Use Culture Cards as a Team Building Exercise

Having honest conversations about how a team works together is never easy, but creating a space for these conversations will foster a culture of communication, helping team members feel heard from the start.

Whether you’ve inherited a new group or built a dream team from the ground up, the first challenge a leader faces is getting the group to act like a team, rather than a collection of individual achievers. Try our “Culture Cards” exercise to identify the real issues that are getting in the way of teamwork or preventing organizational change.

How to Create Culture Cards

  1. Get up close and personal. Schedule one-on-one interviews with each member of your team so they feel comfortable discussing potentially sensitive topics. During these interviews, ask:
    • What do you want this team to accomplish in the next six months?
    • What do you think will be the hardest part?
    • How should this group work together? (How often should you meet? How should you make decisions?)
    • What should your colleagues know about the way you work?
  2. Synthesize your findings. Once you’ve completed the interviews, look for patterns and themes, like “We have too many meetings”. Then, provide evidence for each theme, including a few examples of what it looks like—overbooked calendars, for instance—and quotes, such as “I don’t have time to do my real work.” (Make sure that you keep these quotes anonymous and protect the privacy of individuals.) Summarize these findings on individual note cards.
  3. Rally the team. Bring the whole team together and present the Culture Cards one by one. After you’ve presented all of them, facilitate a discussion in which the group identifies which themes resonate the most, which themes (if any) are surprising, and which are controversial.
  4. (Optional) Assign project leaders. If one theme in particular needs to be addressed, ask the group if anyone is responsible for being the “owner” and working towards a potential solution. The owner is not responsible for doing all the work—in fact, they should definitely enlist the help of their colleagues—but they are responsible for making sure the work gets done.
  5. Check in. Repeat this process every quarter to get see how teamwork is progressing and what, if any, new tensions are arising.
Published December 2, 2015

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