Team Building by Andrea Vasquez, LICSW Director of Social Work and Family Therapy

Team building may sound like a lot of fun and an easy event to plan AND to have it go well. Actually, this really isn’t the case. Team building requires a lot of creativity, a lot of planning, AND a lot of team work. (ironic huh?) Since the opening of the Maple Grove PraireCare hospital, our PHP team has participated in numerous “team building” meetings in order to build rapport as new teammates. These often have taken place for 30-45 minutes in the morning before the patients arrive. Staff often have left feeling frustrated, not having the ability to fully process the feelings that members had been experiencing while being on this team. As a supervisor, I often have felt frustrated as well, trying to understand how to help support the team during some difficult times of “storming and norming.”
So one day Lindsay Lien said to me, “Andrea, we need more than 45 minutes to discuss important issues and then just run off to work with patients.” “It leaves us too open and therefore no one wants to actually process anything in such a short period of time.” I told her I liked the idea but thought “when are we ever going to find time to meet for an extended length of time given our busy schedules and caseloads?” I let it sit.
I then presented at the Leadership Development Institute on the importance of having “crucial Conversations” with our colleagues, in order to decrease stress and tension amongst team members. Christine Madson and I then generally discussed the Maple Grove PHP Team culture and all of the hard work that each member has put forth to help increase team cohesiveness in order to provide more effective patient care as well as increase harmony within the workplace. Christine recommended that we schedule a longer meeting on an afternoon when we had a shortened programming day. I therefore scheduled a 2 hour team building meeting for the day before Thanksgiving. Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to do to make it feel beneficial to the team. I remember driving home on several nights asking myself “what am I going to do for this?” I then realized I would need to rely on the individual team members to get this project moving forward. Jen Holper had recently learned of a team building activity from her Master’s program related to a Guess What I do Quiz? where each department puts together 5 tasks that they complete on a daily basis and everyone has to guess which department actually completes those tasks. Kadie Neuharth gathered all of the tasks from staff and put them together to make a formal quiz. Emily Buell and Anna Weise gave me the idea to do the helium stick (pictured) and the blanket tool of flipping a blanket over with your feet without touching the ground. Anna also emailed me you tube videos to see how these actually pan out. Progress…….
I then took time to think about the overall theme that I wanted to be incorporated into the meeting. I decided we needed to “boost one another up” and not dwell on the “I don’t like this about you” which seems to never allow anyone to leave a team building feeling very good about really anything. So, I took Lora Matz’s idea that she used in the Leadership Development Institute and got large sheets of paper. I wanted to get descriptive words on the paper for everyone to see. Kadie wrote the team members names “very nicely” and we hung them up on the wall in one of the group rooms. Everyone had to write 2 strengths that each team member brings to the team. We then read these aloud and answered the questions of “what are the circumstances that allow our strengths to shine and what are the circumstances that cause us to be vulnerable to not using our strengths?” (This is the questioning that I brought in being the therapist that I am) Everyone had such nice things to say about their teammates, oh, and even about me! It was a pleasure to see and experience this kindness.
I might also mention that Kadie got snacks and soda and Mel Tyo and Lauren Janey bought pizza for everyone. We even had some light background music. Andrew Brahy brought the camera which allows us to see the pretty picture of the helium stick activity. (Can you see Katelin Cranny demanding cooperation to lower that darn stick??)
The team building lasted for almost 2 hours. It seemed that we all left feeling good and that the meeting was well worth it to attend. We even left compliments on the big sheets for the few team members who were not able to attend and stuck them to their door or work station.
I went home that night feeling good about the activities but wasn’t sure how everyone else felt. The following week I did receive feedback that others felt the experience went well also. Going forward, my hope is that we can all keep close to us the positives that our teammates gave us which will in turn empower us to increase understanding, patience and empathy for one another. This will then allow for more team cohesion and workplace harmony.
Isn’t it amazing how much team work is required to coordinate a team building meeting!?!?