Engagement is one of the six core team competencies. When a team is engaged, team members have open group discussions where they can build on each others’ ideas, innovate and create value. They are able leverage rich diversity of thought. This stands in sharp contrast to teams which work in highly structured meetings making presentations and, in fact, accomplishing very little.
Engagement can be taught in a team-building workshop which follows these steps:
- Explanation. In this first step, the benefits of engagement are explained and discussed. It is very important for the team leader to “own” this discussion, even where it is facilitated by a third party. Let the team members talk about their experiences, good and bad, with engagement. Then have them discuss their aspirations. Show a video where great engagement is contrasted with poor engagement.
- Demonstration. Next, put a mock team in front of the room and have them demonstrate team engagement. Unlike the video, they should be discussing a real, current business issue. The facilitator should stop the discussion periodically, pointing out elements of engagement and how the discussion could have moved in a non-engaging direction. Have the group discuss what they are observing. Make sure that the discussion is an engaging discussion. This part will require a facilitator who is very well versed in engagement.
- Practice. Break the team up into smaller groups and have them practice engaging discussions in breakout rooms. The discussions should be led by outside facilitators. Have the small groups list the factors, the dos and don’ts, which make a discussion engaging. Also have them come up with a list of ways to measure the success of an engaging discussion.For example: Is diversity of thought really present? Are all team members participating? Does the discussion feel open and authentic? Are team members listening to each other? Does the tone feel constructive? Is the discussion creative, innovative?
- Ownership. Bring the full team back together for a thoughtful debrief in an engaging way. From the output of the breakout sessions, develop a team charter for engagement. Take the team through a discussion of the commitments required to deliver against this charter.
Engagement is a critical team competency. Fortunately, it can be taught in a workshop setting, often in a single day. When we lead this type of workshop, we always use experienced executive coaches as facilitators. The process described above can be enhanced by using assessments in advance of the workshop to help team members understand elements of engagement which may be hard for them to demonstrate. This pre-awareness is very helpful in raising the level of engagement of the team. Sometimes, we also provide limited individual executive coaching to team members after the workshop to help reinforce their ability to demonstrate engaging behaviors.