Acting up!

    Business Spotlight Audio 1/2023
    Camera on team role-playing at work
    © Vanilla Bear Films/
    Von Frank Peters

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    If you’d like to to stress sb. out (ifml.)jmdn. stressenstress out your team instantlyaugenblicklich, unmittelbarinstantly, then ask them for “the best ideas”. Ask them, for example, what the ideal team meeting should look like. I used to be a manager, so I’ve been on both sides of the table when a question like that came up. Sometimes, I had to to come up with sth.sich etw. einfallen lassencome up with the best ideas. Sometimes, I was the one asking for them.

    Of course, it’s part of every team leader’s job to look for the best solutions and continuously improve. But sometimes, this direct way of asking for what you need doesn’t produce the results you want. Why is that?

    Something happens to people when you ask for ideas in this way. They want to appear smart. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, or anything that could make them look, you know, stupid. Let’s to assume sth.etw. annehmenassume that you’re unhappy with your team meetings. People aren’t to show up (ifml.)erscheinenshowing up on timepünktlichon time, they don’t switch their cameras on, they’re looking at their phones half of the time and don’t seem to be listening properly. This may sound familiar to you.

    If you ask them how to improve the meetings, not only do they get stressed about having to come up with ideas, but they might also feel that you’re criticizing them for their behaviour in past meetings. That’s clearly not the best foundationGrundlagefoundation for a fruitfulfruchtbar; hier auch: ergebnisreichfruitful discussion and lasting improvement.

    Turn the question around

    As a team coach, I take a different approach when faced with the task of improving a situation like this. I use a powerful combination of a creative technique and acting. Yes, you heard (or read) correctly: Acting! I let them to act sth. outetw. darstellen, spielenact out a scene or two or three. You could even call it role-playing.

    Sometimes, when people in creative jobs are stuck on a problem — like looking for the next innovation in their market — they use a technique called “worst-case scenario” or “worst-possible idea”. Instead of trying to come up with the best new soap, car, app or whatever it is, they turn the question around: What would be the worst soap, car or app? How could we change our existing product so that our customers would hate it and write angry reviewRezension, Bewertungreviews? What do we have to do to win the award for lousy (ifml.)miserabel, schlechtLousiest Innovation of the Year?

    Stop. What happened when you read those questions? Did you laugh? Did you think it’s a crazy approach? One thing’s for sure: you didn’t feel stressed out. Not being stressed — or better, being relaxed or amused — is a good breeding groundNährbodenbreeding ground for creativity, and for learning and personal change as well. Do you see where I am going?

    So, what do I do with a team that needs to improve their meetings? You guessed right: I let them act out the total team-meeting disaster. (You could also call it “Worst Team Meeting Ever”.)

    If possible, I split the team into groups. It’s helpful to have two or, ideally, three groups. That way, you’ll get more perspectives on the topicThematopic, and members can sit in the audiencePublikumaudience twice as often as they are on stage. This provides a bit of reliefErleichterungrelief for those in your team who feel shy.

    I give the groups the following tasks:

    1. Write down everything that would make a team meeting the worst ever.

    2. Prepare to present the scene “The Worst Team Meeting Ever”. Write a roughgrob; hier auch: konzeptionell, ungefährrough script of who says and does what. Every team member plays a role.

    3. Act!

    Allow 10 to 15 minutes’ preparation time. Normally, a scene should be two to five minutes long. If it takes longer, I ask the group to bring the scene to a conclusionAbschlussconclusion, but that’s not usually necessary, as they can sense it themselves.

    If it’s OK with your team, have somebody in the audience record the scenes. The recording will definitely be useful in the future, when the team needs a good laugh to to cheer sb. upjmdn. aufheiterncheer everybody up.

    At the end of a two or three-day workshop, I often ask what the highlight was, and there are always some people who say the meeting disaster. I enjoy watching these scenes. There are people who sit in a meeting and, by the end, realize that they’ve been in the wrong meeting. People are reading the newspaper. In virtual meetings, people forget to switch off their microphones during the breakPausebreak. And some don’t listen to others but then complain that people aren’t listening to them.

    Once every group has acted out their disaster, I let them share their experience and thoughts. I always ask how much was exaggeratedübertriebenexaggerated or made uperfundenmade up, and how much was taken from their own experiences at work. Astonishingly, people usually answer that 80–90 per cent was real or only slightly exaggerated.

    Then, we list all the the don'tswas man nicht tun solltedon’ts of a team meeting. There are lots of them! But, and here’s where the magic happens, we to reverse sth.etw. umkehrenreverse the don’ts into the doswas man tun solltedos, and there they are: at least 20 ideas on how to improve team meetings.

    Lasting improvement

    Now, you might be thinking that it would be faster just to ask the team what to improve and they’d come up with the same list. You’re right! It would be faster, but I doubt the list would be so extensive. And, even more importantly, the atmosphere after the “disaster” is to transform sth.etw. verwandelntransformed — people are much more relaxed and open to change.

    If you ask which of the don’ts people have been to be guilty of etw. schuld sein; hier: für etw. verantwortlich seinguilty of in the past, you’ll see that they start thinking about their own behaviour. The next step could also be to ask which of the don’ts they’ll stop doing from now on. You are sure to see the initial improvement in your meeting the following week.

    At the end of this session, you’ll have the ingredientBestandteil, Zutatingredients of a successful team meeting. And you’ll have some fun with your team in future, even when you discuss a serious matter. This alone will have a positive influence on team spirit and your meetings, too. So, go out with your team and act!

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