing done if you don’t listen to each other.”
– Barbara Bush

“You get nothing done if you don’t listen to each other.”
– Barbara Bush

“My worst expectations never happened.”
– Barbara Bush

“Cherish your human connections – your relationships with friends and family.”
– Barbara Bush

Taking on New Team Tasks and Projects

Taking on New Team Tasks and Projects

When your team is assigned a new task or project, it’s important to create a plan at the beginning, so the team gets off to a good start. This blog will look at some different techniques your team can use to tackle new to-do items.

The Sliding Scale

When planning and organizing, try to create the right size plan for the task. If your goal is to organize your inbox, for example, it’s probably not necessary to spend several hours planning each action. On the other hand, if you’re handed a complex project, you may want to spend several days or even weeks gathering information and creating a plan.

For small tasks, basic tools such as a to-do list or calendar will probably be the best choice.

For medium-sized tasks or projects, you might want to use:

  • RACI charts
  • Visual timelines
  • Storyboards

And for large projects, consider:

  • Gantt charts
  • Project plans
  • Project-specific productivity journals
  • Online time tracking dashboards

A Checklist for Getting Started

For most tasks, the team will need some background information before they begin. Remember, they will need very little information for simple tasks, and more detailed information for complex tasks.

The basic information you will gather should include:

  • What is the date the team will start this task? What is the deadline?
  • Who else can the team rely on for help?
  • What are the major things that need to be completed?
  • What obstacles might the team encounter? How can they get around them? (For example, one of your key resources might be going on vacation in two weeks. You will want to gather all required information from them before they leave.)
  • What work has already been completed?

Evaluating and Adapting

For most medium to large sized tasks, the team will want to build evaluation points into their plan. Typically, these occur at key gateways (called milestones in the project management world). At these gateways, the team will look at their plan, determine what is working and what is not working, and adjust as necessary.

Some other signs that it may be time to review the plan:

  • The team keeps falling further and further behind.
  • The team is not motivated to work on the project.
  • The team is finding that their plan isn’t the right size for the project.
  • Major changes have happened in the project.


Addressing Team Dysfunction During Meetings

Addressing Team Dysfunction During Meetings

All teams have the potential to be dysfunctional: incapable of achieving goals. This is because each person is different, and each team has their own unique history. A team leader must know how to recognize signs of team dysfunction, and be skilled to address them.

Using Ground Rules to Prevent Dysfunction

One of the best ways a team leader can anticipate problems in a team discussion is to set ground rules. Ground rules orient participants with what is expected from them. Moreover, they set boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior during the discussion. For best results, ground rules must be set in a consultative fashion, with the rules, and sometimes the consequences of violation of rules, negotiated among the members of the team and agreed upon by consensus.

When setting ground rules, it is important to both verify if the rules are understood, and if they are acceptable. Make sure too that a documentation of the ground rules is available for everyone, either as a hand-out or posted in a flipchart paper for everyone to see.

Ground rules in a team meeting can relate to:

  • How to make the most of the meeting. For example: practice timely attendance, participate fully.
  • How to make a contribution to the discussion. For example: do the members raise their hands and ask the facilitator for permission to speak; use I-messages.
  • How members should treat other members. For example: “don’t interrupt whoever is speaking, listen actively to whoever has the floor, accept that everyone has a right to their own opinion, no swearing or any aggressive behavior.
  • Issues relating to confidentiality. Example: all matters discussed in the team shall remain within the team. This is also the moment for the facilitator to reveal if the minutes of the meeting will remain solely for his or her reference, or will it be given to an authority in the organization.
  • How violations of ground rules would be addressed. Example: the use of graduated interventions from warning to expulsion from the team.

Restating and Reframing Issues

The way an issue or problem is phrased can influence team members’ attitudes towards it. After all, different words have different meanings and connotations.  A simple example is the difference between the words “problem” and “challenge” in reference to a situation, or “victim” and “survivor” in reference to a person.

Restatement is similar to paraphrasing; it is changing the wording of an issue, but the main idea is the same. For example: simply changing “this suggestion seems to have made some members of the group angry”, to “there seems to be a strong concerns about the suggestion” can lessen the antagonistic nature of the statement.

Reframing is similar to restatement, except reframing goes deeper. In reframing, a team leader changes the way a problem is conceptualized in order to facilitate a consensus or support a conflict resolution.  In some cases, the problem is reframed in order to support the position of two parties in contention. The meaning may or may not change, but the spirit of the statement remains the same. For example, instead of saying “we’re here to talk about how to approach salary cuts,” a team leader can say “we’re here to talk about how the company can provide employee security despite limited funds.”

In team facilitation, simply restating or reframing an issue can lessen the adversarial nature of a position, or invite a fresh way of looking at things. When the issue is phrased in neutral or workable terms, it becomes conducive to a reasonable discussion.

How can a facilitator successfully re-state or reframe an issue? The main skill necessary for these processes is active listening. An effective facilitator must be sensitive to what each party needs and be able to incorporate these interests when phrasing an issue. Having an appreciation of the language of the team, and their unique perspective, are also important in this process.

Some of the ways of restating and reframing includes:

  • Changing “hot buttons” or value-laden words into neutral ones.
  • Reminding the team of larger goals/ smaller goals the entire team is working on.
  • Changing a problem into workable terms.
  • Approaching an issue from another perspective.

Getting People Back on Track

A team discussion can go off-topic for many reasons. Sometimes, the purpose of the meeting wasn’t really clear. In other times, the discussion naturally led to an interesting issue not part of the agenda. And in other times, there are individuals who initiate and maintain off-topic discussions.

Regardless of the reason, the following are ways to get a discussion back on track:

  • Review the agenda. A facilitator can create check points in the agenda and constantly refer to it as the discussion progresses. For example: “Let’s take a moment to take a process check. Are we still following our agreed upon agenda?”
  • Reflect to the team what is happening, and reintroduce the correct topic. Example: “I appreciate the participation and enthusiasm. But it seems that we have gone off the agreed upon agenda. I believe the topic under discussion is…”
  • Offer to put the off-topic on a “parking lot” for possible later discussion. For example: “You raised a good point Mary. Maybe we can look at that later it today, or set a separate meeting for it.”
  • Ask the team if they are finding the discussion helpful to the goal. This intervention is recommended for unstructured meetings, where a foray into an off-topic is not necessarily a negative thing. For example: “I noticed that there has been a long debate in the team about this idea. Is this discussion helpful for everyone?”
  • Ignore the off-topic discussion and reintroduce the correct topic. If you feel that acknowledging a topic detour will just result in more dysfunction (e.g. it will provoke a long, defensive response), then it may be best to just ignore it. Instead, summarize the last thing that was said related to the topic, and ask a question that continues from it. For example: “If I may get back to what Louis was saying earlier. He said….Does anyone agree with his observation?”